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Long Island Championships Class III: Wantagh’s short-play defense vs. East Islip’s big-play offense

Newsday's Gregg Sarra breaks down the Long Island Championship game in Class III between Wantagh and East Islip at 4:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at Hofstra. (Credit: Newsday)

Forget big plays. Wantagh’s defense has been so dominant in the playoffs that it only begrudgingly gives up short gains.

Forget the short bursts. East Islip’s offense has been so explosive in the playoffs that it has five scoring runs of at least 49 yards.

Which team will blink in the Long Island Class III championship game at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium?

“East Islip is a very big, very physically strong team with good athletes running the ball,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said. “You’ve got to stop them from making big plays.”

That means the Warriors (11-0), who have not allowed a point in three playoff games and have surrendered a Long Island-low 5.1 points per game, must contain East Islip’s Kyle Fleitman and Justin Taveras.

Fleitman, the quarterback, has rushed for 1,806 yards and 22 touchdowns and passed for 790 yards. In helping the Redmen (9-2) reverse their only two losses, he ran for 248 yards last week against Sayville and 373 the week before against Westhampton. Taveras, a tailback, rushed for 176 yards against Westhampton and 139 against Sayville. He has gained 1,019 yards and scored 12 touchdowns.

“Wantagh is a great team with a great defense, but we have to accentuate our strength, which is running the ball,” East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. “I’ve never had two dynamic kids like Fleitman and Taveras. In the past, we’ve been more methodical on offense, but these guys can score from anywhere on the field.”

In the playoffs, Fleitman has scoring runs of 66, 71 and 59 yards and Taveras has hit the end zone from 70, 35 and 49 yards.

Meanwhile, Wantagh hasn’t let a playoff opponent get into the end zone once. The gang-tackling unit is led by linebackers Gavin Casey and Sean Colbert, defensive tackles Joe Valenti and Jack LaVache and nose guard Pat Smith.

Offensively, the Warriors can hurt you with the running of Tommy Rohan and the receiving of Jimmy Joyce.

“The defense has gotten better every day. They know each other’s responsibilities and don’t worry about doing too much,” Sachs said. “Nobody cares who makes the tackle.”

In addition to its big-play backs, East Islip boasts imposing size up front, led by tackles Kyle Nunez (300 pounds) and Pat Fitzpatrick (270). They open the holes for Fleitman and Taveras, and Nunez was outstanding on defense in the upset of previously unbeaten Sayville last week with nine tackles, a forced fumble and a sack. Linebacker Chris Higgins (220) also is a force.

But the Redmen’s best chance to win their first Long Island championship since taking the 2007 Class II title is for Fleitman and Taveras to have big games. “Kyle is a dynamic kid, and a big thing for him this year is that no matter what happened, he knew that this was his team,’’ Ciampi said. “He felt like he needed to prove himself after we lost to Sayville [in the regular season].”

Sachs knows his Warriors aren’t likely to continue their playoff scoreless streak, but to win their first Long Island title since 2001, it’s all about containment. “Every time I looked up [while watching film], their quarterback was breaking a big play,” Sachs said. “When he cuts back, we’ve got to make sure we’re there.”

EAST ISLIP roster

No.PlayerGradePos.

2Dylan Rigo9RB/LB

3Kyle Fleitman*12QB/S

5Justin Taveras11RB/CB

10Bobby Madigan*12WR/S

11Antony Carroll9WR/S

12Devin Olsen11QB/S

14Devin Rigby12WR/CB

19Tom Murphy12WR/CB

22Stone Locke11WR/S

23Travis Locke12FB/LB

25Dan Burnham11RB/CB

27Evan Kramer11RB/CB

31Michael Drywa11FB/LB

33Chase Bolster11FB/LB

38Dan Walsh12K

42Justin Orobello11WR/CB

44Doug Carpluk12K

45Joe DeLisi11TE/LB

51Christian Giacalone12G/NG

52Dom Garguillo12G/NG

55Anthony Novellano11G/NG

56Kai Brothers *12G/NT

62Ryan Engblom10G/DT

64Brandon Postillio12G/LB

65Frank Obermeyer12G/LB

66Kyle Ostrowski11T/DT

68Kyle Nunez*12G/NG

70Keith Flanagan11C/DT

72Pat Fitzpatrick*12T/DT

76Joe Papa12C/DT

78Ryan Griczewicz12C/DT

79Walter Westhoff12T/DT

81Anthony Garguillo12TE/LB

82Shane Madigan10WR/S

85Jon Werner12WR/S

88Alec Marjoribanks12TE/DT

89Chris Higgins*12TE/LB

Coach Sal J. Ciampi

WANTAGH roster

No.PlayerGradePos.

1Chris Hogan11WR/DB

2Vincenzo LaRosa11WR/LB

??Brett Pine11K

3Ryan McCarty11QB

6Matt Robbins12WR/DB

7Andrew Russo12WR/DB

9JP Rodriguez12WR/DB

10Jake Castellano11QB

11Ryan Murphy11WR/S

12Vincent DeMaio12WR/DB

14Kevin Murphy12WR

20Tommy Rohan11RB/DB

21Jason Corso11WR/DB

22Patrick Walsh11RB/LB

23Devin Kennedy12WR/DB

24Jake Piccirillo11RB/LB

24Donald Schaumlofell11RB/LB

25/28Rahul Arora12WR/DB

27Anthony Vano11WR/DB

29Russell Hack12WR/DB

30Joe Valenti*12TE/DL

31Jesse Beard12RB/LB

32Gavin Casey11FB/LB

33Jimmy Joyce*12WR/S

33Sam Sloves10RB/LB

34Casey Murphy12FB/LB

35Rich Kirchner11WR/DB

37Anthony D’Onofrio11RB/LB

40Dan Urena12WR/DB

41Nick Libretto11WR/DB

42Matt Kirk11RB/DB

44Kieran Jansen11OL/LB

45Frank Grogan12TE/LB

50Joe Grogan12TE/LB

51Sean Colbert*12OL/LB

52Jack LaVache11OL/DL

53/58Colin Geraffo11OL/DL

54Billy Bonasera11OL/DL

55Mike Frendo12OL/DL

55Will DiMatteo10OL/LB

56Sam Cioffi11OL/DL

57Ryan Alesius11OL/DL

61Jake Herbert11WR/DB

62Tom Mullane12OL/DL

63Dylan Findlay11OL/DL

64Hunter Felix11OL/DL

65Logan VonRunnen11OL/DL

67Ricky LaVelle12OL/DL

70Eoghan Nolan11OL/DL

73Kyle Cusack12OL/DL

74Nolan Foley*12OL/DL

75Michael Kessler12OL/DL

76Liam McDermott11OL/DL

77Pat Smith12OL/DL

78Gavin Guerrera11OL/DL

79Luke Palladino11OL/DL

81Jack Conklin11TE/LB

82/24Justin Wozniak11WR/DB

83Michael Piergiovanni12K

88Kyle Graham10TE

Coach Keith Sachs

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