One way or another, John Johnson got his hands on the ball.
The 5-11, 170-pound senior caught two touchdown passes and made two interceptions, returning the second one 40 yards to set up the winning touchdown as Plainedge outlasted Glen Cove, 34-27, in a Nassau III thriller Friday night at Hofstra. The Red Devils (9-1) will face Lawrence on Friday at Hofstra for the county championship. Glen Cove finished 8-2.
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Gianfranco Soriente cashed in Johnson's pick, powering in from the 3 with 3:40 left. Soriente gained 145 yards on 21 carries. He also made a huge fumble recovery when it appeared that Glen Cove was about to take the lead late in the third quarter.
When Big Red quarterback Will Kassar (15 carries, 167 yards, two TDs) dived for the goal line and had the ball punched out by Ryan Bauer inside the 1, Soriente recovered, preserving a 20-19 lead earned on Davien Kuinlan's 5-yard run early in the third quarter.
Kassar's 1-yard TD run and two-point conversion put Glen Cove ahead 27-20, but the Red Devils tied it on Johnson's 31-yard catch-and-run on a bubble screen from Nick Frenger with 6:29 left.
It was a fairly quiet first half, with the teams tied at 7 until midway through the second quarter. That's when the fireworks started, on the field and on the big scoreboard on the south end of Shuart Stadium.
The action sequence began when Soriente took a pitchout, turned the corner and made an excellent cutback move to break into the open field. His scintillating 45-yard run set up Plainedge at the Glen Cove 10. Two plays later, Soriente was involved in a little razzle-dazzle, as he hit Johnson in the end zone on a 5-yard halfback option pass. Dan Stock's PAT provided a 14-7 lead. It didn't last.
On the first play after the kickoff, Kassar darted off tackle, broke to the outside and outran the secondary for a breathtaking 88-yard TD. The kick failed and the Big Red trailed 14-13.
Kassar found Franklyn Mickens for a dramatic 57-yard TD, and Glen Cove had a 19-14 lead.