Oceanside tops Uniondale in opener
Sometimes, it's not about who can rev the engine the loudest, but who can hug the curves.
While Oceanside and Uniondale proved their ability to make big plays and ratchet up big numbers in a head-turning Nassau I season opener Friday night, it was the Sailors' quick adjustments and fine-tuned maneuvers that just may have been the difference.
In a game that was broadcast live on MSGVarsity.com, Oceanside, behind promising play from quarterback John Grassi, motored its way to a 37-26 home victory in a shootout of a game that included scores in the first five possessions. The anomaly among the long bombs and the sparkplug runs: a three-play, 54-yard drive that lasted 1:14 and began with an onside kick by seasoned senior Travis Feinberg and was recovered by James Keane, was moved along by a 43-yard trick play, and culminated with Grassi's pump-fake 12-yard scoring pass to Eddie Lally to give Oceanside a 21-13 lead with 2:13 left in the first.
"It's a lot of pressure," said Grassi, who was 15-for-24 for 291 yards and three touchdowns. "But pressure makes diamonds."
There were more speed bumps to navigate for Oceanside, which never trailed after the first quarter despite having possession for a scant 6:01 of the first half -- mainly Brandon Duncan. He hit Kenny Woodard with a 67-yard scoring pass with 7:09 left in the third to draw Uniondale to within 28-26.
But Oceanside, who started the senior Grassi after losing record-breaking QB Tyler Heuer to graduation, is nothing if not adaptable. Grassi connected with Philip Ragona, who broke a tackle and tacked on another 30 yards for a 37-yard score with 4:29 left in the third. After Feinberg's kickoff put the Knights on the 5-yard line, Jesse Haskell added a tackle in the end zone for the safety -- a tangible highlight for an understated performance by the Oceanside defensive line, which settled in after allowing the Knights to score twice in the first eight minutes.
"Oceanside was taken off the map when Heuer and Garay left," Grassi said. "But Oceanside is back on the map."
It showed. Down 13-7 with 4:38 to play, the Sailors responded with a three-play, 55-second drive that included a 65-yard run by Justin Buckley to set up Grassi's 7-yard TD pass to Luke Schwasnick with 3:33 to go. Next came the onside kick followed by the decoy play: a handoff to Ragona, who pitched it Grassi, who in turn unleashed a 43-yard pass to a wide-open Anthony Pintabona.
The pass was strong and true right over the middle, but boy was it a curve.