Massapequa quarterback Joey Diesso slides into the end zone for...

Massapequa quarterback Joey Diesso slides into the end zone for a touchdown during the Long Island Class I championship football game against William Floyd at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium on Friday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Joey Diesso’s emergence saved Massapequa’s football season.

Senior quarterback Paul Dulanto went down with a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter of the opener, forcing Diesso to step in and take the reins.

The junior thrived in the starting role all season, but it was fitting that Massapequa’s championship season ended with the ball in Dulanto’s hands.

Diesso threw for three touchdowns and ran for one on Friday in Massapequa’s 35-7 win over Floyd in the Long Island Class I championship game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. He completed 11 of 15 passes for 146 yards and paved the way for Dulanto to take the final kneel in victory formation — his first snap since his injury.

“It was a special feeling,” Diesso said. “Paulie’s my brother, and just to see him back on the field, it holds a special place in my heart.”

Joey Diesso finds Robby Nugent to bring Massapequa to a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

— Jolie Katzen (@JolieKatzen) November 24, 2023

Said Dulanto, “To have that moment on the field like that, to win the Long Island championship with the guys is a truly amazing feeling. Honestly, this is for everyone that doubted Joey Diesso. He proved you all wrong. He had a great season, All-County-worth season, and he put a statement on today’s game.”

Massapequa (12-0) earned its second Long Island title in the last three seasons and its fourth in program history. The team dominated everyone in its path, beating its four postseason opponents by an average of 32.8 points per game.

“It’s just the culmination of 12 games,” Massapequa coach Kevin Shippos said. “The kids have battled all season, handled adversity at different times. It all starts and stops with the 30 seniors. We have an unbelievable group, they bought in since Day One, and this is a tribute to them and their hard work.”

Massapequa took a 14-0 lead before Floyd took an offensive snap.

Running back Michael DeLuca’s 53-yard run set up Diesso’s 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Robby Nugent with 8:20 left in the first quarter. DeLuca had 20 carries for 101 yards.

Tyler Villalta runs one in to bring Massapequa up 14-0 with 7 minutes left in the first.

— Jolie Katzen (@JolieKatzen) November 24, 2023

Massapequa recovered the ensuing pooch kick and Diesso connected with running back Tyler Villalta, who made multiple Floyd players miss en route to a 28-yard touchdown with 6:59 left in the first quarter.

“That was huge jumping out on them,” Shippos said. “Especially a team like Floyd, you can never count them out.”

Diesso extended Massapequa’s lead to 21-0 before halftime, taking a read option 14 yards for the touchdown with 4:59 left in the half.

Diesso dealt with his own injury in 2023 as well, missing the summer with a broken hand before being thrust into the starting role.

“He’s just gotten better every single week,” Shippos said. “The key to Joe is he has tremendous belief in himself, tremendous confidence. I knew once he got going, game by game, he got better and better and he saved his best performance for last.”

Villalta’s 15-yard touchdown run extended Massapequa’s lead to 28-0 with 5:45 left in the third quarter. He finished with four carries for 40 yards and a touchdown and three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown.

Another touchdown for Tyler Villalta. 5:45 left in the third, Massapequa leads 28-0.

— Jolie Katzen (@JolieKatzen) November 24, 2023

Three minutes later, Diesso rolled out to find wide receiver Dean Vitale for a 7-yard touchdown with 2:53 left in the third quarter for a 35-0 lead.

“My O-line, they’re the best on the Island,” Diesso said. “I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Ja’Quan Thomas put Floyd (10-2) on the board with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:04 left, but Massapequa’s defense painted an overall masterpiece. Ryan Kurowski and Leo Rosario each had an interceptions and Massapequa allowed only 167 yards.

“Our starting quarterback went down in the beginning of the year, and guess what?” Dulanto said. “We didn’t skip a beat, man. It’s like nothing ever happened. And honestly, man, just holding up that trophy, it’s really special.”

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