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Oct 29, 2012 9:31 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Mariners Win Thriller In Season Finale

Oct 29, 2012 10:31 AM

Fifty-six belly sweep. It was the play Southampton senior Alex Halaka had been hoping for when quarterback Taylor Sanders trotted back to the Mariner offensive huddle just moments before their team’s 26-20 overtime victory at Greenport (0-8) on Saturday. “It’s my favorite play,” said Halaka, who scored the game’s winning touchdown to defeat the Porters in the final game of the 2012 season.

Halaka’s run-off touchdown followed two scoreless quarters of football at Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field. With neither team able to score in the third and fourth quarters and the score locked at 13-13 at the end of regulation, the game went into overtime. The overtime format is essentially a red-zone shootout, in which both teams have an opportunity to score from the 20-yard line. If the scoring is still tied after each team’s scoring attempt, another overtime series is started. The game ends if one team scores and then holds the other team to fewer or no more points.

Greenport won the coin toss to begin the first overtime series and chose to send its defense out first to face the Mariner offense. On first and 10, Sanders handed off to Lyle Smith who picked up five yards. On the next play, Sanders went to the air and found running back Shaundell Fishburne uncovered in the end zone, and he easily caught the pass for 6 points. Halaka’s extra-point attempt was successful, giving Southampton the temporary lead, 20-13. Greenport answered right back, however. On first and 10, the Porters ran a sweep to the 5-yard line. They were awarded half the distance due to a late hit penalty against Southampton. On the next play, the Porters ran it in from the 2-yard line for the touchdown. The point after attempt was also successful and Greenport forced a second overtime, tying the score, 20-20.

This time the Mariner defense started and sophomore Nitauke Williams and senior Danny Claud came up with a huge play for Southampton. On second and five from the 15-yard line, Greenport ran a sweep to the right. Williams was able to get a hand on the ball causing it to come loose. After the ensuing scrum for the loose football, Claud arose from the heap with the ball, ending Greenport’s drive. Southampton’s offense now had possession and a golden opportunity to win with the next score. As the Southampton faithful cheered loudly from the sidelines, Smith took the ball on the first play and powered up the middle for a 10-yard gain. On the next play from just inside the 10-yard line, Sanders faked to Smith up the middle, freezing the Porter linebackers. He then gave the ball to a sweeping Halaka who sprinted for the Southampton sidelines.

“I kept telling Coach Epley during the game to run the belly sweep,” Halaka said. “All the credit goes to the coaches for calling that play.” Halaka picked up a key block from Williams on the corner and found himself one-on-one with a Porter defender who stood between him and the goal line. “After Nitauke’s block, I saw that he wasn’t coming up (to make the tackle),” said Halaka. “I was running full speed and I just lowered my shoulder.” Halaka steamrolled over the Porter defender and into the end zone for the winning touchdown.

When asked how it felt to not only score the winning touchdown, but to end his high school football career with a run-off touchdown in overtime Halaka said, “Looking back, I’m really happy the game went into double-overtime,” he said. “The suspense made the win a lot better.”

Despite the win, the Mariners will not play in the postseason. Coach Edgar “Hikey” Franklin was more satisfied that they’d won and that the seniors had had such an important impact on the season. “I can’t see any better ending to their season with a double-overtime win with a senior scoring the winning touchdown,” said Franklin. “It’s the best thing that could possibly happen for them.”

Southampton did have an opportunity to win the game with 7 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. After the Mariner defense forced Greenport to punt, Southampton took over from its own 25-yard line. Sanders made two quick completions to Smith and Fishburne that resulted in long gains. On a third and four, Halaka kept the momentum going by rushing around the end for another first down. After two more downs, Sanders went back to the air and threw to Smith who was near the Porter goal line. Smith jumped up, but wasn’t able to hang on to the ball and dropped it. Southampton went for it on fourth down but was held just inches shy of the line to gain mark.

Despite the dropped pass, Smith played a spectacular game and demonstrated why he is a leader both on offense and defense for the Mariners. Offensively, Smith rushed for 155 yards on 15 carries and rushed for both touchdowns with the second score tying the game in regulation, 13-13. Coach Franklin praised Smith for his leadership on and off the field. “Lyle is a great kid, I can’t say enough about him,” said Franklin. “He’s just an all-around leader, our kids just feed off of him.” Smith delivered a devastating blow after the Mariner defense forced Greenport into a fourth down situation. The Porters tried to kick a 35-yard field goal, but the attempt was unsuccessful. The Mariners took over on their own 20-yard line and on first down Sanders gave the ball to Smith who found an opening up the middle and then darted toward the sideline. Once Smith turned the corner, he was sprinting full speed and outran the last Greenport defender completing an 80-yard touchdown run into the end zone. “I couldn’t stop my feet,” said Smith. “Coach is always yelling at me to keep my feet moving at practice so when I saw that big block by Isaiah, I knew we had it.”

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SO LET ME GET THIS RIGHT, RB/LB LYLE SMITH RUSHES FOR 155 YDS AND 2 TDS AND ON DEF HE HAS 18 TACKLES, I DONT THINK THERE IS A PERSON ON LONG ISLAND THAT SHOULD GET ATHLETE OF THE WEEK EXCEPT FOR HIM AND THAT IS NOT INCLUDING WHAT AN OVERALL GREAT PERSON HE IS, LETS TALLY THE VOTES PLEASE.
By MACDADDY (49), SOUTHAMPTON on Nov 1, 12 5:25 PM