Junior Jake Castellano went play-action, faked a handoff and rolled to his right. He stopped and fired a 25-yard second quarter touchdown pass to Anthony D’Onofrio just as a Lawrence defender put a ferocious hit on him.
“He hit me so hard, it snapped a few buckles off my helmet,” Castellano said. “I never saw the end of the play. But I heard the crowd.”
Castellano completed 7 of 14 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns as Wantagh beat previously undefeated Lawrence, 31-6, Saturday in a bruising Nassau Conference III football game. The host Warriors improved to 5-0 with another resounding win. It was the only the second time in history that these schools have played — Lawrence winning the first time in 2008.
“When I rolled right, the line gave me a perfect pocket to get the pass off and D’Onofrio was deep over the top of the defense,” Castellano said. “I know my receivers are great athletes and I just have to get the ball out to them. I knew the hit was coming because I was patient and waited for the receiver to get open.”
It was his second scoring pass and opened a 21-0 lead with 3:17 left in the half.
This showdown of unbeaten teams quickly deteriorated into a blowout as the Wantagh defense took control. Wantagh allowed 70 yards on the first drive of the game for Lawrence (4-1) and then shut down the Golden Tornadoes the rest of the first half as they built a 21-point lead. Lawrence had no first downs and only five yards in 10 plays in its last three possessions of the half.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of pride in our defense,” said defensive lineman Joe Valenti. “The big stops in the first half set the tone for the game. We trust each other and play as a unit. When one guy misses a tackle, another is there to clean it up.”
Wantagh’s junior halfback Tom Rohan burst over right tackle on a counter and scored untouched from 15 yards to give the Warriors the early lead. Mike Piergiovanni hit the extra-point kick and Wantagh led 7-0 with 2:01 left in the first quarter.
On the next play from scrimmage, Lawrence quarterback Akym Land threw over the head of wide receiver Jordan Alexander in the middle of the field and strong safety Jimmy Joyce made a diving interception.
Wantagh capitalized immediately on the turnover. Castellano hit junior fullback Gavin Casey with a short out on the home sideline and Casey followed two perfectly-executed downfield blocks by Valenti and D’Onofrio for a 14-0 lead with 1:39 left.
The Wantagh defense came up with a big stop on the Golden Tornadoes’ next possession. Valenti stopped Land on a fourth-and-2 run up the middle at the Lawrence 46. It was like that all game for the highest scoring offense in the conference — there was nowhere to run.
“Our players understand the significance of their roles and how to play within our team concept,” said Wantagh’s defensive coordinator Tony Carter. “It’s served us well this year. We knew we had to contain Lawrence and squeeze everything inside. There will be players who don’t make a tackle but get a game ball from the coaches for doing their job.”
Piergiovanni kicked a 27-yard field goal and Casey added a 1-yard for a 31-0 lead with 5:16 left in the game.
“We knew we’d find a few ways to score because we have some dynamic options,” said Wantagh coach Keith Sachs. “But none of that mattered, if we didn’t play defense. We had to contain them and I thought we did a great job.”
And now they’re alone at the top of Nassau Conference III.