Plainedge's Jess Faranda (11) runs the ball in the second...

Plainedge's Jess Faranda (11) runs the ball in the second half during the Nassau flag football Division II semifinal playoff game between Division and Plainedge on Thursday May 16, 2024. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Momentum had escaped the side of Plainedge’s flag football team late in the second half.

After surrendering the lead and throwing interceptions on back-to-back possessions, the game was slipping away, but Jessica Faranda grabbed the momentum back for Plainedge.

Faranda intercepted a pass in the flat and took it back 52 yards for the go-ahead touchdown as No. 5 Plainedge defeated host No. 1 Division, 19-18, in the Nassau Conference II semifinals on Thursday night.

Plainedge advances to the championship, where it will face the winner of No. 2 Bethpage/No. 3 East Rockaway at 7 p.m. Monday at Long Beach Middle School.

“Most of their big gains were through short passes, which we weren’t picking up,” Faranda said. “We watch film and we figure things out. I was able to read the play and pick it up off.”

Faranda would step up again, nabbing another interception two plays into the ensuing drive for Plainedge to run out the clock.

“We’ve had a lot of experiences in situations like this coaching the boys,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “(Assistant coach) Adam Hovorka actually got us out of our base defense and made a few adjustments.”

Division (11-3) scored first when Ava Hunt connected with Eleni Georgatos for a 53-yard touchdown to put the Blue Dragons ahead 6-0.

Plainedge (8-6) answered when Gianna Ponticello connected with Katelyn Tierney for a six-yard score. Tierney caught three passes on the drive and the one-point conversion to put Plainedge ahead 7-6.

“I had to be patient and read the field. I made a few mistakes early and you can’t do that over and over,” Ponticello said. “Tierney is quick and a high jumper, she can get to any ball.”

Abby Gregory caught two passes for 40-yards on Division’s second drive of the second half. The second catch was a 27-yard score from Hunt, putting Division ahead 12-7.

Ponticello showed off her hands, intercepting a pass and scoring an 18-yard touchdown on the first play after a Plainedge punt. The score put Plainedge ahead 13-12.

“Our improvement has been tremendous,” Shaver said. “These girls understand football, all the terms and they’ve even come to the boy's film session during the winter.”

Hunt found Rebecca Petrellese for two catches in traffic on Division’s final scoring drive. Georgatos scored her second touchdown of the day, a five-yard run.

The ensuing Plainedge drive started a streak of five consecutive drives ending in interceptions between both teams. Jianna Testamark caught the first for Division, followed by Plainedge’s Francesca Mastrangelo, Testamark again and Faranda’s late two.

“Things were closer than we wanted, but we knew this would be the best team we’d face,” Faranda said.


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