Long Beach has closed the gap considerably on Nassau Conference II football powerhouse Garden City, but the Trojans still have the upper hand after holding on for a thrilling 20-18 road victory last Friday night in a battle of undefeated teams before a standing-room only crowd at Veteran’s Field.
The Marines, who were outscored by the Trojans 165-35 in four previous meetings, came within a few yards of forcing overtime after a scintillating 80-yard touchdown drive on their final possession. Senior quarterback Adam Salvadori’s 4-yard scoring strike to sophomore Chris Parler on fourth-and-goal with six seconds remaining gave the hosts hope, but Garden City’s defense swarmed senior tailback J.T. Forkin (149 yards, two touchdowns) on the two-point conversion attempt to escape with a victory.
“It’s disappointing, but I’m proud of our effort,” Long Beach head coach Scott Martin said. “The kids rose to the occasion. To drive 80 yards in the freezing cold against Garden City’s defense with our backs against the wall says a lot.
“We’ve had success with conversions all year,” he added, “but we couldn’t get one tonight.”
The Trojans (6-0), who got 134 yards and two touchdowns from Scott D’Antonio, had a chance to go up two scores with less than four minutes remaining but a strong wind pushed Gerard Smith’s 24-yard field-goal attempt wide, keeping the margin at 20-12. Long Beach’s offense, which averaged 37.2 points over the first five weeks, went to work with 3:30 remaining behind a starting front line consisting of senior Kiernan McNamee, juniors Tariq Cole, Connor Kennedy and Matt Michelman, and sophomore Donovan Campbell.
It took 13 plays, but the Marines found paydirt. Salvadori had a 25-yard scamper to the Garden City 39, and a 20-yard dash to the 9, setting up a first-and-goal. He found senior Matt Firpo on a short pass to the 4, but Forkin was stopped after a yard and Salvadori spiked the ball on third down to stop the clock. Down to their last play, Parler made the visitors pay for single coverage with a quick slant and catch. “Once we saw how they lined up, we told Chris he had to win the battle,” Martin said. “We knew that’s where we were going.”
The two-point try was one of the few times the Trojans stopped Forkin, who rushed for more than 100 yards for the fifth time in six games. His 38-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2 cut Long Beach’s deficit to 14-12 with 7:25 to go. “He’s having an incredible year,” Martin said.
But D’Antonio answered Forkin’s score just 1:17 later, taking a handoff from quarterback Brett Stewart and racing 51 yards for a touchdown.
“This conference is so close,” Martin said. “We feel we’re one of the contenders.”
The Marines (5-1) travel to MacArthur (5-1) on Friday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.