Playing in the Nassau Conference I football championship game for the third time in four seasons, Oceanside was sitting chilly in the second quarter last Saturday with a 15-point lead and the ball inside the Massapequa 40-yard line.
However, the Sailors were unable to sustain a drive and go up three scores, which head coach Rob Blount considered the turning point in the heartbreaking 36-29 defeat in front of a feisty home crowd. Massapequa senior running back Tim Morrow ran for 200 yards and three touchdowns, including the winning score with 1:10 remaining.
It was the Chiefs’ seventh appearance in the county finals since 1998 and their first title. Both teams finished 7-1.
“Massapequa deserves credit,” Blount said. “Uncharacteristic of us, we didn’t win the battle up front like we were able to do all season. We had an opportunity to go up 22-0 and it definitely was a killer that we didn’t. Still, we had a late lead and couldn’t finish the job.”
After stopping Oceanside’s offense for the first time, the Chiefs scored on their next two possessions of the first half to get within 15-13 at halftime and also found paydirt on each of their first two possessions in the second half. Morrow’s 14-yard touchdown got the visitors on the board with 5:33 remaining in the second quarter and his 54-yard run set up senior quarterback John Giller’s 5-yard touchdown run in the final minute.
“They did a great job getting to the edge with their running game,” Blount said. “Morrow’s a strong runner and made people miss.”
Oceanside, which scored on its first two possessions on senior Thomas Flavin’s 31-yard run and junior quarterback Charlie McKee’s 5-yard scamper, regrouped and put together an impressive 80-yard touchdown drive to begin the second half. It took 14 plays and ate up half of the third quarter. Senior Andres Duran, who had 153 yards on the day, scored from 4 yards out and it was 22-13 following Joe Briguglio’s extra point.
Massapequa answered quickly with a four-play, 61-yard scoring drive with Morrow taking care of the last 34 to close the gap to 22-20. Its defense, which allowed 42 points to the Sailors in the regular-season finale on April 17, got another big stop and Giller then directed a fourth straight scoring drive culminating with his 3-yard touchdown and 2-point conversion pass to Morrow for a 28-22 advantage with 1:20 left in the third.
The Chiefs’ first lead was short-lived. McKee, Oceanside’s all-time leader in touchdown passes and one of Long Island’s most talented players, guided a 75-yard scoring drive spanning the late third and early fourth, and the Sailors were back in front, 29-28, with 10:06 to go after Duran’s second touchdown and Briguglio’s extra point.
Brigulglio’s punt with 3:31 left pinned Massapequa inside its 20, but the Chiefs orchestrated a championship-winning drive behind Giller and Morrow. The key play came on third-and-4 from their own 33 when Giller turned what could’ve been a devastating 12-yard loss into a first-down scramble.
Oceanside’s final drive stalled just short of midfield on downs.