For Wantagh’s rock-’em, sock-’em defense, those zeros are adding up.
“We always say, ‘Keep the goose egg up there,’ ” defensive tackle Joe Valenti said after Wantagh’s 28-0 victory over Bethpage in a Nassau III semifinal Friday night at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
Valenti (five tackles), fellow defensive linemen Pat Smith (six tackles) and Jack LaVache (five tackles) and linebacker Casey Murphy (4 1⁄2 tackles, including a sack) led a gang-tackling unit that held Bethpage (5-5) to 88 total yards as Wantagh improved to 10-0.
“Those winter workouts at 5 in the morning are paying off,” said Valenti, who pounded the weights so hard that he outgrew his position as a defensive back and now is a 6-4, 245-pound defensive tackle.
“He has the skill and speed of a defensive back,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said of Valenti, who caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jake Castellano in the third quarter that made it 21-0. “He can play you head-up and he can run you down. He’s a game-changer.”
With such a stellar defense — which notched its third shutout and has allowed a Long Island-low 5.6 points per game — Wantagh doesn’t need much offense. But the Warriors, who will face Roosevelt for the Nassau III championship at 7 p.m. next Friday at Hofstra, had plenty of that, too.
Despite weighing only 160 pounds, running back Tommy Ro han thrived on a series of inside handoffs. He capped a nine-play, 66-yard drive in the first quarter with a 10-yard run for a 7-0 lead and made a nifty cut to the outside to escape down the right sideline for a 38-yard touchdown early in the third quarter that made it 14-0. “We knew we were in control at that point,” Valenti said.
Rohan gained 195 yards on 19 carries as the Warriors churned out 337 rushing yards. “I love to run inside,” he said. “That inside handoff is one of my favorite plays.” It helped him shake loose for several long runs and allowed Anthony D’Onofrio to add 51 yards on five carries.
“We know we’re always in a good position because of our defense,” Rohan added.
It’s a defense that prides itself not only on being stingy but also on being unselfish. “We all do our job. We know that our teammates are always there for us,” Valenti said. “We study film and we’re more of a read defense.”
Sachs confirmed Valenti’s assertion that the defensive theme is “just do your job.’’
“They trust each other and focus on making one stop at a time,” he said. “We lost nine of 11 starters on offense, so we knew we would be all about defense. We do it as a team. No one worries about who gets the attention.”
They make their point without allowing any.