With last year’s loss to Sayville in the Long Island Class III championship game still fresh in their minds, the Lawrence varsity football team began the 2012 season with a single mindset: to win the Long Island championship.
Despite being faced with the challenge of playing the defending Long Island champs once again in the finals, Lawrence’s biggest hurdle to fulfilling their championship aspirations wasn’t even an opponent on the field. The Lawrence community was deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy, but the Golden Tornadoes refused to let the superstorm’s devastation affect their play on the field. The team stayed motivated throughout the personal tragedies people in the community were dealing with and put together a championship run for the ages.
"Finishing the season 12-0 really showed the character of our team after such a disaster," junior quarterback Joe Capobianco said. "We showed how much of a family we were."
After losing a week of practice due to the closing of school, the Lawrence players were itching to get back to work. Following a town hall meeting at the school, head coach Joe Martillotti addressed the team and asked his players when they wanted to resume playing.
“I asked the kids, what do you guys want to do,” Martillotti said. “Obviously we’re not playing football this week, do we want to get back to practice? Do you guys want to wait another week? What do you guys want to do? And the kids were like, ‘we want practice today.’”
“I actually had a couple of parents who were at the town hall meeting,” Martillotti added. “They came up to me and said ‘Coach, get these guys back practicing. Number one, they are driving us nuts and we need them to get out of the house. Number two, we need them to get back to doing what they do best, and that’s playing football.’”
The next day, the team was back to practicing. Even though their minds were now back on football, the team helped out in the community whenever they could, both as a team and as individuals.
One day, after receiving a call from the PTA, the team cut practice short and headed down to Number Two School to assist with the unloading of FEMA trucks and the unpacking of clothing. Through talking with parents and other members of the community, Martillotti found out how many of the players were assisting the community on their own.
“I’ve known that they’ve been good students and great football players, but they are good members of the community as well,” he said.
On the field, Lawrence rolled through the regular season undefeated and broke a number of Long Island records in doing so.
The Golden Tornadoes had no problem putting points on the board, setting the Long Island team scoring record with 581 points scored.
A good portion of those points came from the record setting duo of Capobianco and senior wide receiver Ed Robinson. Capobianco broke the Long Island single season record for touchdown passes with 38, as well as the record for total yardage in a season. Robinson’s 19 touchdown receptions were also a Long Island record.
Another key piece in Lawrence’s high-octane offense was senior running back Tyler Fredericks, who ran for more than 1,500 yards and served as “the big wheel that keeps things going,” according to Martillotti.
“We just got a lot of weapons,” he added. “We’re fortunate to have a ton of skill players around that can make plays, and [Capobianco] is phenomenal.”
While the offense grabbed all the headlines this season, it was Lawrence’s defense that made the difference between this season and last season. The Golden Tornadoes defensive starters did not allow a point throughout the entire regular season.
Martillotti believes that it was a mix of good health and a return to basics that contributed to the defense’s dominating 2012 campaign.
The Golden Tornadoes would repeat as Nassau County Conference III champions after defeating Plainedge in the finals, setting up a rematch with Sayville for the Long Island Class III championship.
Trailing 20-7 at halftime, the Golden Tornadoes stormed back in the second half to capture the Long Island Class III championship by the final score of 21-20. Robinson scored the game winning points by returning an interception 30 yards for a touchdown with 5:25 left in the game.
“It’s the greatest feeling ever,” sophomore defensive lineman Melik Mavruk said. “Ever since we gave up those 78 points, there’s been a chip on our shoulders to get this W.”
“It was awesome,” senior lineman John Perrone said. “I saw all my friends celebrating and I was celebrating. It was an awesome feeling.”
The championship, along with the undefeated season and broken records, puts this Lawrence team in the conversation as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, in school history, a sentiment that both Martillotti and Lawrence athletic director Patrick Pizzarelli agree with.
“Everyone’s got their team, but I’m going to say just because of what these kids accomplished and how they did it and the margin of victory all season long, I believe this is the best team in recent history,” Martillotti said.
Pizzarelli added, “In my opinion, it’s the best Lawrence football team not only in the 22 years I’m here, but probably in the history of Lawrence football.”