Last Saturday afternoon’s spirited battle between host Sewanhaka and intradistrict rival New Hyde Park, a pair of vastly improved football teams, had a little bit of everything.
There were long gains, big hits, crushing blocks, timely defensive stands, and too many highs and lows to count. But, in the end, it was a clutch play on special teams that determined the outcome.
With the score tied and the Indians forced to punt from deep inside their own territory with just over a minute to play in the third quarter, junior Luke Orbon shot through the A gap, blocked the punt, and pounced on it in the end zone for the only score of the second half to lead the Gladiators to a 21-14 win.
Sewanhaka (2-2), which ran 40 offensive plays to just 11 for New Hyde Park after the break, drove inside the Gladiators’ 20-yard line three times in the second half only to come up empty each time. The Indians turned the ball over four times. New Hyde Park improved to 2-2.
The Indians mounted an 11-play drive in the waning moments, but were unable to convert on fourth-and-3 from New Hyde Park’s 19-yard line. Robert Dunn and Jaden Thomas, who led the Gladiators with 15 tackles, came up with big hits on the final two plays to keep the Indians from advancing.
Despite the tough loss, Indians head coach George Kasimatis sees his team turning the page. “These guys are football kids; they get it,” Kasimatis said. “They’re tough and they understand that things like this are going to happen. This is a tight-knit group. I don’t think bouncing back is going to be a problem.”
After falling behind 14-0 in the opening quarter, Sewanhaka came alive. Chuk Uchendu led a 14-play, 79-yard drive that culminated with the senior quarterback taking it in from two yards out to get the Indians on the board. Uchendu, who got tremendous blocks from junior Toryn Hayden all game long, accounted for 51 of the yards on the scoring drive. The PAT was missed.
After a defensive stand led by junior Frantz Compere and senior Marc Lynch, the Sewanhaka offense went back to work. The Indians went 62 yards in seven plays with Uchendu scampering 17 yards down the left sideline and into the end zone. Junior Brian Lowry barreled his way in for the two-point conversion to tie things up at 14 just with :24 remaining in the half.
Uchendu finished with 110 yards rushing and 103 through the air. Hayden, Compere, and senior Jeremiah Mirville were standouts on the defensive side of the ball.
“We definitely played better football the weeks prior to this,” Kasmatis said. “But, New Hyde Park showed up and played a great game. We saw them on film, and knew they were tough. We told the guys that all week.”
The Indans will look to get back on track when they host Kennedy this Saturday at 2:00 p.m.