Even a field that was more suitable for mud wrestling than football couldn’t slow West Hempstead’s vaunted running game.
Senior Tayvon Hall rushed for 167 yards on 12 carries and scored twice to lead the Rams to a 41-7 rout of visiting Clarke last Saturday in the opening round of the Nassau Conference IV playoffs. The win was West Hempstead’s first postseason victory since 1986. Anthony Messina led the defense with six tackles.
No. 2 West Hempstead’s rushing attack amassed 479 yards as the Rams (8-1) advanced to the conference semifinals, where they will meet third-seeded Roosevelt (7-2), the defending champions, at Hofstra this Saturday at 8:30 p.m. The Rams beat the Rough Riders during the regular season, 29-26.
West Hempstead head coach Dom Carre was happy with the win. “We’re a program that didn’t win a game for two straight seasons, won four games the following year, and did well and made the playoffs last year,” Carre said. “We’ve been taking steps and growing each season. It’s a building process. The seniors have been tremendous leaders.”
After a scoreless first quarter, junior Enrique McFarlane (150 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries) got things started when he took a handoff from quarterback Michael Petrizzo and went 33 yards to give the hosts a 6-0 lead.
It didn’t take West Hempstead long to add to its lead. After picking off a pass to end a Clarke scoring threat, Hall showed why he’s one of the county’s top backs. First, he sprinted 61 yards around right end to get the Rams into scoring position, and then he went up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown with 6:19 to play in the opening half to make it 12-0.
Clarke went three-and-out on its next drive, and West Hempstead didn’t waste any time finding the end zone again. This time it was sophomore Bruce Gibbs (81 yards on five carries) electrifying the crowd with a 51-yard touchdown scamper. Petrizzo, who ran for 60 yards, added the two-point conversion to give the Rams a 20-0 lead.
Clarke got on the board late in the half when Joe Truono ran the ball in from 20 yards out to make it 20-7.
The second half was all West Hempstead. With the offensive line, led by Danny Njoku, Vinny Greco, Michael Sands, Kyle Outmazine and Donovan Steele, blasting open holes, the Rams were able to run at will on the Clarke defense. Third-quarter touchdown runs by Hall and McFarlane put the game out of reach. Clarke finished 4-5.
Carre gave his big guys on the line some credit. “The offensive line has been doing it all year for us,” he said. “They’re all smart, physical football players. They were opening up holes and blocking downfield. Of course, it also helps to have all the weapons we have. You can’t key on one of our backs. We have four guys in the backfield who are very capable.”