Once again Isaiah Barnes was a star for Freeport. He had five total touchdowns, including the go-ahead 2-yard run with 7:27 left, in the top-seeded Red Devils' wild 41-27 win over No. 6 Oceanside in the Nassau I semifinals at Hofstra. Ask Barnes, though, and even he'll defer to a teammate for the biggest moment of the game.
With Freeport clinging to a 26-21 lead following Barnes' end zone run, Oceanside was driving. But Jere Brown forced a fumble at the 55-yard line, and Evan Lapice ran it back for a touchdown, giving Freeport a two-score lead with 7:07 to go.
"It was pure happiness," Barnes said. "Everybody was on edge, and that allowed us to relax as a team."
Of course there were more fireworks to come. Anthony Pintabona caught a 25-yard touchdown pass from John Grassi with 6:28 left to cut the deficit to 34-27. But Freeport is comfortable in a shootout, and Barnes answered back with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Leondre Simmon with 2:15 left to provide the final margin of victory. Cedric Smiley grabbed an interception with 1:40 left to seal the win.
The Red Devils (9-1) face the winner of East Meadow vs. Massapequa in the championship at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Hofstra.
Pintabona had 167 yards and a touchdown on seven catches and John Grassi was 11-for-16 for 226 yards and two touchdowns for Oceanside (5-5).
Barnes had 141 yards and two scores on 24 carries and was 13-for-18 for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Lapice had 56 yards and two touchdowns on two catches.
Largely ineffective in the first half, Freeport finally drove deep into Oceanside territory with less than two minutes left in the first half. But Barnes injured his left ankle and limped off the field.
Just one play later, however, Barnes returned and threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Lapice with 1:21 to go in the half.
"There's no way on God's green earth I was coming out of the game," Barnes said.
Freeport hadn't been held to fewer than 14 first-half points since scoring just seven in Week 1 against MacArthur.
"They just said, 'We're not going to let them run on us,' " coach Russ Cellan said. "On certain formations they were playing us with zero coverage and putting everybody in the box. So we couldn't do the things we normally do."
Oceanside attempted an onside kick to start the second half and Freeport recovered, but fumbled. The referees initially ruled in favor of Freeport. But as they dug deeper into the pile, the call was reversed.
The drive ignited the Sailors offense. They scored and eventually fought to take a 21-20 lead on Shane Saucier's 1-yard touchdown with 40 seconds left in the third.