The East Rockaway High School Football came within a half of reaching the Class IV finals in 2010, but with a new team and a new year, the Rocks have taken that next step.
The No. 6 Rocks (6-4) defeated No. 1 Locust Valley (8-2) on Thursday night in a Nassau County Class IV semifinal matchup, 30-13. The win was the second time the Rocks have defeated the Falcons this season, the first coming in a 21-0 win, making them the only school in the conference to do so.
“We played awesome. We gave up some big plays, but we know we can recover from them," said East Rockaway head coach Russell Pajer. "The guys believe in each other, they stick together and they are just 34 strong. Everyone does their job and it was a true team effort.”
East Rockaway started out on offense, driving 15 plays over a nine minute and 18 second span, only to have its drive stall at its opponents’ 25. Locust Valley took advantage, driving down to the 1-yard line and on the brink of a lead. However, running back Chris Appell fumbled at the goal line, turning the ball back over.
With the ensuing drive quickly stalled, Locust Valley took a 7-0 lead after Joe Jacobi found 6’ 4” senior Alex Rawa for a 50-yard touchdown reception. Later in the second quarter, East Rockaway senior running back Luke Farhenkrug caught a 10-yard touchdown from senior quarterback Sean Bohan with 24 seconds remaining in the first half to tie at 7-7.
On the opening drive of the second half, Jacobi fumbled a low snap and Justin Jonas promptly recovered for East Rockaway deep in Locust Valley territory. On fourth-and-14 following a sack on third down, Bohan found Farhenkrug in the back of the end zone for a 28-yard touchdown, the duo’s second connection on the night.
Locust Valley pulled within 14-13 after Rawa caught a nine-yard touchdown in response, but with a missed extra point following. East Rockaway had its next drive stopped, but Bohan punted down to the five-yard line, pinning Locust Valley into a tough spot. Three plays later, the Rocks picked up a safety after a grounding call in the end zone to increase the lead to 16-13.
A pair of touchdowns, including a 13-yard run by Nick Ulip and a 25-yard run by Fahrenkrug, his third on the night, put the game out of reach for the Falcons and sent the Rocks onto the finals next week.
“Our team is more like a family and we work for everything that we earn," said Ulip, who had 110 yards on 26 carries. "Our offense is designed to run the ball, so everybody just comes together to work and get the extra yards."
East Rockaway previously defeated No. 3 West Hempstead, 36-21, in the quarterfinals, led by two touchdowns from Ulip and two combined touchdowns from Bohan.
“We all wanted this so badly," said the senior Bohan, who finished with a pair of touchdown passes on the night. "This is big for our school, our town, and most importantly us, so we worked really hard for it."
The final features a rematch of one of the conference semifinals in 2010, as the Rocks will face No. 2 Roosevelt (8-2) and one of Nassau’s top running backs in Erin Parker. The Rocks fell to the Rough Riders in a comeback loss at home on Sept. 17 by a 15-14 score.
Roosevelt head coach Joe Vito is a graduate of East Rockaway High School and his nephew, Dan Vito, is a current assistant coach for Pajer and the Rocks.
The game between the pair of 2011 finalists is set for next Thursday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. at Hofstra University.