East Islip's Matt McIntee makes the reception ahead of Will...

East Islip's Matt McIntee makes the reception ahead of Will Barrett of South Side during the Long Island Class III championship football game at Shuart Stadium, Hofstra, on Friday, November 24, 2023. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

Thomas Costarelli had been stripped for two fumbles, intercepted, bruised and battered by a swarming, athletic South Side defense for most of four quarters.

Undeterred, East Islip’s 5-10, 160-pound junior quarterback stared down the Cyclones’ secondary one more time.

“I gave them my best fastball,” he said. “I saw Mac make an outside move and cut inside the defender and I delivered my best pass.”

It was a championship-worthy throw.

Costarelli hit Matt McIntee with a 22-yard laser over the middle for the go-ahead touchdown strike with 5:49 remaining as East Islip earned a 19-14 win in the Long Island Class III championship game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium before a crowd of more than 5,000 on a blustery Friday night.

It was Costarelli’s third touchdown pass of the game. He completed 9 of 19 passes for 244 yards as East Islip (10-2) earned its second Long Island title. It also won a Class II crown in 2007.

“It was an absolute laser of a pass,” East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. “We put the ball in his hands and said go make a play. It doesn’t get any better than Costarelli to McIntee — they’ve been a dynamic duo all season.”

“The winning throw was put where only I could catch it,” McIntee said. “He threw a bullet. He’s been awesome all season.”

McIntee finished with seven catches for 156 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown pass that gave East Islip a 13-0 lead with 7:38 left in the first quarter.

The East Islip defense weathered a frantic South Side rally as time ran down. Quarterback Owen West drove the Cyclones from their 19 to the East Islip 24 before Charlie Heffernan stopped West short of the first down for the final play.

“We got that big defensive stop,” said East Islip tackle Sebastian Regis, who had seven tackles and a sack. “They were getting good angles on their blocks, but we found a way to seal the win.”

East Islip took a two-touchdown lead less than five minutes into the game.

On the first play from scrimmage, Costarelli fired an 80-yard scoring strike to Matt Ferrara down the sideline. Despite heavy wind, McIntee’s snap was handled by holder Alex Ciampi and Anthony Mariani drilled the extra-point kick for the 7-0 lead only 11 seconds in.

On the ensuing kickoff, Connor Junior recovered an onside kick at the South Side 44. Costarelli moved his team to the 3-yard line, and on fourth-and-goal, he lofted a beautiful fade to McIntee in the corner of the end zone to make it 13-0.

“We put ourselves in a 13-0 hole and our guys didn’t flinch,” South Side coach Phil Onesto said. “We took their best punch and battled back. I loved our resolve and the way we fought back into the game.”

South Side (10-2) responded on its next possession. The Cyclones drove 61 yards in 11 plays before junior halfback Justin Singh broke a 28-yard touchdown run up the middle. Nick Papadopulos’ kick made it 13-7 with 2:31 left in the first quarter.

Singh, playing for the injured Jack Lozito, rushed 17 times for 109 yards.

“We knew it would be a dogfight,” Ciampi said. “They won 10 games this season. They’re big and physical and you could feel they weren’t going away easily.”

South Side never went away. The Cyclones went ahead in the third quarter as they drove 57 yards in six plays and had the ball bounce their way near the East Islip end zone.

West was chased from the pocket and scrambled 14 yards on a third-and-5 to the East Islip 1-yard line, where he was stripped of the ball, but the fumble was scooped up by alert teammate Michael Melkonian for the touchdown. Papadopulos’ kick gave South Side a 14-13 lead with 8:46 left in the third quarter.

“We’ve been in bad situations and never quit,” Onesto said. “We always picked each other up.”

The East Islip defense forced a three-and-out and a short punt to set up the winning score.

“I’ll never forget that throw,” said Costarelli, who will make an official baseball visit to Miami next week. “When it left my left hand, I knew it was Mac’s ball.”

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