Mustang quarterback James Gerstner knew round two with the Carle Place-Wheatley WildFrogs would be different. Mineola beat the WildFrogs a week earlier, 35-7 in a Mineola offensive showcase. To open the Nassau IV football quarterfinal at Hampton Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 8, Wheatley blitzed early, but the pressure gave way to a key turnover and a Mustang run game that pounded the CP-W front seven, ending in a 28-6 Mineola victory.
Mineola will play in its first semi-final game since 2003, against the Locust Valley Falcons on Saturday, Nov. 15, in James Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University.
“They put more pressure on me and the o-line today,” Gerstner said. He finished 6-for-10, 90 yards, 2TD (one run), adding 22 rushes for 98 yards. “They were blitzing a lot.”
With the Mustangs struggling to find its footing in the first half of the game, WildFrogs quarterback Andrew Hastings scampered in for a three-yard score with 10:07 to play in the second quarter, giving CP-W a 6-0 lead. WildFrog linebacker Dayce Niosi picked off Gerstner at Mineola’s 25-yard line three drives later with the chance to create a two-score game.
The Mustang defense, in search of a spark, got one in cornerback Robby Lang. With 2:08 remaining in the first half, Lang stepped in front of a third-down pass intended for wide receiver Matt Viscardi, returning the interception for seven yards.
“The interception really got us going and set the tone for us for the rest of the game,” Gerstner said.
Gerstner hit fellow captain and running back Ryan Eccher for a 15-yard pass. On second and seven, Gerstner, rolling to his right, hit Lang down the right sideline with 52 seconds to go.
After a seven-yard Gerstner run, he hooked up with Smith (4 rec., 71 yards) on a 19-yard post pattern for a touchdown, putting Mineola on top, 7-6 with 20 seconds left in the first half.
“I got behind the linebackers and James hit me right in the numbers,” said Smith. “The defense really stepped up and let the offense spread its wings after that.”
Linebacker Eric Guardado sacked Hastings to end the half. Anthony Sarno notched a sack and John Clancy recovered a fumble.
“Being ahead 7-6 at halftime helped because we weren’t playing well,” Mineola head coach Dan Guido stated. He said the modified defensive schemes befuddled the Mustang offense initially.
The Mustangs would not let up another score, racking up 21 unanswered points that included a rushing touchdown by Smith and Gerstner, along with junior running back Matt Kosowski, who finished with 10 rushes, 51 yards and one score.