By Bill Landon
The Northport football team briefly enjoyed a two-touchdown lead early in the game, and Sachem North may have came back to take the lead in the second quarter, but the Tigers wouldn’t let their homecoming game go that easily Saturday, and clawed their way back to pull out a come-from-behind victory, 29-22.
Northport hit the scoreboard first four minutes in when senior running back Rob Dosch went the distance for a 20-yard score, and senior wide receiver and kicker Ryan Tromblee split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.
“It was a great block — the play was designed to go up the middle,” Dosch said. “It started to the right, I cut back left; it was great blocking up front with a huge hole and just used some speed.”
On a play that was slow to develop, Dosch ran down the sideline and cut back inside to find the end zone, again. This time, it was a 29-yard play at the 3:44 mark. Tromblee nailed the kick, and helped the team edge ahead, 14-0.
After a slow start, Sachem North began to move the chains when senior quarterback David McCarthy, on a keeper, broke it outside for a long gain to the Tigers’ 16-yard line. To open the second quarter, the Flaming Arrows finished it when senior running back Steve Anacreon broke free for six points, and with the extra-point attempt successful, the team closed the gap, 14-7.
Sachem North, on their longest sustained drive of the game, marched down the field and capped it off with another six points, as Anacreon struck again to close within a point, 14-13.
The Flaming Arrows then turned lemons into lemonade on a bad snap on the extra-point attempt, when after the holder picked up the ball, he rolled to his right and found an open receiver in the end zone for the two-point conversion. Fortune smiled on Sachem North as the Flaming Arrows took their first lead of the game, 15-14.
With seven seconds left in the half, the Tigers attempted a field goal from the 28-yard line, only to have it blocked.
With the wind out of the south all afternoon, Sachem North kicked off with the wind on its back to open the second half. The ball almost sailed over the head of Northport’s senior kick returner and running back Enzo D’Angelo, who had to make a leaping, one-handed catch to field the ball at his team’s own 1-yard line.
It might have been wiser to let the ball carry into the end zone, but D’Angelo took off. The senior cut inside as he followed several blockers before breaking it to the outside, leaving would-be tacklers behind as he covered 99 yards for the touchdown run that helped the Tigers retake the lead.
“It was really my blockers that did the job for me,” D’Angelo said. “When I caught it I saw the open hole; it was the blockers up front, and I just ran through it.”
With the point after good, Northport edged ahead 21-15.
After a sustained drive, Sachem North marched deep into Tigers territory when Anacreon got the call. Again, he punched it in for the score three yards out to tie the game, 21-21. The Flaming Arrows split the pipes for the extra point and retook the lead, 22-21, to open the final quarter.
With just under six minutes left in the game, the Tigers pounded their way into field goal range. The kick just missed to the left, to leave Northport still down a point.
Northport’s defense made a critical stop with 3:23 left in the game, where the team held Sachem North to a three-and-out, forcing them to punt on fourth and 15. From the punt formation, the Flaming Arrows faked the kick, and the punter took off with the ball, gaining 14 yards — just one yard shy of the first down, but Northport took over on downs, and with excellent field position.
Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith said his team got off to a slow start, but came on strong in the second half for the homecoming win.
“We really ran the ball well in the second half and everyone pushed today,” Smith said.
From the 29-yard line, Dosch went to work as he bowled his way up the middle to move the chains to the 14-yard line. Dosch got the call again as he punched through a hole up front and made his way into the end zone untouched for his third touchdown of the afternoon.
“The defense slanted to the hole that we were supposed to go to and my running back Dan Preston was my lead blocker,” Dosch said. “[Dan] recognized where they were, and there was one man [to beat] on the outside, and I just ran off his block.”
To make it a seven-point lead Northport, Smith went for two as he dropped back and rolled to his left. In a play that was slow to develop, senior tight end Kristian Gerken crossed to the left side of the end zone, and Smith spotted Gerken after checking for his primary receivers, as the two connected for the successful attempt.
“Our line held so I had plenty of time to throw,” Smith said.
Dosch said Smith threw a good ball, and pointed to Gerken as a strong receiver.
“Kristian Gerken is a big kid — kind of a Rob Gronkowski type — who just used his body, went up, made the catch,” he said. “[He’s got] great hands and that sealed it.”
Northport stretched their lead, 29-22, with 2:24 left.
With time running out, Sachem North, on its final offensive drive, did not go quietly. On a fourth and 20, the Flaming Arrows completed a pass over the middle, as the receiver turned upfield. The Tigers made the stop again, one yard short of the marker, and Northport took over on downs with 1:12 left in the game.
“Our kids just never give up — persevering, never feeling like we couldn’t do it, and we stayed right in there,” Northport head coach Kip Lukralle said. “We have confidence in each other and confidence in what we do, and that paid off today.”
Smith took three knees to run out the clock for a very sweet homecoming victory.