Champs Brave Chiefs In Shootout

Syosset’s Braves celebrate their victory. (Photos by Ben Strack)

As kicker Cameron Biegel’s 24-yard field goal soared through the uprights in the game’s final seconds, the Syosset sideline spilled onto Massapequa’s home field, reveling in the 40-39, come-from-behind win.

“It was a Conference I football game,” said Braves head coach Paul Rorke. “You have teams up and down this conference that can play and we were very fortunate to make one more play than they did today.”

The back-and-forth affair took many shapes, morphing to a 15-point Syosset deficit in the third quarter. But a pass from quarterback Will Hogan to receiver Michael Elardo cut the Massapequa lead to 29-22 as the crowd braced themselves for an offensive shootout.

The Braves line up on the sidelines.

A Chiefs field goal early in the fourth quarter was answered by a long touchdown from John Lieberz, followed by a two-point conversion from a pylon-bound Elardo to make it 32-30.

The senior wideout wasn’t done though, delivering back the penultimate blow after Massapequa senior Chris Bacotti’s fourth touchdown of the day, a catch he took for 63 yards. Elardo picked up the ensuing kickoff and beat defenders along the raucously vibrant Syosset sideline for a 97-yard score, pulling within 39-37 with six minutes left.

“Me and [Christian Skorka] said we’re going to get six after this,” Elardo said. “He led me to the way and then John Antonelli made a huge block on the outside and once I saw the opening, I just kept running.”

The game-winning kick.

A big stop from a shaky Syosset defense forced Massapequa (1-1) to punt and the game-winning drive began with 3:07 left on the clock. The Hogan-Elardo tandem was apparent once again as the two connected on a pair of third down conversions to get the ball to the six-yard line and leave it to Biegel—the backup quarterback with a strong leg—to provide further heroics.

Skorka had eight catches for a team-high 84 receiving yards and a touchdown. Elardo added 74 yards and nine receptions with help from Hogan who finished 24-for-36 for 212 yards and two touchdowns.

“Having a quarterback like Will is second to none,” Elardo said. “Our chemistry just builds and builds every practice and having him as a quarterback, I feel confident the ball is going to be in my hands when my play is called.”

Both seniors, Hogan and Elardo led the county last season in passing yards and receiving yards, respectively, en route to a Long Island Championship. They are currently atop the charts again this year.

“Two really special kids,” said Rorke. “Extremely talented, hard workers, their poise is absolutely ridiculous. I think the bigger the stage and the bigger the moment, those two guys seem to come up and it’s who they are.”

While the return of the team’s two star athletes spells an opportunity to repeat last season’s success, Syosset (2-0) needed to replace solid players on the offensive line, a weakness that showed the first two weeks. Achieving what the Braves did last Fall doesn’t make anything easier.

football“It was kind of a different situation for us not having been there in that situation before,” said Rorke, who has been the Syosset head coach since 1994. “But we know based on the conference—last year we were a three seed—no matter where you are, week in and week out, there’s not a place to take a breath.”

A coaching staff—part of which has spanned two decades—along with standout seniors makes the deficits that much more manageable, making it possible to grind out a Saturday morning thriller on someone else’s field.

“It speaks to the leadership to the kids that come back,” Rorke said. “I’ll tell you what, I have coaches that have been with me for 20 years that teach our kids and put them in every possible situation so when they see it, they’ve been there before and I think it’s a tribute to those guys.”

The Braves face Farmingdale (Oct. 3), Oceanside (Oct. 10) and East Meadow (Oct. 17) in consecutive weeks, three teams that beat Syosset last year during their 8-4 season. As Elardo, Hogan and company continue their campaign to defend the Long Island title, they know teams will be gunning for the same prize.

“We have a target on our back and everybody wants us,” said Elardo. “We know we have to go in there 100 percent every single play and play for the man to the left and the right of us.”


Leave a Reply