Saturday's weather presented a hurdle for Wantagh, just as Plainedge had in two losses a season ago. This time they cleared both obstacles with relative ease.
Wantagh defeated Plainedge 23-6, in Nassau III football game at Wantagh High School. Jake Martini scored three touchdowns and rushed for 128 yards.
“It wasn’t about beating Plainedge, we wanted to get better, to get stronger,” Jake Martini said. “We wanted to become the best team in this conference, we worked our butts off all season and it showed we were the better team.”
Martini got the ground game going early, ripping off a 32-yard run on third down during Wantagh’s first drive. He found the end zone seven plays later, with a 5-yard score. Wantagh would miss the extra point and lead 6-0.
Plainedge’s first drive ended with a turnover as a pass was tipped, intercepted by Johnny Gendels and returned to Plainedge’s 26-yard line. Martini took the ball to the end zone on the next play, scoring his second rushing touchdown in less than two minutes. Niko Zervos converted the extra point to put Wantagh ahead 13-0.
“We can do a lot more than run the ball, but we knew today was going to have to be that,” Coach Keith Sachs said. ‘We knew weather would play a part, but we knew we just needed to play well.”
Zervos was able to maneuver through the elements, drilling a 40-yard field goal with two minutes remaining in the first half to put Wantagh ahead 16-0.
Plainedge gained momentum with less than a minute to go in the half. Dylan Fella managed to break off a 36-yard run and get the ball just outside the red zone. Wantagh’s defense made a stand and forced an incomplete pass on fourth down as time expired in the half.
“We strive to take the ball away, whether it be stops on third or fourth down, stripping it or getting interceptions,” Dylan Martini said. “It was a major confidence boost going into half up 16-0, against a team that we’ve struggled with.”
Plainedge was able to get on the scoreboard with two minutes remaining in the third, after a Nicholas Gerardi 4-yard run cut the team’s deficit to 16-6. Wantagh put a stop to Gerardi’s two-point attempt on the next play.
Dylan Martini was able to find a crease on Wantagh’s ensuing drive, picking up 31 of his 88 rushing yards. Dylan’s cousin Jake, finished off the seven-plus minute drive with a 9-yard touchdown catch, after Joe Merro found him on a screen pass.
“We had a couple penalties push us back, but we’ve worked on that play a ton,” Jake Martini said. “I got tripped up in the hole and my quarterback [Merro] waited for me to get up and hit me with a perfect pass."
Wantagh’s defense forced three turnovers, intercepting a pass, and forcing and recovering two fumbles. Christian Russo and AJ Bardi combined for a sack.
“We watched plenty of film on them, they’re primarily shotgun and with a wet ball, we knew that would be in their head,” Dylan Martini said. We had all the confidence about ultimately picking up a win here.”