The devastating loss of athletic quarterback and team leader Jake Guercio to injury would have left most teams in a quandary. Not West Islip.
While Guercio worked his way back from anterior cruciate ligament surgery this summer and fall, Mike LaDonna stepped into the role of quarterback and ultimately leader.
Saturday, LaDonna went over right tackle and raced 82 yards for a third quarter touchdown and West Islip never looked back in a 29-0 win over Half Hollow Hills East in a Suffolk Division II semifinal football game.
“That was the turning point of the game,” West Islip coach Steve Mileti said. “We had a big defensive stand on fourth down in the red zone and then Mike breaks the long run. He kept his knees up, slipped a tackle at the line and was gone.”
North Babylon (9-1) will meet West Islip (8-2) for the Suffolk Division II championship at Stony Brook University Friday at 7 p.m.
West Islip’s Bobby DiCapua drilled a 31-yard field goal into the wind to open the scoring with 6:03 left in the half. The kick capped a 52-yard march to the Hills East 14.
LaDonna’s run made it 9-0 before the Lions capitalized on a Hills turnover later in the third. Matt Moynihan recovered a fumble to set up a Joe Rota 21-yard touchdown run for the 16-0 lead with 2:33 left in the third.
“He hit the counter, found a lane and he ran downhill to the house to seal the deal,” Mileti said. “We’ve responded well since the overtime loss to Centereach, our second loss in a row. Now we believe after two great playoff wins against Newfield and Hills East.”