With time ticking down, Eastport South Manor’s Jaggar Chaisty hauled in a pass from fellow senior Austin Macchi inside the Hauppauge 5-yard line on Friday night, and was faced with a decision—make a beeline for the sideline or for the end zone.
The latter was too good to pass up. Chaisty put his head down and plowed inside the right pylon for the go-ahead touchdown with 32 seconds left, soon disappearing amid a mob of teammates who came to celebrate with him. One defensive stop later and ESM had knocked off the previously unbeaten Eagles, 22-18, for its second straight gargantuan victory in as many weeks.
“It’s so exhilarating,” Macchi said. “It’s a huge win for our program and it’s great to be 3-1.”
“It was a great win,” added senior Cole Zeller. “We have a real good corps of seniors and we all worked hard tonight, came together as a team, and pulled it out.”
The victory lifts the Sharks to 3-1 on the season and almost assures them of a top four ranking when power points are computed on Monday. It comes a week after the Sharks’ landmark 35-34 triumph over vaunted Sayville, a team they had never before defeated.
“The kids are learning how to win,” head coach Paul Mastronardi said. “We took over the program that had never really experienced winning, and it took us three years to teach the kids how to win. We started a lot of young kids along the way, and it’s paying dividends now.”
“It’s an unbelievable feeling, but we have to take it week by week,” added senior Mike Bianco. “Sayville’s in the past and now this game’s in the past. Now we’re looking forward to Deer Park.”
Of the win’s ingredients, intangibles like leadership and guts were abundant. Hauppauge (3-1) looked to run out the clock in the fourth quarter, yielding 46 yards to back up ESM to its own 34-yard line. However, junior Justin Pugal wrapped up shifty CJ Ciserano for a 10-yard loss on a screen play and Hauppauge was ultimately forced to punt. That gave the Sharks possession at their own 26-yard line with 3:33 to go.
“We made some adjustments defensively, and the kids rose up and played a great set of downs,” Mastronardi said.
Macchi and Co. made big play after big play on the game-winning drive. ESM faced faced a third-and-6 early in the drive but Macchi found Chaisty on the right sideline for a 10-yard gain. Six plays later, ESM faced another dicey situation—4th-and-6 at the Hauppauge 43. The Sharks put the game in Zeller’s hands, who took the handoff, bounced out to the right and stretched the ball beyond the first-down marker, giving ESM a fresh set of downs with 1:25 left.
“He’s a three-year starter, and we wanted to put the ball in our playmaker’s hands,” Mastronardi said of Zeller, who finished the game with 103 yards on 23 carries.
A field goal would have tied it, but the Sharks stayed on the accelerator. After a short pass play to Pat Minogue and a Hauppauge encroachment penalty, that set up a 2nd-and-1 situation at the Eagle 16-yard line. The offensive line gave Macchi plenty of time as he rolled out, and he hit Chaisty between the numbers inside the 5.
“It was designed for me to run out of bounds, but I saw an open lane and dove in the end zone,” Chaisty said.
The touchdown reception was Chaisty’s second of his career. Hauppauge should remember the first one: It was in ESM’s overtime victory over the Eagles a year ago. Macchi went for 4-for-6 for 39 yards on the final drive, and added 14 yards on the ground.
“We showed a lot of heart coming down the field and scoring on that drive, and the effort that Jaggar Chaisty put in on that last play was unbelievable,” Bianco said.
Hauppauge, which gave up as many points against ESM (22) as it did in the first three weeks combined, had one last chance, starting its drive at its own 47-yard line. The possession couldn’t have gone any worse. On three plays, with the help of an intentional grounding penalty and an errant snap, the Eagles lost 31 yards to set up 4th-and-41 at the 15. Quarterback Nick Mildon then floated a pass deep down the left sideline that, fittingly, was intercepted by Chaisty across midfield.
Defensive stands in the first half kept the game close at the break. Hauppauge had the ball first-and-goal at the Shark 8 but had to settle for a field goal when Corey Colgan chased down Mildon for a 7-yard loss on third down. Just before halftime, the Eagles failed to put a late score on the board when they were stuffed on fourth-and-1 at the ESM 16.
“Our defense played great and came up with a lot of big stops,” Bianco said. “We stuck to our assignments and played well.”
ESM’s scoring came on a 7-yard touchdown run by Zeller and a 30-yard field goal from Nijay Brown, which left the Sharks behind by only two at 11-9 at the game’s midway point. They added another score in the third quarter when Macchi lofted a 17-yard touchdown pass to fellow senior Mike Lieberman.