Plainedge desperately wanted to right itself Saturday, to dust itself off after a crushing loss last week and reaffirm its standing. And against rival Bethpage, no less! But the Red Devils dropped the ball.
No, literally. The team squandered chances with two second-quarter fumbles. But to that its defense said: OK. So?
Because Jake Schozer, Ray Ragione and Billy Riechert led a smash-mouth unit that was smothering and stifling and simply spectacular in a shutout of the Golden Eagles, 29-0, in Nassau III football.
"Our defensive line was handling them in the trenches, which gave us a chance to make plays consistently," said the linebacker Schozer, who made 13 tackles. "Coaches had us well-prepared for everything they wanted to do, and we gave them a difficult time."
Kind of an understatement. Because that "difficult time" was just about the only thing the Red Devils allowed. "We really wanted to dominate, especially coming off the last one," Riechert said, referring to a blowout loss to Lawrence. Plainedge also fell to Bethpage, 13-7, last season. "Everybody did their job, whether it was filling gaps or making tackles."
The Red Devils (6-1) scored a touchdown on their first drive -- set up at the 14 by Pete Hardt's fumble recovery. Anthony Bowles' 4-yard TD run and quarterback Davien Kuinlan's two-point conversion run put them up 8-0 two minutes in. But the offense put the kibosh on several of its other opportunities with penalties and turnovers.
"Fumbles are always really deflating," Kuinlan said. "You feel like you let the team down and put the defense in a tough spot."
But to that the defense said: OK. So?
Because Plainedge held power-running Bethpage to 45 yards on 52 plays. Ragione set the edge at defensive end, denying the Golden Eagles the corner and eliminating cutback lanes. He also forced a fumble. Riechert had three tackles for losses, including a sack. James Cioffi forced a fumble, Neil Bates recovered one, and Bowles had two pass deflections. Steve McCartney and Liam Touhy each had a sack. And on and on.
"I thought we came out a little weak," receiver Matt Miles said of the Plainedge offense. "Our defense kept getting stops until we got going."
And the Red Devils would, erupting for 21 second-half points to rout Bethpage (4-3).
Miles caught a slip screen from Kuinlan and turned it into a 55-yard touchdown, making it 15-0 with 6:15 left in the third. Three minutes later, after Bates' fumble recovery put them at the 19, Schozer shot up the middle for a 9-yard TD. Kuinlan completed 9 of 17 passes for 149 yards and ran for 73 more, including a 1-yard TD. Miles had five receptions for 118 yards. "We did a great job of tackling, stuffing them and forcing long-yardage situations," Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. "We knew it wouldn't be easy because Bethpage has some big, strong kids running the ball."
With that the defense said: OK. So?