TODAY'S PAPER
31° Good Afternoon
31° Good Afternoon
SportsHigh SchoolFootball

Football preview: Which team will rise to top in competitive Nassau III?

Plainedge quarterback Mike Ciuffo looks for a receiver

Plainedge quarterback Mike Ciuffo looks for a receiver during Nassau III game against host Lawrence on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017. He threw for four touchdowns, including the winner with 23.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter, to lead the Red Devils to a 38-34 win. Credit: James Escher

Ah, the two-minute drill in football. It can be the ultimate test of any player’s nerves and resilience.

One can expect the Nassau III football playoffs to come down to some last-second heroics in what is believed to be the most competitive conference in 2017.

Six of the 10 games between the top five teams, Lawrence, Roosevelt, Wantagh, Plainedge and Bethpage came down to the final possession during the regular season.

“Any one of those top five teams can win our conference,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “It’s a really strong conference and it’s unpredictable — everyone has had big wins against top teams. We lost to the three and four seeded teams and beat the one and two, so go figure.”

Plainedge (6-2) will host Bethpage (5-3) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. These teams are both good enough to be county champions. It is the marquee game of the week.

Plainedge quarterback Mike Ciuffo has mastered the two-minute drill. He orchestrated two last-minute drives to beat Wantagh 17-14 and Lawrence 38-34. He has spread the ball around nicely to wide receivers Michael Harding, Brian Bornkamp and Joe Yarusso, who all have more than 25 catches.

“It takes a special player to maintain his composure in times of stress,” Shaver said. “Any one of these games could be determined on the last possession. And it’ll be all about the execution.”

Bethpage quarterback Jason Seiter has been equally impressive. The Golden Eagles came back to beat Plainedge, 28-21, as Seiter hit Frank Ragusa for two touchdowns and fullback Jack Raia added two short scoring runs.

“He’s one of the best in our conference,” Shaver said. “He throws well and runs well so we need to maintain coverage and not allow him to run around much because he’ll extend plays.”

Plainedge was shut out in the second half the last time the Red Devils played Bethpage.

“We’re going to have to eliminate the big plays,” Shaver said. “There were big change of possessions in that second half. Seiter threw a touchdown pass on fourth-and-17 and we threw two interceptions and fumbled a third-quarter kickoff.”

West Babylon at East Islip, Saturday, 2 p.m.: A healthy halfback Justin Taveras gives East Islip (5-3) a much-needed boost in Suffolk III. The Redmen were beaten by West Babylon (6-2) in the first meeting this season, 20-13. The Eagles defense didn’t allow an offensive touchdown. Taveras’ 90-yard kickoff return was the only TD. West Babylon quarterback Mark Esposito is a dual threat. He threw for 705 yards and ran for another 630.

Clarke at Locust Valley, Saturday, 4 p.m.: These teams met last week and Clarke forged a 27-26 win to qualify for the Nassau IV postseason. The Rams (3-5) will be forced to beat Locust Valley (5-3) two weeks in a row. Austin Carman-Lyons had two second-half touchdown runs as the Falcons took a 27-20 lead. But it took a blocked extra point by Kyle Kandel to push the Falcons into the postseason. Locust Valley has lost two in a row.

Harborfields at Sayville, Friday, 6 p.m.: This game features a matchup of two quality quarterbacks, who can sling it in Suffolk III. P.J. Clementi has thrown for 973 yards and 10 touchdowns, including nine to his favorite target in wide receiver Gavin Buda, for the Tornadoes. Sayville quarterback Jacob Cheshire returned after sitting out Week 7 with a shoulder injury. He threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-27 win over Islip, which had won four in a row, in last week’s season finale.

Carey at Elmont, Saturday, 2:30 p.m.: Elmont’s All-Long Island wide receiver Chester Anderson has been unstoppable with 806 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns in Nassau II. But the Spartans do not want another shootout with Carey. The Seahawks dumped Elmont, 49-27, earlier this season behind quarterback Dom Rutigliano, who has thrown more than anyone in Nassau with 242 attempts for 1,319 yards and 14 touchdowns. Carey needs to slow Elmont’s Michael Djalo, who has rushed for 1,079 yards and 14 touchdowns.

GREGG SARRA (44-26)

Oceanside

Elmont

Locust Valley

Carle Place/Wheatley

Northport

North Babylon

Centereach

Hills East

East Islip

Glenn

ANDY SLAWSON (42-28)

Oceanside

Elmont

Locust Valley

Carle Place/Wheatley

Northport

North Babylon

Centereach

Hills East

West Babylon

Glenn

BOB HERZOG (41-29)

Oceanside

Elmont

Locust Valley

North Shore

Northport

North Babylon

Centereach

Hills East

East Islip

Glenn

More high schools