For three quarters Friday night, the MacArthur and Oceanside offenses played evenly. The scoreline reflected it; in each quarter, each team scored seven points.
Then the fourth quarter hit, and the Sailors' offense took over.
Quarterback Joe Grassi found Philip Ragona for the go-ahead touchdown, Shane Saucier ran for two of his three touchdown runs and the Sailors scored 22 unanswered points to top the Generals 43-21 in a Nassau I quarterfinal.
"We just realized that we could be the team going home with the loss," said Grassi. "That's a long bus ride home. I think everyone just found their heart, dug deep and got hungry."
Grassi took over for starter Thomas Capone after Capone left in the second quarter with an injury. What the Sailors still had, though was their powerful running attack. Shane Saucier, Luke Schwasnick Justin Buckley and the Sailors' offensive line outmuscled the MacArthur defense all game. They saved their best for the fourth quarter when they combined for nearly 200 yards on the ground.
"They were just stronger than we were," said MacArthur head coach Bob Fehrenbach. "We're an athletic team, but they also have some athletes to go with their size. Tonight they just pushed us around. We couldn't get off the field defensively in the second half."
The offenses matched one another in the first three quarters. MacArthur quarterback Gerard Cunningham hit Will Cheshire for a 60-yard strike on the opening drive, but Capone responded by finding Ragona for a 12-yard strike on the next possession. Schwasnick and Tom Kelleher traded touchdown runs in the second. Saucier capped a 14-play half-opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run in the third, but Cunningham found Kelleher for a 14-yard touchdown strike on the ensuing Generals drive to tie it at 21, and the game looked like it would come down to the wire.
But then Grassi hit Ragona to give the Sailors the lead early in the fourth. The Generals went three-and-out, and the Sailors went 83 yards in three minutes and eleven seconds to go up 14. Cunningham threw an interception on the next play, and three plays later, Saucier ran for a 63-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.
"We were forced to throw, and we've been a predominantly running team all year," said Fehrenbach. "That took us out of our game a little bit."
Oceanside moves on to play at Hofstra next weekend. For MacArthur, the loss snapped a seven-game winning streak, which included a win over the Sailors on homecoming weekend. Coach Fehrenbach was proud of his team, but was also upset that his student-athletes wouldn't get the semi-final experience.
"They had a great season," said Fehrenbach. "They're a great bunch of kids. It's just unfortunate that they didn't get a chance to get to the next level, to experience Hofstra."Team 1 2 3 4 T Oceanside 7 7 7 22 43 MacArthur 7 7 7 0 21
M - Cheshire 60 yd pass from Cunningham (Roach kick) - 5 plays, 74 yds - 7-0 MAC
O - Ragona 21 yd pass from Capone (Feinberg kick) - 9 plays, 59 yards - 7-7
O - Schwasnick 5 yd run (Feinberg kick) - 9 plays, 42 yards - 14-7 OCE
M - Kelleher 5 yd run (Roach kick) - 8 plays, 50 yards - 14-14
O - Saucier 2 yd run (Feinberg kick) - 14 plays, 65 yards - 21-14 OCE
M - Kelleher 14 yd pass from Cunningham (Roach kick) - 7 plays, 69 yards - 21-21
O - Ragona 12 yd pass from Grassi (Feinberg kick) - 11 plays, 80 yards - 28-21 OCE
O - Saucier 21 yd run (Feinberg kick) - 6 plays, 83 yards - 35-21 OCE
O - Saucier 63 yd run (2 point attempt successful) - 3 plays, 73 yards - 43-21 OCE