Bethpage had many opportunities to put Plainedge away.
But quarterback Nick Frenger made sure it was just the opposite. Plainedge’s junior quarterback completed 20 of 30 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns as the Red Devils came from behind with a minute left in regulation to top Bethpage 28-27 in overtime Saturday afternoon.
The win improves Plainedge, MSG Varsity’s No. 10-ranked small school in the tri-state, to a perfect 5-0 on the year.
“It feels great especially with a rivalry game like this,” Frenger said. “It’s always circled on the calendar.”
In a game of many potential turning points, it’s almost hard to start so we might as well head to the fourth quarter.
After Bethpage took a 21-14 lead on a drive that took 14 plays and ate more than seven minutes on a clock that eventually stopped at 4:09 left in the fourth quarter, Plainedge looked to respond and score on what it hoped would be the game’s final drive.
Key word: hoped.
After a huge 4th down and 6 conversion for Frenger and the Red Devils at midfield, the junior quarterback led his team to the Bethpage 25-yard line with a minute and a half left. The play called for a teardrop pass to WR John Johnson, however sophomore DB and backup QB Jake Einbinder picked off the pass at the Golden Eagles’ 4-yard line with 1:24 remaining and a fresh set of downs.
With a running game that had been giving Plainedge fits all afternoon, one would figure it’s game over, right?
“(Bethpage) came out to play today even though they don’t have a strong record,” Frenger said about his opposition. “They put up a great fight and have a great team.”
The Bethpage ground-game, which had eaten up clock at chunks at a time, was held to just six yards in a paltry 16 seconds on what many thought to be the game-ending drive and forced to punt.
Bethpage ran the ball 45 times on the afternoon for 259 yards spread out over six different rushers.
Plainedge, especially Frenger, was grateful for the second life.
“Throwing an interception like that and having a lot of experience on varsity, you just have to have amnesia,” Frenger said. “You just have to focus on the next drive knowing you’re not going to have a lot of time to score again.”
The ensuing Bethpage punt threw Gianfranco Soriente for a loop as the star running back had to backtrack to catch it. Soriente bobbled the punt and scrambled, escaping as many as five gold jerseys before finding his way to the Bethpage 37-yard line.
“It was a real panic once I missed the ball,” Soriente said. “I just knew I had to maintain my composure and picked up the ball and start running. Time was running down.”
Soriente rushed for 123 yards on 23 carries and scored Plainedge’s first two touchdowns.
After an illegal procedure penalty moved the Red Devils back five yards, Frenger began to pick apart the defense methodically. He connected with Johnson and Kevin Walkter twice leading his team to the nine-yard line with 12 seconds left. The next and final possession of the drive resulted in a diving catch on a tipped ball by Nick Cupolo, evening the score at 21-21 with just six ticks left in regulation.
Plainedge didn’t waste time in overtime.
Following a fumble which gave the Red Devils a 2nd and 16 from the 26-yard line, Frenger fired a strike to Johnson to give Plainedge a 28-21 lead. Bethpage’s opportunity saw the Golden Eagles not deviating from what worked earlier – a straight ground game.
Shane Lackey pulled the Eagles within a point on a three-yard run which loomed the question – play it safe, or go for the win?
Bethpage went for the win and the two points…and came a half-yard short.
Quarterback Christian Feruzza’s option keeper was forced out of bounds before he could reach the pylon, giving Plainedge the improbable come-from-behind victory.
Jubilation from the Plainedge sidelines.
Heartbreak on the Bethpage sidelines.
A classic all around.
Follow Tom on Twitter @MSGV_TLiodice