Lawrence’s Jordan Alexander waited almost three full quarters for Wantagh to break out its customary bag of tricks in last Saturday’s Nassau Conference III football championship game at Hofstra.
And when the Warriors finally did, he was right in the middle of it. Literally. Alexander not only foiled a hook-and-ladder attempt on third-and-8, he picked it out of midair and turned it into a 31-yard touchdown for the go-ahead score in the Golden Tornadoes’ 21-10 victory.
“As soon as I saw No. 37 [Anthony D’Onofrio] in motion, I knew it was coming,” said Alexander, a junior cornerback/receiver who secured No. 1 Lawrence’s first county title since 2014 with a leaping interception at the 6-yard line with 38 seconds remaining. “We watched a lot of film all week and the coaches prepared us well,” he added. “I couldn’t believe there was nothing between me and the end zone.”
Alexander’s touchdown, ruled a fumble recovery, with 1:56 remaining in the third stood as the only score of the second half until senior Chris Collier (208 yards on 17 carries) iced the defensive struggle with a 94-yard touchdown run with 22 seconds left. Collier also sandwiched a 67-yard touchdown run in the second quarter between D’Onofrio’s 13-yard touchdown reception and a 25-yard field goal by Wantagh’s Brett Pine.
“We were ready for all the perimeter gadget plays they like to run,” Lawrence head coach Joe Martillotti said. “They did a great job gashing us through the middle with traps because we were concentrating too much on the trick plays. Coach [Jay] Supple was telling Jordan all week he could jump one of those double-pass plays and take it back to the house.”
The Golden Tornadoes (10-1) will face Westhampton for the Long Island Class III championship next Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Stony Brook. Lawrence won three straight L.I. titles from 2012-14. Wantagh, which finished 8-3, won a L.I. championship last season.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” Wantagh head coach Keith Sachs said. “They fought through adversity all year and left everything on the field. Not a lot of people gave us a chance today.
“It’s frustrating because I felt we were the better team,” he added. “We knew eventually they’d break a big play, but I can live with one. We made a couple of mistakes on offense and that was the difference.”
The Warriors, who lost 43-15 at Lawrence on Oct. 21, made a huge defensive stand late in the fourth quarter and took over at their own 23 with 1:57 remaining. Then, with sophomore Michael Lombardi (145 yards rushing on 17 carries) and senior quarterback Ryan McCarty serving as the catalysts, they drove nearly 50 yards and sought the potential game-winning touchdown when Alexander spoiled a deep ball intended for senior Ryan Murphy.
“Murphy’s a big and physical receiver and I knew I had to go up and get the ball,” Alexander said.
Alexander wasn’t the only defensive standout on the championship stage. Lawrence seniors Keijohn Graham (13) and Suquan Stays combined for 23 tackles, and Stays had 2.5 sacks. For Wantagh, senior defensive lineman Jack LaVache was lights-out with 13 tackles and a pair of sacks, seniors Jason Corso and Jake Castellano added eight stops, and junior Dylan Scott had a fumble recovery that led to a 3-0 lead.
“The key thing for us this season was the majority of our guys stayed healthy,” Martillotti said. “The past couple of years, we were decimated by injuries down the stretch.”
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