A little more than a year after Valley Stream North delivered a first-round playoff knockout of then-three-time defending Nassau Conference IV football champion Seaford, the Spartans withstood some punches and rallied to stun the top-seeded Vikings, 21-17, in a semifinal game last Saturday evening at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
After Seaford’s Matt Murphy’s 22-yard tiebreaking field goal with 1:54 remaining, North senior quarterback Anthony Martelli directed a 69-yard game-winning drive, capped by senior James Capoziello’s 6-yard touchdown grab with 37 seconds left on the clock. The fourth-seeded Spartans advance to the county finals for the first time since 1981 and will face defending champion Roosevelt, the No. 3 seed, this Sunday at 4 p.m.
VSN head coach Tom Schiavo called the victory “incredible.” The Spartans avenged a 28-14 regular-season defeat to Seaford in Week 7, and now they’ll try to do the same against the Rough Riders. Roosevelt, which won last year’s semifinal matchup, 27-21, beat North by 27 points on Sept. 15.
“We have a ton of multi-sport athletes,” Schiavo said. “They’re all used to pressure situations.”
The two-minute drill, Schiavo said, is something the team practices every day. And he couldn’t have been more comfortable with Martelli at the controls. “Anthony’s a gifted kid who’s been playing varsity sports for four years,” Schiavo explained. “Nobody panicked. The line gave him time to throw, and he got us down the field.”
Seniors Stephen Giuliante, Dylan Heitner and Isaiah Short all had key receptions to set up Capoziello’s winning catch. Capoziello also got the Spartans even in the third quarter when he hauled down a 60-yard touchdown pass to fully erase Seaford’s 14-0 lead at intermission following senior Thomas Wade’s extra point. “We call it the jet-slant-fade, and James talked about the play at halftime and wanted to use it,” Schiavo said. “So when we had the opportunity, we called it. Anthony put the ball on the money, and James caught it in stride.”
Senior running back Billy Patsos, who gave the Vikings fits in last year’s playoff meeting, got North on the board early in the second half with a 1-yard run. “We’ve got a lot of weapons,” Schiavo said. “The offensive line opened holes, and our defensive front played tough.”
The coach lauded the efforts of seniors Mike Carucci, Nick Miller and Paul Acosta in the trenches. Carucci played every snap from scrimmage on both sides of the ball.
The line will be a key against Roosevelt, Schiavo said, which boasts explosive back Johnnie Akins who had 249 yards and three touchdowns in Week 2 against the Spartans.
“If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best,” Schiavo said.