Wantagh denied by Floral Park in semis


A Wantagh offense that averaged 36 points a game in its eight wins entering last Friday’s county football semifinals was largely grounded in the county semifinals. 

After taking the lead with an early field goal, Floral Park shut the Warriors out the remainder of the game in a 13-3 win in the Conference III semis at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Top-seeded Wantagh (8-2) had defeated Floral Park 21-14 in the teams’ regular-season meeting on Oct. 14 in the first of four straight wins leading up to the rematch.

“We just didn’t break a big play,” longtime Wantagh head coach Keith Sachs said. “We never got completely stopped but we just had trouble getting more than four, six to eight yards a play.” 

Wantagh’s lone points came courtesy of a 26-yard field goal from Niko Zervos with 1:50 remaining in the first quarter on the Warriors’ opening drive that made it 3-0. The 16-play drive consumed 10:34 of the clock. 

The lead held up until late in the third quarter when Floral Park quarterback Ryan Connelly tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Lewis with 3:56 left in the period. 

In the fourth quarter, Wantagh drove near the Floral Park red zone before Floral Park forced a  fourth-and-7 at the Knights’ 21-yard line. Zervos converted a 38-yard field goal to tie the game, but Floral Park was called for roughing the kicker setting but a first down at the 11-yard line. Wantagh nearly took the lead, but was stopped on a 4th-and-1 at the 2-yard line. Junior running back Dylan Martini had picked up a yard on 3rd-and-2 before getting tackled for no gain on the ensuing play. 

On the ensuing drive with Floral Park backed up to its own 1-yard line, the Knights got out of the shadow of their own end zone with running back Ben Meighan then racing for a 70-yard touchdown to make it 13-3 with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter. 

The Warriors’ offense, which had scored 48 in its Nov. 3 first-round playoff romp against Glen Cove, was limited to 156 yards of total offense Friday. Junior running back Dylan Martini led the way with 71 yards rushing along with three receptions for 24 yards receiving. Senior running back Jake Martini finished with 44 yards rushing on 10 carries.

The defense held strong for much of the game led by five tackles each from Thomas Conway, Cole Spinelli and Christian Russo. Friday marked the ninth game this season Wantagh held an opponent to 14 points or less.

“Our defense played outstanding,” Sachs said. “They had one sustained drive the whole game.”

Floral Park advanced to Conference III finals against South Side this Friday night back at Hofstra. Wantagh was aiming for its first county title since conquering Conference IV three seasons ago.

“This is one of the best groups of seniors I've ever had in terms of work ethic, attitude and being good teammates,” Sachs said. “These kids deserved more for all the work and energy they put in.”