Joshua Long lived in the dark for 11 days. So when he saw a chance to race for daylight, the Huntington senior cornerback did just that.
With Kings Park driving for the tying touchdown in the final seconds of Saturday’s Suffolk Division III football quarterfinal, Long batted a pass in his own end zone, came down with the loose ball and then turned on the jets.
Long returned the interception 101 yards for a touchdown with 11.3 seconds left, a stunning turn of events as No. 4 Huntington held off the fifth-seeded Kingsmen, 27-12.
“They were so happy to be here,” Huntington Coach Steve Muller said of his players and coaches. “It was like someone lifted the fog. You weren’t stuck in that dark house.”
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Sandy ripped through Long Island – wrecking neighborhoods, causing power outages, gas shortages and closing schools – there are signs of normalcy.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
School opened again Friday, and after a one-week delay, the playoffs kicked off.
Kings Park senior running back Tom Venier nearly stole the game. Recast as an every down back after starting the season as a slot receiver, the slight Venier proved elusive and relentless, slithering through cracks in the Huntington defense for 251 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.
“He’s terrific,” Kings Park Coach Mark O’Brien said. “We felt great with him back there today. We did enough to stay in it. We didn’t do enough to take it.”
After linebacker Stephen Giacalone made a diving interception to set up Kings Park at the Blue Devils’ 24-yard-line trailing 20-12 with 2:36 left, back-to-back 6-yard runs by Venier put the Kingsmen at the edge on an equalizing score.
Then Long snatched King Park’s momentum and sealed the game.
“I just wanted to put it away,” said Long, who suffered without power until Thursday. “I baited the quarterback. I let the receiver get ahead of me. I put my speed on and hopped onto the ball.”
The game turned early on another momentum-shifting play.
Kings Park set up for a 32-yard field goal, trailing 7-6. But Long rushed in and blocked the kick. John Mallouk scooped up the loose ball around midfield and ran it in for a Huntington touchdown with 1:25 left in the first quarter.
“That was a tough one,” O’Brien said. “They made a great play. That’s never happened to me in my 18 years of doing this.”
Huntington improved to 7-2 and beat the Kingsmen (5-4) for the second time this season. Teams get reseeded for the Suffolk semifinals next Friday.
Huntington junior quarterback Ben Kocis completed 15 of 22 passes for 188 yards. He ran for a 26-yard touchdown and threw a 22-yard strike just before halftime to Tyler Greenhill to make it 20-6.
“I took some hits,” said Greenhill, who battled his way into the end zone. “They hurt a lot. But it feels great scoring a touchdown. It feels great getting this win.”
Suffolk Division III Football QuarterfinalTeams 1 2 3 4 F Kings Park 6 0 0 6 12 Huntington 13 7 0 7 27
H – Kocis 26 run (Reilly kick)
KP – Venier 75 run (kick failed)
H – Mallouk 50 blocked FG return (kick failed)
H – Greenhill 22 pass from Kocis (Reilly kick)
KP – Toscano 1 run (kick failed)
H – Long 101 INT return (Reilly kick)
Follow Kings Park Patch on Facebook