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Dan Villari big for Plainedge in Nassau III final

Plainedge quarterback / defensive back Dan Villari and offensive / defensive lineman Thomas Caltabiano talked about what went right on a 4th-down touchdown in the second quarter, and what they have their minds set on after a 35-7 Nassau III football championship win over Wantagh at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on Saturday. Credit: Newsday / Melissa Kramer

Dan Villari put the exclamation point on Plainedge’s perfect season. 

The junior quarterback was in on most of the big plays Saturday as the Red Devils beat Wantagh, 35-7, in the Nassau III championship game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Villari ran for two touchdowns, threw for one, made an interception and threw the key block on Luke Lombardi’s touchdown run.

“I’ll do whatever this team needs,” Villari said. “I’d die for these boys, to be honest, and feeling like that is part of what makes us a great team. We do have a lot of skilled players, but we also have chemistry, and that’s a big factor in what we’ve done.”

What Plainedge (11-0) has done is win its third Nassau III title and first since 2015. The Red Devils will face Hills West in the Long Island Class III final at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra. Plainedge, which took a 28-0 halftime lead over Wantagh, will be getting its third shot at a first Long Island championship.

“That would mean a lot,” said Rob Shaver, who is coaching his 22nd season. “We ran into pretty good teams those times and I am sure we’ll get another one . . . Hopefully our kids are ready to play. I think they will be.”

Dion Kuinlan rushed for 130 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown, on 19 carries. Lombardi ran for 108 yards and a TD on nine carries and Villari ran 12 times for 54 yards.

Villari made the key block that opened the hole for Lombardi’s 61-yard TD jaunt and a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, and Plainedge broke the game open with a 22-point second quarter.

The 6-3, 200-pound Villari vaulted over the line for a 2-yard score with 8:33 left in the half. He capped a 49-yard drive with a 14-yard burst through the middle when he carried two would-be tacklers into the end zone with 3:37 left.

The killer for Wantagh (7-4) was the ensuing kickoff, which was fumbled and recovered at the Warriors’ 1. When Wantagh couldn’t move the ball and punted, Plainedge got the ball back just 24 yards away with 2:02 left in the half.

On third down, Villari fired a strike between two defenders to Donovan Pepe for a 21-yard touchdown.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Villari said. “We can run it [or] we can throw it. We’ve got speed [and] we’ve got power. We have it all.”

Wantagh gained only 18 total yards and didn’t record a first down in the first two quarters.

“Our defense put in a lot of hours this week focusing on how to shut down their base players, and we got that done,” said Douglas Elsesser, who had an interception and a fumble recovery. “Wantagh is a tough team with tough guys to stop, but we put our minds to it . . . We just fly around to the ball. We’re awesome.”

Unlike the 28-21 win over the Warriors in the regular season, the Devils didn’t let up. Kuinlan’s 1-yard TD dive late in the third quarter made it 35-0.

Nick Teresky had a 55-yard scoring run for Wantagh.

Many of the key players on the Devils — Villari, Lombardi, Kuinlan and Elsesser among them — are juniors, so this could be the start of something sustained, but as Shaver said, “Let’s win the first [Long Island championship] before we start talking about the future.”

And those players seem to have their minds on doing just that.

“The LIC is extremely important for us — that’s our goal,” Villari said. “The Nassau county championship is nice, no question. But that’s not the main goal. That comes next week.”

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