The Long Beach Marines took the field at nearly full strength. They were outfitted in pads, helmets, jerseys and cleats. They played four quarters of inconsistent football and lost, 35-13. But it was nothing short of a miracle, said Long Beach coach Scott Martin.
"This was not a failure by any means," said Martin, who as late as Tuesday didn't think he would even be able to field a team for yesterday's game. "I never fathomed we could play without jerseys and helmets and I'm very proud of them. This is a special moment for us."
Two weeks after superstorm Sandy ravaged their families and homes, drowned their locker room and equipment, and sent players scattering all over New York, the fifth-seeded Marines showed up. Playing in pads and jerseys donated by Boomer Esiason and others, Long Beach traveled to Franklin Square to face Carey in the Nassau II quarterfinals. This chance -- once all but guaranteed after the Marines won the first five games of the year -- instead became a labor of perseverance, Martin said.
Only about 20 players were able to make the first team meeting on Tuesday, but over 40 made it to the game. Families of about 75 percent of the team sustained major damage to property; some players are temporarily homeless and living with friends or relatives.
Regardless, "they communicated that they wanted to play," Martin said. "It's very special to even be out here. It's an emotional thing."
Long Beach was greeted by an outpouring of support from the Franklin Square community -- raffles meant to benefit Long Beach students, donations, and news of a relief drive today from 10 p.m. to 1 p.m. at the Franklin Square-Munson firehouse. There will be additional drives Nov. 21 and 28 at the Long Beach VFW, from 6-10 p.m.
"It was very emotional," said Carey quarterback Ray Catapano. "We wanted to show that we're good on the field and off the field."
With the off-the-field part under their belts, the fourth-seeded Seahawks quickly got to work on their on-the-field contributions. Long Beach (5-4) went three-and-out on its first drive of the game before a bad snap from center squirted past punter Justin DeGioia. It was recovered by the Rams' Anthony Lucito at the Long Beach 11. Two plays later, Michael De Leo snapped up a toss from Catapano, rounded the right side and scored easily.
Carey (7-2) struck again on its very next possession -- a Conor Colasurdo 54-yard romp up the middle, the beneficiary of two big blocks downfield and a Long Beach secondary that struggled to keep up. Nine seconds into the second half, Catapano aired it out, hitting Matt Robison on a fade for a 70-yard TD and a 21-0 lead.
"We played hard throughout but Carey is a better football team," Martin said. "I'll be rooting for them."
Catapano was 7-for-7 for 206 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to Robison, who finished with 83 yards receiving and an interception. Tom Dente had three sacks, while John Heyer added two.
Carey led 35-0 before Long Beach got on the board with J.T. Forkin's 5-yard TD with 11:05 to play. Billy Kane scored on a 21-yard run as time expired.
The Seahawks now move on to play No. 1 Garden City, 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra.
"It was a great job all around," Catapano said. "Our receivers did a great job of getting open, and the line did a great job giving me time."
Long Beach had defeated Carey, 42-20, back on Sept. 15 so this result stung, said lineman Tariq Cole, but he said it was a relief to think about something different. After the storm, Cole stayed with his sister in Elmhurst before shuttling to Long Beach this week to help his mother, who is putting up 15 people at her house.
"It's been hard," he said. "But we all got to practice and it gave us a chance to be with our friends and take our minds off everything."
Cole hopes to get another crack at Carey his senior year, but he'll have only one prevailing memory of 2012.
"Sandy," he said. "That's it."