Midway through Nassau County football’s condensed six-game regular season, Long Beach has brought one of the toughest defenses to crack with only 18 points allowed in March.
Last Saturday afternoon, the unit directed by coordinator Rocco Tenebruso made clutch stop after clutch stop to secure the Marines’ 7-0 victory over Elmont in a hard-fought Conference II battle at Long Beach Middle School. The lone score of the picture-perfect spring day — sophomore Jeff Conway’s 3-yard touchdown run with 5:02 remaining in the third quarter — was set up by sophomore Jack Miller’s fumble recovery — one of the defense’s three takeaways — at the Spartans’ 14.
“This is the third straight week our defense played really well,” head coach Scott Martin said after Long Beach improved to 2-1. “It’s exciting. Rocco had them scouted pretty well and the wind definitely helped the two quarters we had it at our backs. The kids did a great job executing. They were aggressive getting to the ball and that’s what you like to see.”
Elmont, which slipped to 1-2, had a myriad of chances to get on the scoreboard. In addition to turnover issues, the Spartans were unable to solve Long Beach’s defense on fourth down. “Our kids played hard and I thought our special teams and defense played well,” Elmont head coach Jay Hegi said. “We really struggled with the wind. We had opportunities but couldn’t convert them into points. Back-to-back games we fell just short.”
The Spartans, who lost 26-21 to South Side in Week 2, spent most of the day inside Long Beach territory. They forced a turnover early in the first quarter when senior lineman Jason Richardson batted down a pass and intercepted it at the Marines’ 18. The offense couldn’t cash in, however, setting the tone for the rest of the game.
The pace picked up following a scoreless first half. A quarterback change didn’t help Elmont’s fortunes as the first possession following the switch resulted in Miller’s fumble recovery. Four plays later, Conway scored on a direct snap and Mike Contreras booted the extra point for what would prove the difference.
The Spartans drove inside the red zone on the ensuing possession but Long Beach junior cornerback Chris Buonocore ended the threat with a nifty pass breakup on a fourth-and-5 attempt. In the fourth quarter, the defense kept answering the bell with Elmont knocking on the door. Junior Christian Tarsia had an interception midway through the fourth quarter and senior Tommy Bivens recorded a sack on a fourth-and-2 with three minutes remaining. In between, senior Izzy Maldonado saved a potential safety on a high snap during a punt and hammered it 30 yards against the wind.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” said Martin, whose team defeated Calhoun 12-6 on sophomore quarterback Hayden Sofield’s touchdown run in overtime in Week 2. “Our offense is still a work in progress but we’ve got a lot of young guys contributing.”
The Marines will try to keep the momentum going this Saturday at Kennedy. Elmont has a difficult trip to MacArthur on tap. Both games kickoff at 2 p.m.