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Long Island Championships football preview: Can Plainedge capture its first LI title?

Plainedge quarterback Dan Villari spots an opening and

Plainedge quarterback Dan Villari spots an opening and rushes for a 4-yard touchdown in the first quarter of the Nassau III final against South Side at Shuart Stadium on Friday.  Credit: James Escher

The 28th Annual Long Island football championships are upon us. All eight of the respective Nassau and Suffolk champions have been here before. They have a combined record of 85-3. Five teams are undefeated and only one has failed to experience the thrill of winning an LIC — undefeated and top ranked Plainedge.

The Red Devils have been to the LIC three times, including last year when quarterback Dan Villari suffered a severe arm injury in the first half and did not return. The Red Devils championship hopes were dashed with Villari on the sideline in a 34-6 rout by Half Hollow Hills West.

Villari vowed to return with a vengeance for a shot at the 2019 Class III crown. And here he is leading one of Long Island’s most prolific offensive units, averaging 44 points per game.

Plainedge (11-0) will meet Sayville (11-0) for the Long Island Class III championship, in LaValle Stadium at Stony Brook University Friday at noon.

The schools met in 2015 with Sayville winning in a blowout, 59-15.

“We’re aware of the history of the Long Island Championships,” said Plainedge’s senior center Chris Gentile. “The only one that really matters is last year’s game because most of us experienced that loss. And we’ve put that in the past and we’re focused on Sayville and what we need to do to win.”

Villari has thrown for 1,241 yards and 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. He’s also rushed for 1,216 yards and 19 scores and he’s ready for the big game.    

“This is going to be a great challenge against Sayville,” Villari said. “The goal was to get back to the LIC and win it. I’m sure plenty of guys from the 2015 team will be there to support us.”

Sayville has a record-breaking quarterback in junior Jack Cheshire, who threw for a Long Island record 41 touchdowns this season and became the second passer in LI history to throw for more than 3,000 yards. He has 3,052 yards.

The Golden Flashes will also lean on senior Brock Murtha, who has been an impact player on both sides of the ball. Murtha has 60 receptions, including 19 for touchdowns and 1,019 yards receiving.

Sayville has won six of its nine appearances in the LIC.

“We realized midseason that we had something special with our offensive line,” Gentile said. “We’re all good friends. We graduated every single season starter from last year’s line. This is a brand-new unit and we have tremendous pride in each other.”

Guards Pat Whidden and Tom Everding and tackles Jason Lascala and Alex Abrams work side by side with Gentile. They’ll work toward an LIC title Friday.

CLASS I

Freeport (11-0) vs. Floyd (11-0), Stony Brook University, Friday, 4:30 p.m.

This will be the sixth meeting of these two teams. Freeport has won the previous five meetings. Floyd has won five of 11 LIC titles, but has been able to get over the Freeport hurdle. The Colonials use a backfield duo of Tyshawn Lopez and Jezayd Hall behind quarterback Tom Verga to score 38 points per game. The Colonials defense is led by Andrew Minelli and Eddie Longo and they have a herculean task before them — to stop Freeport. Freeport owns Long Island’s current longest win streak at 23. The defending Class I champions have a stingy defense led by Tristan Saab, Dakarai Stevenson, Makhai Jinks, Arnold Cruz and Myles Norris. The offense averages 40 points per game and centers around QB Terrance Edmond and the do-it-all Jayvian Allen.

CLASS II

Lindenhurst (11-0) vs. Garden City (10-1), Hofstra University, Saturday, 4:30 p.m.

The game is a rematch of last year’s Class II title game won by Garden City, 19-0. A lot has happened in the past year. Garden City had its Long Island record 42-game win streak snapped by MacArthur midseason. And the Trojans avenged that defeat with a thrilling 16-14 win over MacArthur in the Nassau final when Chase Gardi nailed a field goal in the final minute.

Garden City is in search of its fourth straight Long Island title — something never done before. Only four other schools have won three titles in a row, Lawrence, Floyd, Shoreham-Wading River and North Babylon. Garden City is making an LIC record 18th appearance, winning eight times. This is Lindenhurst’s fourth appearance since 2014 with its only win coming against Oceanside in 2017. Both teams play smash-mouth disciplined defense. If you like traditional defense, this is your game.

CLASS IV

Seaford (10-1) vs. Shoreham-Wading River (10-1), Hofstra University, Saturday, noon

Two fantastically different offensive philosophies are at work here. Seaford will ground-n-pound with an outstanding offensive line and halfback Tom Viscio, who has rushed for 2,069 yards and 29 touchdowns. Shoreham will try to stretch the defense and get playmaker Xavier Arline in open space to do damage. He’s rushed for 2,067 yards and 37 touchdowns. He’s also thrown for 1,157 yards and nine scores. The teams met in 2016 when Shoreham came away with a 20-10 win.

THIS WEEK'S PICKS

GREGG SARRA (104-39)

Freeport

Lindenhurst

Plainedge

Shoreham-Wading River

ANDY SLAWSON (108-35)

Freeport

Garden City

Sayville

Shoreham-Wading River

ROGER RUBIN (112-31)

Freeport

Garden City

Plainedge

Seaford

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