When Massapequa won the Long Island Class I football championship last season for the first time since 1994, wide receiver Ryan Fountain’s impact toward completing the journey was certainly unquestionable.
But less than a half into its season-opener on Saturday, Massapequa found itself without Fountain – who had 623 receiving yards and 12 touchdown receptions, along with 231 yards rushing last season – for the remainder of the afternoon due to a left forearm contusion.
While coach Kevin Shippos said Fountain should return for Week 2 against Syosset, Massapequa suddenly looked toward the combination of its junior quarterback Paul Dulanto making his first varsity start and a newcomer in sophomore running back Tyler Villalta to step up in his absence.
And they, along with Massapequa’s other bevy of playmakers, stepped up to the challenge.
Dulanto was nearly flawless, completing 16 of 20 passes for 233 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and Villalta showed off his big-play ability with four receptions for 102 yards and two touchdowns, leading Massapequa to a 32-20 Nassau Conference I home victory over Baldwin.
Shippos said Fountain’s injury is considered minor and he should be back in the lineup for Week 2 against Syosset.
“Always have to get that first win under your belt,” Dulanto said. “It feels good to be out here with my teammates. We still have a lot of work to do, but it feels good.”
Leading 12-0 on the final play of the first quarter after a 29-yard touchdown reception by junior receiver Rob Nugent, Massapequa received a scare as Fountain remained down briefly, made his way to the sideline holding his arm and never returned to action.
Massapequa’s dynamic attack on both sides of the ball continued the rest of the way, however.
Villalta took a swing pass 54 yards down the left sideline to the end zone for his second touchdown to extend Massapequa’s advantage to 32-14 with 8:36 to go before Baldwin tacked on a 5-yard touchdown run by Shane Mauldin for its final score with 3:55 left.
“One of our better players went down and other guys stepped up,” Massapequa coach Kevin Shippos said. “Tyler Villalta’s only a sophomore, but he doesn’t play like one. Today was his day, that’s for sure…Paul’s only been playing football since his freshman year. His demeanor and competitiveness and toughness and belief in himself is what showed.”
Baldwin drove down to the 8-yard line with 1:49 remaining, but Derek Boswell’s pass breakup in the end zone on fourth and goal sealed the victory.
Villalta said Massapequa made a strong statement to open the season in pursuit of a third consecutive county title and second straight Long Island championship, but that the team is anything but satisfied.
“We’re obviously trying to prove that we can do it again with newer guys,” Villalta said. “I feel like we did but we just have to keep pushing and making adjustments.”
Massapequa jumped out to a 19-0 lead that was cut down to five with 5:46 left in the first half following back-to-back short touchdown runs by Baldwin quarterback Vaughdrea Johnson, but Dulanto later connected with senior receiver Nicco Curra for a 3-yard touchdown pass 20 seconds into the fourth.
With Fountain sidelined, Massapequa concluded its opener by demonstrating a key strength for this season: its depth.
“We have a lot of depth on this team and a lot of good players,” said junior running back Mike DeLuca, who had 18 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. “We’ll manage to push through and we should be really good.”