Previewing Long Island's county championship football games
Captain Liam Villanti is the heart and soul of a Whitman football team searching for its first title in 37 years. The undersized center and middle linebacker leads the Wildcats into the Suffolk Division I championship at Stony Brook University on Friday at 7 p.m.
Top-seeded and undefeated Whitman (10-0) will meet Floyd (9-1), the defending divisional champions. Whitman shut down Floyd, 27-0 in the regular season.
"We made a promise when we lost in the spring playoffs that we’d work hard and put our team in a position to win a county championship," Villanti said. "Floyd is the defending champion and they’ve earned everyone’s respect. We want to finish the job."
Whitman coach Robin Rosa knows the football giant, that is Floyd, is always a tremendous hurdle in the postseason.
"We know what is in front of us," Rosa said. "They are the champions until someone dethrones them. And we have the utmost respect for Paul Longo and his staff. The Floyd program sets the bar for excellence. And we’re trying to get there. We’ll be ready for this one."
Floyd has won three straight Division I titles and 13 in the last 20 years. The Colonials are decimated with injuries to key players, including All-Long Island defensive end Brian Benson.
"I have to give our guys so much credit," Longo said. "We came in with perhaps our best defensive line of all time. And they’re all injured. Just a brutal season for injuries. And Whitman is loaded with talent. They have playmakers all over the field."
Floyd quarterback LaDuke Harris and halfback Dylan Harris give the Colonials some offensive firepower but stopping the Whitman offense is an entirely different story.
Whitman quarterback Nicholas Bottoni has had a career season. He’s thrown for 1,929 yards and 23 TDs and operates an offense that averages 38 points per game. He has dynamic athletes all over the field in wide receivers Brandon Ivy, Tyreik Mays-McCoy and Rahsaan Thompson. And the Wildcats’ run game has a 1-2 punch with A.J. Evans and Jonathan Maldonado.
Floyd edged Whitman for the spring title with a 27-21 win in overtime.
Sayville (10-0) vs. East Islip (9-1), at Stony Brook, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Sayville won a wild game over East Islip in Week 6, 51-44. Sayville has won eight of their nine previous meetings and has won three of their four meetings in the division finals. East Islip’s defense has not shown it can stop a good offense. They were gashed by freshman sensation Kyle Messina in the last meeting. East Islip counters with quarterback Derek Burrell and halfback Leo Lopez, who have 3,234 all-purpose yards.
Plainedge (10-0) vs. Bethpage (8-2), at Hofstra, Friday, 4 p.m.
Plainedge has not been challenged all season. The Red Devils won the Week 5 meeting, 41-0. Bethpage has been on a roll with Brian Luzzi leading the way and turned in a big upset over Wantagh in the semifinals. The Golden Eagles have won eight of their 13 playoff meetings with Plainedge. Could it be two weeks in a row that Bethpage upends a heavy favorite?
Massapequa (9-1) vs. Oceanside (9-1), at Hofstra, Friday, 7:30 p.m.
How does last season’s Thorp Award winner Charlie McKee finish his storied career? Does the star quarterback finally lead Oceanside to the big win and make his LIC debut? Massapequa beat Oceanside 26-21 in Week 4.
Shoreham-Wading River (9-1) vs. Bayport-Blue Point (9-1), at Stony Brook, Friday, 4 p.m.
SWR is the three-time defending champion and rolls with halfback Max Barone. Bayport snapped an 11-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a 35-14 win in Week 6.
North Shore (8-2) vs. Cold Spring Harbor (7-3), at Hofstra, Saturday, 12:30 p.m.
The Seahawks are coming off a stunning 28-26 win over previously undefeated Seaford in the semifinals. They beat North Shore, 14-13 in Week 2. North Shore is making its second appearance in a final. The last time was in 1975 when the Vikings defeated Cold Spring Harbor, 13-6.
Garden City (10-0) vs. MacArthur (9-1), at Hofstra, Saturday, 4 p.m.
Garden City is going after its record-tying sixth consecutive Nassau title. The Trojans won six straight titles from 1990-1995. Garden City won the first meeting this season with a 49-6 pasting in Week 7. Trojans quarterback Luke Schmitt has been super efficient in a balanced offense that mixes the run with the pass. This is the third straight season these teams are meeting in the final. MacArthur found some late magic in a 21-18 come-from-behind win over Mepham in the semifinal.
Lindenhurst (9-1) vs. Bellport (9-1), At Stony Brook, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Lindenhurst won three straight titles from 2017-2019. Bellport last won a Suffolk title in 2010. Expect a much closer game than the 47-14 Bellport win earlier this season.
Holy Trinity (9-0) vs. St. John the Baptist (9-1), at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Saturday, 11 a.m.
Holy Trinity won the first meeting, 45-21, in Week 4. The Titans are 9-0 for the first time in their 55-year history. The Cougars won nine games in a season for the first time since 2012. Halfback Mark Anthony Scott has been the big playmaker for the Cougars.
Chaminade (6-3) vs. Moore Catholic (6-3), at Mitchel Athletic Complex, Saturday, 2 p.m.
These teams didn’t meet during the regular season. Two years ago, Chaminade won the CHSFL AA-1 title and Moore Catholic won the AA-2 title. Chaminade kicker Timothy Tomlinson drilled a 54-yard field goal in last week’s semifinal win. Quarterback Tom Stueber threw for touchdowns of 54 and 57 yards to Michael Miller to lead the top-seeded Flyers.
With Andy Slawson
This week’s picks
GREGG SARRA (125-32)
ANDY SLAWSON (119-38)
ROGER RUBIN (114-43)
Cold Spring Harbor
St. John the Baptist