It came down to a defensive score and a defensive stop.
Really, it did.
Lawrence, the highest-scoring team in Long Island history, needed a 30-yard pick six from Eddie Robinson and a group hug of Sayville running back Matthew Selts on fourth-and-1 with 3:33 left to edge Sayville, 21-20, Friday night in a thrilling Long Island Class III championship game before a crowd of more than 4,000 at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
The victory allowed Lawrence to complete a perfect 12-0 season, something that Sayville (11-1) took away from them in last year's LIC. Sayville's Long Island-best 23-game winning streak came to a heartbreaking end.
"It wasn't a football game. Once the whistle blew, it was a fight," said Florian Capobianco, who along with Melik Mavruk helped stop Selts and give the ball back to Lawrence, and his brother Joe clinched the game with a fourth-down completion to Tyler Fredericks.
"Both defenses wanted to redeem themselves after last year," Florian Capobianco said. Ah, last year. Who could forget Sayville's 78-61 victory in the highest-scoring game in state history? Though no one could envision a repeat, many so-called experts figured on another up-and-down game.
Well there were a lot of running backs and quarterbacks who were stood up and were knocked down. Sayville moved John Haggart around and he made two of the Golden Flashes' eight sacks that "limited" Joe Capobianco to 18-for-24 for 209 yards and a touchdown.
Haggart ran for 82 yards, but was one of two key Sayville offensive stars who suffered injuries. In the second quarter, quarterback Zach Sirico scored on a 13-yard run, but injured his leg when hit by a Lawrence player's helmet. He did not return. Haggart suffered what appeared to be a serious knee injury in the fourth quarter and was not able to return for the final drive after Sayville took over with 5:20 left, trailing 21-20.
Earlier, substitute quarterback Donald DeKenipp gave Sayville a remarkable lift, completing three straight passes late in the second quarter, the last a 41-yard touchdown to James Giattino that gave Sayville a 20-7 halftime lead.
Joe Capobianco drove the Golden Tornadoes 75 yards in 10 plays to open the second half, and capped the drive with a 5-yard run that made it 20-14. After that, Sayville's swarming defense harassed Capobianco, but Lawrence countered with stop after stop. Florian Capobianco and John Perrone made five tackles each up front. Robinson made 5 1/2 stops, but that wasn't where he made his biggest contribution.
On third-and-12 from the Sayville 14, DeKenipp was forced to put it up and Robinson read the receiver and the route, stepped up for the interception and rumbled 30 yards for the score. "I fixed on the ball and after that, it was gone, goodbye," Robinson said. "No one was fast enough to catch me." Mike Fragner's extra-point kick provided the winning point.
But it was the defenses that made the strongest points. "We put in a three-man front to change it up a little," Mavruk said. "Our defense has been overlooked all year. I'm a one-way player and I was hoping it would come down to the defense."
Given that the closest game for either team was a 21-point victory, defense was almost an afterthought coming in. Almost. "I knew it would be the total opposite of last year," Florian Copianco said.
His brother said he kind of expected that, too. "Sayville is so tough and so physical," he said. When asked about the constant pressure and the eight sacks, Joe Capobianco said, "I don't think I'm waking up tomorrow."
But he'll sleep the sleep of champions and enjoy a dream come true.