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Bethpage outlasts Wantagh in thrilling Nassau III football semifinal

Bethpage's Brian Luzzi runs the football against Wantagh

Bethpage's Brian Luzzi runs the football against Wantagh during a Nassau Conference III football semifinal at Shuart Stadium on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Wantagh trailed by seven, but now it had the ball at the Bethpage 42-yard line with a third-and-5 and 1:21 left on the Shuart Stadium clock in this scintillating Nassau III semifinal.

Joe Legovich went long. Brian Luzzi broke it up. Fourth-and-5, 1:15 left. Legovich scrambled right and fired the ball deep down the right sideline. Luzzi broke it up.

"The second one, there was just so much going on in my head," the senior safety/halfback/returner said. "We wished for this since we were little kids. So it was really exciting."

The third-seeded Golden Eagles, who received 231 all-purpose yards and two TDs from Luzzi, made several big plays and earned a spot in the championship game against No. 1 Plainedge after outlasting second-seeded Wantagh, 34-27, on Thursday night at Hofstra.

"Wantagh is an excellent team," coach Roddy McCoy said after Bethpage (8-2) advanced to the title game for the first time since winning it in 2008. "I think if we played each other 10 times, we’d probably go 5-5 … Today we were fortunate enough to come out on top."

Wantagh (8-2) had Nassau County’s leading rusher on the sideline in sweatpants. Tyler Martini, the owner of 1,467 yards, was out due to a mild concussion. Mark Maniet took on the heaviest load without him and excelled, running 28 times for 223 yards and three scores.

"It’s just upsetting that I think the best player in the county didn’t get to play," Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. "But we had plenty of opportunity to win the game."

"When you have Tyler and Mark, how do you defend them?" Sachs added. "But you know what? Mark did a great job stepping up. Outstanding. We just fell short. You can’t overcome the amount of big plays they had."

Maniet had given Wantagh a 27-26 lead with 11:31 left. The senior raced 63 yards to set up his own 2-yard TD run.

Then James David blocked a punt for the Golden Eagles. They took over at the Wantagh 2.

"That’s the turning point right there," McCoy said. "That’s a senior kid that we’ve relied on."

Michael Corbo carried it in from the 1 and Luzzi ran for two to make it 34-27 with 7:05 left.

"When we needed plays, the kids made plays," McCoy said.

Bethpage had led 20-14 at halftime.

Luzzi, who rushed for 125 yards, ran 64 yards for a score and Sean Smith hit Conor Burns for a 56-yard touchdown en route to that lead.

Then Luzzi returned a punt 55 yards early in the third to make it a 12-point advantage before Wantagh rallied.

"Brian’s just a special athlete and he’s a special kid," McCoy said.

Now it’s on to Plainedge. The teams will play at 4 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Hofstra.

The Red Devils (10-0) beat Floral Park, 47-0, in the other semifinal. They beat Bethpage, 41-0, in Week 5.

"We’re a different team now," Luzzi said. "That was our first game with Sean Smith at quarterback (for the injured Luke Galgano). The past five, six weeks, we’ve been able to really get it going with him. I think it’s definitely going to be a different game."

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