When watching Freeport on the football field, it’s natural to become enamored of the speed and agility of the players who make its offense one of the most potent on Long Island. But it’s a huge mistake to overlook the team’s ability to wreak havoc on the defensive side.
In the Red Devils’ 30-7 victory over No. 2 Farmingdale in the Nassau Conference I championship game Nov. 21 at Hofstra, Freeport proved the oft-repeated adage that defense wins titles. Middle linebacker Makhai Jinks had nine tackles to lead a ferocious defense that held the Dalers to just 8 yards rushing.
With the win, No. 1 Freeport (11-0) captured its 10th county championship and earned a return trip to the Long Island Class I title game. The Red Devils will once again take on William Floyd (11-0) at 4:30 on Friday afternoon at Stony Brook University. In 2018, Freeport beat the Colonials, 20-19, to earn its sixth L.I. crown under head coach Russ Cellan.
Jinks was a force on offense as well. The senior captain carried the ball 17 times for 167 yards and three touchdowns in a game whose final score didn’t indicate how well the Dalers performed on defense. Seniors Nick Levantini and Kevin Wilson led a defensive unit that made Freeport earn every yard it gained.
Uncharacteristic penalties hurt the Red Devils all night, but Jinks was a steadying presence. “As captain and middle linebacker, I need to lead the defense,” Jinks said. “If guys are getting a little out of control, I have to calm things down, and make sure everyone is in the right spot and the right mindset.”
As is customary, Freeport didn’t waste any time getting on the scoreboard. Jinks broke loose for 50 yards on the second play from scrimmage, and on the next play he took it into the end zone from 15 yards out. Chayse Gordon, who would hit on a 28-yard field goal later in the quarter, converted the extra point to make it 7-0 just 1:19 into the game.
Farmingdale had difficulty punting the ball all night, and that came back to bite the Dalers late in the opening quarter. On third-and-seven from the Farmingdale 46, quarterback Terrance Edmond hit Dakarai Stevenson on a post pattern and the senior wideout took it to the house. Stevenson, who had five receptions for 94 yards, made a few extraordinary grabs to keep drives alive.
The Dalers got on the board with a little trickery. Wilson hit quarterback Nick Lundin for a 47-yard touchdown reception on third-and-12 to make it 16-7. But the Red Devils answered. Freeport went 80 yards in six plays, with Jinks going 14 yards for his second score of the night.
Farmingdale managed just 40 yards of offense the rest of the way. Freeport Captains Arnold Cruz and Tristan Saab each had four solo tackles.
Saab was overcome with emotion. “We had one another’s backs all night,” he said. “I’ve been playing with a lot of these guys since we were about 10. I love them to death. I don’t have any other siblings, but these guys are all my brothers.”