East Meadow used a steady running game and some clutch defensive plays to help head coach Doug Bange win his varsity debut.
Senior Mike Wood rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown and junior running back Steve Calderaro had the tiebreaking score as the host Jets defeated Baldwin, 18-6, in a Nassau Conference I football opener last Saturday.
Bange, a three-year varsity player for the Jets from 1996-98, took over for longtime coach Vinny Mascia following a 4-5 record last year. That included a 35-8 loss at Baldwin in a first-round playoff game on Nov. 7.
“Coming out here, the first game being home, it was tremendous,” Bange said. “The kids did a great job to help me today.”
Baldwin won the opening coin toss, but elected to defer to East Meadow. The Jets made the Bruins pay by driving 84 yards on 14 plays, capped by a 1-yard plunge by senior quarterback Shawn Regan for a 6-0 lead. Wood kept the drive alive by gaining 6 yards on a fourth-and-1 play near midfield and Calderaro had consecutive 10-yard runs later in the drive.
The Bruins’ lone threat in the first half came during the second quarter, when they reached the East Meadow 35-yard line with about eight minutes remaining, but Jets senior linebacker Mike Grech sacked Baldwin junior quarterback Messiah Floyd-Gordan on a third-and-4 play for an eight-yard loss.
“We couldn’t generate anything,” Bruins head coach Stephen Carroll said. “We weren’t doing anything at all. As a coach, it was hard to watch.”
The Jets threatened to score again on their next possession by advancing to the Baldwin 10, but Bange elected to run a quarterback keeper on fourth-and-4 instead of trying for a field goal. Regan lost one yard on the play.
Baldwin received the ball to start the second half and recovered an onside kick at midfield. Eleven plays later, Floyd-Gordan found senior wideout David Garcia at the left sideline from 20 yards out to deadlock the game at 6. The extra point was booted low.
But East Meadow responded with a seven-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Calderaro’s 27-yard touchdown run around the left end. On the previous play, Regan had a gutsy 17-yard run in a third-and-3 situation.
Baldwin stopped the Jets on a fourth-and-3 with just under nine minutes remaining in the game and drove into East Meadow territory, but senior linebacker Tyler Love picked off Floyd-Gordan’s pass near the 30-yard line to end the threat. Garcia recovered a fumble on the Jets’ ensuing drive, but the Bruins failed to take advantage and were forced to punt.
Wood put the game out of reach with 49.9 seconds to play when he darted through the right side of the line and into the end zone from 25 yards out.
“It was back and forth for most of the game,” Bange said. “We had some big stops on defense, a turnover here and there. Our guys came out hungry and they wanted to win.”