Deyvon Wright sprinted downfield and closed hard on Joe Yarusso. The Plainedge returner never had a chance. The ferocity of the first hit of the Long Island Class III championship game was a harbinger of what was to come.
Wright and linebackers Sadiq Hinds, Michael Carubia, Joey Venezia and Jake Cetta left their mark — more like a dent — on the Long Island Championships. They led Half Hollow Hills West to a 34-6 win over Plainedge in the Long Island Class III championship game on Saturday night before more than 3,500 at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium.
“We’re physical and we’ve been a shutdown defense all season,” Carubia said. “We talk about our 9-5-90 number — nine guys around the ball, five yards away, 90 percent of the time. And when that number’s high, we’re doing a good job. Today, everyone did their job.”
It was the second title in three appearances for Hills West, which also won in 2009.
The physicality of the game was not lost on Plainedge coach Rob Shaver. His team saw its winning streak halted at 11 games in a flurry of big hits.
“It’s exactly what we expected,” Shaver said. “And we had a tough time blocking them all night. They filled hard and [Gerald] Filardi and Wright are excellent defensive players and great tacklers. They are a bigger, stronger version of us. We play a very similar game.”
The Hills West defense smothered a Plainedge offense that had averaged 41 points per game, and the Colts’ offense was in high gear.
Junior halfback Justin Brown opened the scoring with a 75-yard touchdown run. Brown popped the long run over the right side and broke a tackle to cap a four-play, 95-yard drive for a 6-0 lead with 4:02 left in the first quarter.
“The line opened a huge hole and I was gone,” said Brown, who rushed for 166 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. “Once I found the edge, I knew it was a touchdown.”
Hills West extended the lead midway through the second quarter. The infusion of Wright, for injured freshman Dakim Griffin, gave the Colts a major jolt. Wright, a senior, ran over a tackler for 41 yards to the Plainedge 14. Two plays later, his 7-yard run gave Hills West a 13-0 lead with 3:20 left in the half.
“Griffin banged up his ankle last week,” Hills West coach Kyle Madden said. “He was touch-and-go all week. He gave it his best but just couldn’t do it. Deyvon had a great week of practice and we couldn’t have done it without him. He’s a hard runner. When he follows his blocks and trusts his guys, he’s the best. I was so proud of him.”
Plainedge (11-1) responded with a little lightning of its own. Just 18 seconds after Wright’s touchdown, Red Devils junior Luke Lombardi (167 yards, 15 carries) burst over right tackle and raced 72 yards for a score to make it 13-6 with 3:02 left.
Almost before the fans could settle back into their seats, Hills West was in the end zone again.
Filardi returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown and Matt Mandel’s kick made it 20-6 at the half.
“There was a seam and a few good blocks,” Filardi said. “It was a quick answer to their score.”
Filardi, the quarterback who likened himself to the dad of the Colts’ offense, wasted no time extending the lead in the third quarter.
Plainedge tried an onside kick to open the quarter that was recovered by Hills West at the Red Devils’ 49. On the first play from scrimmage, Wright raced through the heart of the defense for a 49-yard touchdown that gave the Colts a 27-6 lead.
“I have a ton of weapons when I put the ball in their hands,” Filardi said. “It’s just about moving the chess pieces and getting guys the ball — they’re so hard to stop. They look up to me and listen and I’m proud to be the leader of the offense.”
Plainedge lost its leader when junior quarterback Dan Villari suffered an arm injury midway through the second quarter. The hard-running Villari rushed for 25 yards on eight carries and completed four of eight passes before exiting with the score 6-0.
The Red Devils pressed on without him, rotating Lombardi and Dion Kuinlan in the shotgun formation, but the Hills West defense was too much.
Carubia led with eight tackles and Venezia and Filardi added seven each. Eliot Porter added two second-half interceptions, the last with 4:05 left to seal it.
“We swarm tackle and we hit hard,” said Wright, who had five solo tackles. “It won us a championship.”