Two record-setting, defense-shredding playmakers are the focal points for Sunday's Long Island Class I championship game between East Meadow and Floyd at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.
Can the Jets (9-2) slow down Stacey Bedell? Can the Colonials (10-1) contain Rob Healy? Not likely, based on the circumstantial evidence of the 2011 season.
"To me, Bedell is the best running back on Long Island," East Meadow coach Vinny Mascia said. "You never know where he's going. He's cutting back, completely changing the field. He's 10 times faster than we are. We've got to go to the ball and close him in."
Bedell's breathtaking bounce-and-cut abilities were on display in Sunday's Suffolk I title game, in which Floyd held off Sachem North for the third year in a row, 35-20. Bedell gained 258 yards on 35 carries and scored on runs of 29, 10 and 14 yards.
On the clock-killing, clinching 74-yard drive in the fourth quarter, Bedell twice started to circle right end, found the path clogged, slipped a tackle and cut back, finishing the play with a run around left end. One was for a key third-down conversion; the other produced the game's final touchdown. That was his 35th TD of the season and the school-record 68th of a brilliant three-year varsity career that has produced three consecutive LIC appearances.
Healy is a nimble runner in his own right, but he took the receiving line into the record books Saturday. Two of his three touchdowns in a thrilling 34-33 victory over two-time defending Long Island champion Freeport came on touchdown passes from Dylan Curry on plays covering 63 and 53 yards.
"Healy is very versatile," Floyd coach Paul Longo said. "He's a tough kid, elusive. He can hurt you running with the ball or going out for passes."
Healy has eight scoring receptions among his 36 touchdowns this season, which broke the Nassau County record of 35 set by Freeport's Kevin Allen in 2009. The humble Healy hardly acknowledged the record, saying, "I knew about it at first, but I got so lost in the game I forgot about it."
Defenses can't forget about the quarterbacks in this game, either. Curry completed 4 of 6 passes for 144 yards but was most impressive running the ball. He worked hard for his team-high 76 rushing yards against Freeport -- Healy had 59 -- and picked up big first downs on quarterback keepers.
Similarly, A.J. Otranto came up big for Floyd, hitting Vantrell Nash for touchdown passes of 50 and 26 yards on well-executed post patterns that were the difference in the game. Otranto also has been a force at linebacker since midseason, and he nailed Sachem North's Dalton Crossan four times for losses.
Still, the spotlight will shine brightest on Bedell and Healy, who also are excellent defensive backs and might even wind up in one-on-one scenarios against each other in the open field.
Said Mascia, "They're special players."