What’s in a number? Plenty. Just ask the members of the South Side football team.
The Cyclones began their season by getting tabbed as the No. 11 seed in Nassau III. And as Nick LiCalzi explained it: “We’ve just used that as motivation, motivation to work harder and get better.”
South Side has played above its billing this season and it rolled to a 3-1 mark with Thursday night’s 28-13 home victory over Lynbrook. The Cyclones never trailed and gave up the Owls’ second touchdown with just 19 seconds to play.
LiCalzi led the way with 75 yards rushing, including touchdowns of 49 and 20 yards. Greg Lethbridge rushed for 61 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown jaunt and Brian Albertsen returned a fumble 63 yards for a touchdown for the Cyclones.
South Side coach Phil Onesto said the preseason rating was likely based on graduating a talented senior class in the spring “but this team is gelling and working hard. I didn’t think it would come together this way or this fast.”
“In the past we had talent, but this is a team,” added Onesto, who played on the 2001 South Side team, the school’s last to play for a county title. “Nobody here is worried about who is getting the touches or who is scoring. They are all just pulling in the same direction.”
South Side opened with a statement drive, going 76 yards for a touchdown despite twice facing fourth downs. William Pickett went 7 yards for a first down on a key fourth-and-2 and LiCalzi capped the drive with his 20-yard run down the left side.
Before the end of the first quarter, the Cyclones went up 14-0 on Albertsen’s return. Ezavier Brewster put a big hit on an Owls runner and popped the ball loose. It went right to Albertsen, who raced down the left sideline for the score.
“Brewster’s hit was the key,” Albertsen said. “It was suddenly in my hands and off I went.”
The Owls (1-3) scored late in the second quarter with quarterback John DiBenedetto twice connecting with Mason Pontrelli for big gains. A 35-yard pass on which Pontrelli made a circus catch set the table. The next play was a 30-yarder for the score.
Jonathan Cabral-Martin had a fumble recovery and Dan Martinez had 38 yards rushing on four carries and a 4-yard TD run for Lynbook.
LiCalzi’s second TD upped the lead to 21-7 in the third quarter and Lethbridge’s fourth-quarter score put things out of reach.
South Side didn’t like being tabbed No. 11 but it might have turned into its lucky number.
“Maybe people don’t think of us for football, but we want to change that,” Lethbridge said. “I don’t think there is a day that goes by when it doesn’t cross your mind that we got that number. But we felt there was potential on this team and it was on us to find it and tap it. That may be what’s happening now.”