An entire stadium howled in outrage Saturday as time ran out with the football team just 3 yards from the end zone.
Then the crowd of 1,200 groaned in agony as Bay Shore converted a 35-yard field goal in overtime.
But just moments later the atmosphere turned to ecstasy and elation as senior fullback Ryan Kokell capped a wild afternoon with a 1-yard touchdown, leading Northport to a 20-17 win. Homecomings don’t get much more thrilling.
A lot was riding on this Suffolk Division I showdown of 0-2 teams. After tough losses to and , the Tigers couldn’t afford to fall to 0-3.
Two methodical drives – and a goal line stand by the defense – put Northport ahead 14-0.
Bay Shore was far from finished. The Marauders rallied behind the running of quarterback Lucas Rock (108 yards, TD) and running back Matthias Eato (122 yards, TD). Rock’s 6-yard touchdown scramble was followed by a two-point pass to forge a tie at 14 with 9:32 left in the fourth quarter.
After stopping the Marauders on downs, Northport got the ball back at the Bay Shore 44 with 2:16 left. The Tigers marched to the 3. Kokell was stuffed on third-and-1 for no gain. Twelve seconds remained. Or so Northport Coach Kip Lukralle thought.
While the scoreboard didn’t move, referee Jim Oliveri said time was being kept on the field. As Lukralle waited for the clock to restart so he could call a time out and set up one last play, Oliveri blew his whistle and signaled time had run out.
Despite protests and a chorus of boos, the Tigers did not get a chance to win the game in regulation. On to overtime.
Hero: Kokell got the tough yards when the Tigers needed them. The fullback scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdowns and finished with 87 yards on 17 carries. None was bigger than his right side run to daylight in OT. Kokell’s touchdown touched off a celebration as teammates mobbed him.
"That was nerve wracking," Kokell said with a smile.
Kokell also starred at linebacker. He made a touchdown-saving tackle just before halftime when he dropped Rock for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
That’s not all. Kokell blocked an extra point attempt to keep the Tigers ahead 14-6.
Turning Point: After holding Bay Shore to a field goal in OT, the Tigers got a shot at scoring from the Marauders’ 20. Big wideout Ken Raddigan (five catches, 75 yards) drew a pass interference call in the end zone, setting up a first-and-goal from the 9. Quarterback Sean Gilroy carried twice down to the 1 and Kokell finished the comeback on the next play.
Quotable: "Heart and character," an emotional Lukralle said of his players. "Fighting spirit. I’m so proud of that. To almost have it taken away from us and those kids bounce back like that says a lot."
Bottom Line: This one feel familiar? It should. Northport was 0-2 a year ago. And then the Tigers trailed Bay Shore 14-0 before . That win propelled the Tigers toward a 4-4 finish and a playoff berth.
This has the makings of a launching point too. But with Floyd looming on the schedule, earning a road win next week against Connetquot becomes all the more important.
The Northport defense has struggled to contain running quarterbacks. Kip Lukralle and his staff needs to find an answer.
Key Stat: Senior Sean Gilroy completed 10 of 18 passes for 169 yards and ran for 19 more and a score. But he was near perfect in the second half, going 5-for-8 for 102 yards. The offense racked up 308 yards.
Who’s Next: Northport @ Connetquot, Oct. 1, 2 p.m.
Suffolk Division I
Teams............1.....2.....3.....4...OT – F
Bay Shore.......0.....0.....6.....8.....3 – 17
Northport........0...14.....0.....0.....6 – 20
N – Gilroy 1 run (Smith kick)
N – Kokell 1 run (Smith kick)
BS – Eato 26 run (kick failed)
BS – Rock 6 run (Nunez from Rock)
BS – FG 35 White
N – Kokell 1 run (no attempt)
Patch created a Facebook page where you can follow the Tigers this season as they push for another playoff run.