SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Host No. 8 Lakeland and No. 9 Fox Lane’s football squads staged a scoreless first-half duel in the qualifying round of the Section 1 Class A Tournament on Oct. 18.
“Our defense played phenomenal in the first half, we barely let them have any first downs,” Lakeland’s Matt Makar said. “Our offense, we were tough on offense a little bit, but we just let it slip away.”
Unfortunately for the Hornets, the Foxes took control of the second half, outscoring Lakeland, 20-0, and winning by that same score, in the first playoff game played at Lakeland in recent memory.
“It meant a lot, it meant a lot. It’s been a long time since we had a home playoff game,” said Lakeland coach Mike Meadows. “The boys, they worked hard. Unfortunately, it didn’t go our way.”
Makar (22 carries, 98 yards) said “it meant everything” to play a home playoff game.
“It’s been a while since we had a home playoff game; it’s a big accomplishment,” Makar said. “We gave it our all, we gave them a fight but then we just let it slip through our hands in the second half.”
Lakeland’s offense started on fire, with Tyler Santucci (24 for 34, 224 yards) connecting with Landon Ruggieri (2 catches, 57 yards) on a 52-yard pass play on the game’s first play from scrimmage.
That play put the ball at the Fox Lane 28-yard line, but the Hornets weren’t able to move it from there.
Lakeland had a couple of other opportunities to score in the opening quarter, but Fox Lane’s defense was up to the challenge and prevented the Hornets from scoring.
Fox Lane then in the second quarter had their own opportunity when it had a fourth-and-1 on the Hornets’ 6-yard line but Lakeland’s defense stuffed the Foxes rushing attempt at a first down.
“It was huge,” Meadows said. “We knew what play was coming and the boys were able to get off the ball and make a play on that particular drive.”
Fox Lane got on the scoreboard 49 seconds into the second half on a 58-yard touchdown pass from Spencer Rawley to Marcial Vasquez. A 33-yard touchdown run by Michael Washington gave Fox Lane a 14-0 advantage with 5:10 to go in the third quarter.
Lakeland looked to answer right back, driving 10 plays from their 29-yard line to the Fox Lane 1, but a fumble thwarted the drive.
“I thought our offensive coordinator, Ryan Shilling, was making some good calls; it’s just you can’t make those mistakes,” Meadows said. “I mean a bad snap, a bad exchange, and when you are on the 1, you have to put it in. That was the biggest turning point in the game, in my opinion. We were able to drive the field and you cannot put it in and be so close like that. It was devastating.”
Rob Nardelli (7 catches, 44 yards), Mike Castelli (5 catches, 58 yards) and Jason Green (8 tackles, 1 forced fumble) also contributed to the Hornets’ effort against the Foxes.
Lakeland (4-3) will next play at Clarkstown South at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 in a non-playoff contest.
“Our defense played phenomenal so I don’t have a doubt in my mind that it will play well again,” Makar said. “We have to have a good offensive week though. Our offense had missed assignments, missed blocks. We are going to get better and we are going to make those changes.”