There is always intrigue when East Rockaway and West Hempstead meet on the football field. With each team operating a similar run-oriented, double wing offensive attack, the matchup is a treat for old school, physical football enthusiasts.
When graced with a big, strong offensive line, a team can dominate play in the trenches. That’s exactly what West Hempstead did last Saturday afternoon at East Rockaway High School.
The Rams ran for five touchdowns, three by senior Anthony Galan, and got a few huge defensive plays on their way to a convincing 39-14 victory over the Rocks. Sophomore Daniel Alvarez and junior Stefano Cilluffo scored touchdowns for East Rockaway.
“Our kids fought hard and kept the game relatively close, but they made the big plays when they had to,” East Rockaway head coach Russ Pajer said. “Their size made it tough for us to match up. They dominated the line of scrimmage.”
It looked like the game would be a runaway when senior Lee Boodoo went 44 yards to give West Hempstead an 18-0 lead to open the third quarter scoring, but the Rocks fought back. Quarterback Andrew LaBarbera connected with Jonathan Starkman for a long gain, and then Alvarez scored on a nifty draw play from 12 yards out to get the orange-and-black on the board.
Early in the fourth quarter, West Hempstead’s defense made a play that put the game out of reach. Trailing just 18-6, East Rockaway, which fell to 2-4, drove inside the Rams 20-yard line and seemed to have momentum on its side. But, the West Hempstead pass rush applied pressure and senior Chris Jean-Louis leaped to pull down the errant pass. Jean-Louis raced down the sideline for a 100-yard interception return.
“He was sitting in Cover 2 and anticipated well,” West Hempstead head coach Dom Carre said of Jean-Louis. “Once he got out of traffic, he was gone. There’s a big difference between an 18-12 game and a 24-6 game.”
Galan, who scored on a pair of short touchdown runs in the first half, broke one from 47 yards out after another pick by Jean-Louis. The Rams improved to 3-3 in Nassau Conference IV.
“We’ve been underachieving,” Carre said. “We need to finish plays better and be more consistent.”
There was a tremendous show of sportsmanship by the coaching staffs, players, and fans of both schools when West Hempstead senior Latrell Rawlins took a handoff from quarterback Tim Shanely and went 38 yards untouched down the right sideline and into the end zone on the south end of the field for the Rams final score of the afternoon.
The Rams have two games remaining, both of which will play a big part in playoff seeding. With their home field under construction, West Hempstead will continue its season on the road this Saturday afternoon at Clarke, before closing out the regular season on Oct. 28 at Carle Place/Wheatley. Kickoff time for each game is 2 p.m.
“Both can go either way,” Carre said.