Massapequa quarterback Joey Diesso throws a short pass during the...

Massapequa quarterback Joey Diesso throws a short pass during the Long Island Class I championship football game against William Floyd at Shuart Stadium, Hofstra University, on Friday, November 24, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Massapequa quarterback Joey Diesso did not expect to be playing this season. But the junior took his opportunity and ran with it.

Starting quarterback Paul Dulanto went down with a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of Massapequa’s season opener against Port Washington, forcing Diesso into action right away.

Diesso led a Massapequa offense that averaged 35.1 points per game in its 12-0 season. His unexpected breakout culminated with his championship moment on Friday, earning him Newsday Athlete of the Week honors.

Diesso completed 11 of 15 passes for 146 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for a score in Massapequa’s 35-7 win over Floyd in the Long Island Class I title game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

“He has just gotten better every single week,” Massapequa coach Kevin Shippos said. “The key to Joe is that he has tremendous belief in himself, tremendous confidence. I knew once he got going, game by game, he got better and better and he saved his best performance for last.”

Diesso set the tone right away for Massapequa against Floyd, throwing two touchdowns — a 5-yard pass and a 28-yard strike — before the Colonials even touched the ball on offense.

After the first score, Massapequa recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.

“Momentum shifting our way right from the get-go,” Diesso said. “But we knew it was early in the game, so we couldn’t get too excited. We just had to keep putting the ball in the end zone.”

And that's exactly what he did.

Diesso extended Massapequa’s lead to 21-0 with his legs on a 14-yard score before throwing his third touchdown — a 7-yard pass in the third quarter — to give his team a 35-0 lead.

While Dulanto’s injury highlighted how Massapequa faced adversity, Diesso had to work his way back from his own injury. He was sidelined during the summer with a broken hand, but showed no side effects when his number was called.

“For him to be ready like that, it shows his character, how confident he is in himself,” Dulanto said. “He means a lot to this team. Everyone on this team, however many guys on this team we have right now, are all so proud of him from the bottom of our hearts. He’s worked his tail off all season, and he truly does deserve this.”

Diesso finished the season with 20 touchdown passes, 1,136 passing yards and a 60.2% completion percentage. He will return for his 2024 senior season with an 11-0 record as a starter and Massapequa having a target on its back. But the program’s new star will never forget how memorable the 2023 season was.

“Just the bond we have, the brotherhood,” Diesso said. “Just hanging out, practices, just everything about this team. The brothers I made on this team is something special.”

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