By Bill Landon
The Ward Melville football team was able to stay within striking distance through two quarters of play in its season opener, but visiting Lindenhurst broke the game open in the second half to defeat the Patriots 28-13 in League I gridiron action Friday night.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs struck first three minutes into the second quarter when senior quarterback Ryan Hofmann connected with junior wide receiver Steven Ramirez for the score, and with the extra point good, the team led 7-0.
With just over a minute left in the half, Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea found junior wide receiver John Corpac, who turned the corner and flew down the right sideline to go the distance for the touchdown. It was a 61-yard pass play that put the Patriots on the scoreboard, but when the point after attempt pushed wide left, Ward Melville trailed 7-6.
It became a game riddled with cramps and penalties, and the Patriots led the way in both categories.
“You can’t let officiating determine a games [outcome], it’s got to be decided on the field by the players,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “And unfortunately, our guys didn’t do what we asked them to do [tonight].”
The Hofmann–Ramirez tandem answered back on the last play of the half for another touchdown. After a failed point after, the Bulldogs took a 13-6 lead into the halftime break.
Boltrek said that going into the third quarter being one score down to the reigning county champions wasn’t a bad thing.
“I thought we had a chance the entire time, but between penalties and cramped players, we don’t have the depth to pull that off,” he said.
Lindenhurst looked to put the game away on the second play from scrimmage to open the second half, and it did. Senior running back Joe Barber pushed his way up the middle, breaking several tackles, and made his way 65 yards downfield for the score to put the Bulldogs out in front, 19-6. Junior quarterback Austin Perri scored next for the Bulldogs, as he plowed his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion, to help his team break out to a 21-6 lead.
Ward Melville was unable to answer, and again fell victim to the Hofmann–Ramirez combination. The two paired up on a pass play and Lindenhurst took a commanding 28-6 advantage.
Deep in their own territory, Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone provided the spark to make it a two-score game when he broke outside and cut to the middle of the field. After the dust settled, he went 81 yards for the score to trim the Ward Melville deficit, and sophomore kicker Joe LaRosa split the uprights to trail 28-13.
The Bulldogs threatened again deep into the Patriots’ territory but on a rare miscue, coughed up the ball as Ward Melville recovered the fumble on their own 15-yard line.
With just under five minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots ran the hurry-up offense as O’Hea aired the ball out the rest of the way, but no open receiver could be found.
“I thought we let it get away from us,” Boltrek said. “We’ve got to fix the mistakes, but it was great that we hung with the defending county champs.”