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LI football county finals preview: Can West Islip top defending champ Lindenhurst in Suffolk Division II?

Dominic Sagginario of West Islip lsignals for a

Dominic Sagginario of West Islip lsignals for a first down during the Suffolk Division II semifinal in West Islip on Friday, Nov. 15, 2019. Credit: Dawn McCormick

Is this the year of the Lion?

West Islip certainly hopes so. The Lions are looking for that Blue Thunder defense to capture the school’s first Suffolk football title since 1994. The Lions won one of the more dramatic games in the history of the Long Island Championships with a 14-7 double overtime victory over Garden City in Class II.

But that was a long time ago — 24 years.

“It’s been too long,” West Islip coach Steve Mileti said. “And it’s not like we’re not winning. We’re winning and producing excellent student-athletes. We’re just not getting that last W.”

West Islip (8-2) will play in the school’s 21st final when it travels to Lindenhurst (10-0), the two-time defending champion, for the Suffolk Division II title Saturday at 1 p.m.

Lindenhurst won a defensive battle, 14-0, in Week 6.

West Islip, which has lost three straight Suffolk title games, including a 21-17 loss to Lindenhurst in last year’s championship, is primed to get a big win.

“It’s a traditionally strong program,” Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said about West Islip. “We respect the heck out of them. You have to come prepared every year against any West Islip team.”

West Islip handed Lindenhurst its last loss in Suffolk, beating the Bulldogs 17-14 during the regular season in 2018. The Lions are one of Long Island’s winningest programs over the past three years with an overall record of 28-5. The stumbling block for the Lions comes in the finals where they’ve lost seven in a row since 1995 and have a 3-16-1 record in championship games.

Lindenhurst has won two Suffolk titles in a row. The Bulldogs earned the Division I crown and the Long Island Class I championship in 2017. They dropped in enrollment and moved into Suffolk Division II, winning that title, before losing to Garden City, 19-0, in the Long Island Class II championship in 2018.

“Our goal from day one has been to get back to the LIC and win it,” Lindenhurst captain Will Ruckert said. “We don’t look past anyone. We respect every opponent.”

Ruckert leads a stingy defense that yields eight points per game and has five shutouts. Linebacker Jack Winey, leads the Bulldogs in tackles, and anchors a defensive unit that includes Nick Passamonte, Olasunkonmi Agunloye and Jack Hogan.

SUFFOLK III

Sayville (10-0) vs. East Islip (8-2), Thursday, Stony Brook University, 7 p.m.: An air of uncertainty surrounds this game due to the availability of Sayville’s outstanding quarterback Jack Cheshire. The junior, who’s thrown for 39 touchdowns and 2,795 yards this season, was injured in the second quarter of the semifinal win over Kings Park last Friday and according to coach Reade Sands, was taken to Stony Brook University Hospital with an abdominal injury. “It was a lower abdominal injury and we took every precaution,” Sands said. “He [was] in school Monday and we’re hoping he could play, but it’s questionable. He hasn’t practiced this week because he hasn’t been officially cleared to return. He’s a game-time decision.” If he can’t go, two-way star Brock Murtha will step into the position. “I want Jack to play and put Brock at wide receiver,” Sands said. “Brock’s a great athlete and that’s when we’re at our strongest.”

East Islip QB Brandon Miller has thrown for a school-record 26 touchdowns, 1,874 yards and four interceptions. He has multiple targets in Rob Kreusch, Nick Baldino and Anthony Carroll.

NASSAU I

Freeport (10-0) vs. Farmingdale (8-2), Thursday, Hofstra University, 7 p.m.: Freeport will look to extend Long Island’s current longest win streak at 22. The Red Devils have blown out every opponent this season, including a 35-6 win over Farmingdale a month ago. The Dalers beat up Oceanside last week, 49-7, as Kevin Wilson scored six touchdowns. A healthy Farmingdale offensive line could make this game interesting.

NASSAU III

Plainedge (10-0) vs. South Side (9-1), Friday at Hofstra, 7 p.m.: Two of Nassau’s most dynamic offensive stars go head-to-head here. South Side quarterback William Pickett has run for 1,217 yards and 13 touchdowns and thrown for 1,096 yards and 15 scores. Plainedge quarterback Dan Villari had run for 1,055 yards and 16 scores and passed for 1,205 yards and 11 touchdowns. Villari rushed for five touchdowns in Plainedge’s 61-13 wipeout of South Side this season. Plainedge’s Braden Clark, Joe Cavaliere and Luke Lombardi lead the least-scored upon defense in the conference.

SUFFOLK I

Floyd (10-0) vs. Longwood (8-2), Friday, Stony Brook University, 7 p.m.: The battle for the Parkway is now the battle for the Suffolk Division I crown. Floyd throttled Longwood, 42-14, earlier this season and coach Paul Longo will be looking for his 200th career win. Floyd halfback Tyshawn Lopez and fullback Eddie Longo have proved to be quite the duo this season. Lopez has rushed for 1,690 yards and 23 touchdowns. Longwood is peaking at the right time and quarterback Noah Rattmer led the Lions to a big win over Sachem East last week, 14-12.

NASSAU II

MacArthur (10-0) vs. Garden City (9-1), Saturday, Hofstra University, 12:30 p.m.: MacArthur halted Garden City’s 42-game win streak, 27-7, on the road. The Generals win with an offensive line led by Sean Tierney. Halfback Hugh Kelleher has rushed for 1,706 yards and 20 scores. Garden City, the three-time defending LI Class III champions, runs by committee with Ford Carney and Pierce Archer. Stopping Kelleher is the key to a win — not an easy task .

NASSAU IV

Seaford (9-1) vs. Cold Spring Harbor (9-1), Saturday, Hofstra University, 4 p.m.: Cold Spring Harbor, the defending Class IV champions, need to stop Vikings halfback Tom Viscio, who has 1,966 yards rushing and 28 touchdowns, to return to the LIC. Seahawks QB Richie Striano led a fourth quarter comeback against Clarke last week for a 16-14 win.

SUFFOLK IV

Mt. Sinai (10-0) vs. Shoreham-Wading River (9-1), Sunday, Stony Brook University, 1 p.m.: Wildcats QB Xavier Arline has rushed for 1,846 yards and 34 touchdowns. He also has thrown for 1,072 yards and eight more scores. If Mount Sinai wants to make its first appearance in the LIC since 2006 the Mustangs need to contain Arline. Mount Sinai beat S-WR, 35-21, midseason.

STAFF PICKS

GREGG SARRA (99-36)

Freeport

MacArthur

Plainedge

Cold Spring Harbor

Floyd

Lindenhurst

Sayville

Mount Sinai

ANDY SLAWSON (101-34)

Freeport

Garden City

Plainedge

Seaford

Floyd

Lindenhurst

East Islip

Shoreham-Wading River

ROGER RUBIN (105-30)

Freeport

Garden City

Plainedge

Cold Spring Harbor

Floyd

Lindenhurst

Sayville

Mount Sinai

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