It was a game of big plays and a game of big mistakes.
The Northport Tigers offense, buoyed by long touchdowns, couldn’t stop the Sachem East Flaming Arrows from doing the same. Sprinkle in four turnovers by the Tigers and you get the final result – a 41-26 opening night victory for the Flaming Arrows of East.
Superstar Sachem East running back Steve Casali ran roughshod over an inexperienced Northport line, scoring three times on runs of 2, 11, and 75 yards, and accumulating 239 yards overall on 22 carries.
It was a banner night for Casali, who plunged in from two yards out early in the first quarter to break the program record for career touchdowns. His 239 yards also put him first in all-time rushing yards at Sachem East, and he is poised to break the all-purpose yardage record next week. All three records were previously held by Matt Ferber.
It was Casali’s 75-yarder that was the backbreaker. After the Tigers put together a 61-yard scoring drive that included the Tigers converting a fourth-and-15 on a pass from Sean Gilroy to Ken Radigan and cutting its deficit to only eight in the fourth quarter, Casali hit the home run. He burst untouched – a common theme on the night – up the middle and went the distance.
But it wasn’t only Casali who had a big game on the ground for Sachem. Junior Ken Whigham scored three touchdowns of his own in his first career varsity game.
“It was his first game and he did a great job,” Sachem East head coach Mark Wojciechowski said of Whigham. “But again, he wasn’t getting touched until he was 10 yards down the field and he was getting in the end zone by then. He did a great job today.”
Both coaches agreed that the line play that led to the rushing attack was a huge difference in the game.
“We just gave up to many big plays – you just can’t do it,” Northport head coach Kip Lukralle said. “I know (Casali) is a great back. They beat us up front. There are no excuses and I’m not pointing fingers but we’re inexperienced up front and they beat us there. That clearly was the difference. And we’re going to get better there.”
Wojciechowski admitted that he didn’t think his team would be able to dominate the line of scrimmage as well as they did.
“The way it turned out – I didn’t think it was going to be like that,” he said. “But our offensive line did a good job against their defensive line. They did some things to take away our receivers and it just opened up our run game because of that. But our offensive line did a great, great, great job today. I’m very happy with how they blocked – it was awesome.”
Sachem will travel to take on defending Long Island champion William Floyd next Saturday afternoon, while Northport will play at Patchogue-Medford on Friday.