Facing a crucial third and goal from the 11-yard line in a 14-14 game with under four minutes to play Saturday against MacArthur, Wantagh wide receiver Mike Stack urged his coaches to run a play to him in the left corner of the end zone.
The play worked to perfection with quarterback Roddy Roche connecting with Stack on a high touchdown pass between two defensive backs, which proved to be the winning score in Wantagh’s 21-14 home victory before a standing-room-only crowd against neighborhood rival MacArthur (1-1). The key touchdown pass capped a 16-play 82-yard drive that helped Wantagh improve to 2-0 on the young season.
“I told coach to run that play because I knew Roddy was going to put it in a great spot for me," said Stack, who had three catches for 45 yards to help lead Wantagh to a come-from-behind win after trailing 14-7 at halftime in the programs 500th all-time game. “We practice that play everyday throwing to the highest point and practiced paid off.”
Wantagh’s second half comeback was keyed by time of possession with MacArthur limited to just 11 offensive plays on two possessions. In the first half, the roles were reversed with Wantagh only getting off nine plays from scrimmage.
“It’s not going to win you many ballgames when you run 11 plays in the second half,” said MacArthur head coach Bobby Fehrenbach.
Wantagh’s domination of controlling the second half clock began with a 14-play 80-yard drive, which ate up most of the third quarter and was capped by a Brandon Watson three-yard touchdown plunge. Watson ended up with 161 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
“I felt that if we could take that first drive for something then we could take the game over,” said Wantagh head coach Keith Sachs. “It was a great team win.”
In the first half, MacArthur’s offense led by the rushing attack of senior Tom Kelleher kept Wantagh off balance and its offense on the sidelines. Kelleher opened the General scoring on a two-yard touchdown run with just over two minutes left in the first quarter. After the Warriors tie game at 7-7 on a Watson 42-yard touchdown run, the Generals marched into the end zone just before halftime on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Cunningham to wide receiver Michael Rotondo.
Despite being located just 1.62 miles from each other, Saturday marked just the sixth meeting between Wantagh and MacArthur with the Warriors now leading the series 5-1. Both teams are expected to compete for a Nassau County Conference II title this fall and could meet again in the playoffs at Hofstra. MacArthur moved down to Conference II after two years in Conference I due to a drop in enrollment.
“They are a class act,” said Sachs of MacArthur, which features many players who reside in Wantagh. “Hopefully they can win every game they can and we meet again.”
“It would be nice to see [Wantagh] later on but we still have six more games to go before we start worrying about the playoffs,” Coach Fehrenbach said.
Wantagh is next in action at home against Mepham this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. MacArthur returns to the field before the home fans in Levittown on Friday night against Bellmore-Kennedy for a 7 p.m. kickoff.