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Lawrence's Capobianco, Sayville's Sirico meet in LI Class III final

Lawrence quarterback Joe Capobianco, left, and Sayville quarterback

Lawrence quarterback Joe Capobianco, left, and Sayville quarterback Zack Sirico pose for a portrait. Photo Credit: James Escher

Their words were prophetic. See you in the LIC.

Two of Long Island's star quarterbacks exited Newsday's preseason photo shoot in Melville and traveled in different directions.

One was headed east; the other went west. As they said their goodbyes, their intentions were to set out for the same destination, and that's where they ended up.

Lawrence junior Joe Capobianco went home to Inwood, where for the next three months he would accept nothing less than another shot at a Long Island Class III football championship.

Senior Zach Sirico went toward Sayville, where he expected to lead the Golden Flashes back to the title game to defend their crown.

Before they left, both quarterbacks agreed on one thing -- it would be great to see the other in the championship game. They'll meet again Friday night at 7 at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.

This collision course was set immediately after last year's Class III championship game, in which Sayville defeated Lawrence, 78-61, at Stony Brook University in the highest-scoring game in New York State history.

Sirico, then a halfback, burned up the turf with six rushing touchdowns, half of them untouched by an overmatched, confused Lawrence defense. He hit the afterburners in the open field and cruised to the end zone time and time again. The sight of him scoring was emblazoned on the LaValle Stadium scoreboard, with replays leaving a lasting impression on the Lawrence players.

"I don't want anyone other than Sayville in the championship," Capobianco said. "They embarrassed us last year and we owe them. We owe it to ourselves, our fans and our community to bring back an LIC."

Capobianco couldn't have done more to avert defeat. Only a sophomore, he played a spectacular game. He tied the Long Island record for yards passing in a game with 541. He threw a Long Island-record seven touchdown passes. He ran for another TD.

And it wasn't enough.

"I still have that bad taste in my mouth," Capobianco said. "This game couldn't get here fast enough. It's all we thought about all season at Lawrence. It's all we want to do -- beat Sayville."

With redemption on the minds of all the Lawrence players, Capobianco shattered almost every Long Island passing record imaginable. Lawrence rolled through Nassau Conference III with a vengeance. The Golden Tornadoes (11-0) are averaging more than 50 points per game.

This "take no prisoners'' roll, with Lawrence staying with its starters a long way into blowout victories, has drawn the ire of opposing coaches. But Lawrence coach Joe Martillotti doesn't mind that. He's been looking ahead.

"We have to be prepared for Sayville," Martillotti said. "We have to be ready for that game."

You can feel the pressure in the Lawrence camp. Pounding its way through inferior Nassau opponents was a mere formality. No one offered a competitive game, and Game 12 couldn't come quickly enough.

Capobianco, surrounded by a horde of outstanding playmakers, had the greatest single season in Long Island history. He passed for 37 touchdowns and 2,400 yards and the Golden Tornadoes broke the scoring record with 566 points -- with one game to play. He threw only three interceptions and had a completion percentage of 80.

"I can have every record and it won't matter if we don't win the Long Island championship," Capobianco said. "It's all I care about."

Sirico is of a completely different mind-set. The first-year quarterback used the first 11 games of this season to learn the position, to get comfortable and to be ready for the inevitable showdown with Lawrence.

"I feel a lot more comfortable in the position," Sirico said. "I can't wait for the game. They talk a lot of smack and I want to shut them up. There's been a big target on us. We've been together since we were 6 years old here at Sayville. We're more family than team."

But don't be fooled by his calm demeanor and humble approach. There is a fiery competitor underneath Sirico's cool exterior.

"He's a laid-back kid but such a competitor," Sayville coach Rob Hoss said. "He's feisty and a player of great character."

Hoss asked Sirico to switch to quarterback from halfback, fully confident that the star athlete could make the transition to the toughest position in football.

"When you run the spread offense, you read defenses and check into plays," Hoss said. "He now has total command and knows exactly what checks need to be made and what adjustments are necessary to be successful. He learned a complicated position in our scheme. The game started to slow down for him against Islip."

Hoss said he's seen the maturation of both quarterbacks this season. Sirico has grown into the position and is poised to lead Sayville to another Long Island title. Capobianco is trusted to throw in any situation at any time from anywhere on the field, which makes him very dangerous.

An epic championship game was played last year. Will the encore live up to the hype?

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