Daniel Villari refused to go down.
The Plainedge junior quarterback shook off defenders and scored on a 5-yard run up the middle late in the fourth quarter to seal the Red Devils’ 21-13 victory over Nassau III rival Bethpage on Saturday.
Villari’s run on a first-and-goal with 2:37 left capped a nine-play, 66-yard drive to extend Plainedge's one-point lead. It wrapped up a strong second half for the Red Devils (2-0), who executed their game plan on both sides of the ball.
“I just had to do whatever I could,” said Villari, who finished with 83 yards rushing on seven carries. “We worked hard all week for this and we knew we weren’t letting it slip.”
Plainedge came out firing, but couldn’t connect on a big play. The Red Devils’ opening drive lasted over seven minutes, and 19 plays, including two fourth-down conversions, but it stalled at the 4-yard line.
“We had some opportunities to score and unfortunately we didn’t,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “We missed some things.”
It was a frustrating start for the Red Devils and Bethpage took advantage with 7:04 left in the second quarter when Cristian Castles shook off defenders for a 48-yard touchdown run for the opening score of the game.
Plainedge’s offense continued to sputter, but Shaver told his team to take a breath. They couldn’t focus on the rivalry. They only had to focus on the next play.
Luke Lombardi made the play.
The junior defensive back hauled in an interception with 2:24 in the half, returning the ball 50 yards to tie it 7-7. It was enough to settle the Red Devils and give the team a confidence boost heading into the break.
“Each guy continues to make a different play,” Shaver said. “We had to make a couple plays and we knew we’d be OK.”
Dion Kuinlan gave the Red Devils their first lead with 5:33 left in the third quarter after he hauled in a 14-yard pass from Villari and spun off the closest defender to make it 14-7.
“I just made a move and kind of hoped he missed,” said Kuinlan, who also had 78 yards rushing on nine carries. “No one else was there.”
Bethpage refused to go away.
Alex Keener returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for a score for the Golden Eagles (1-1), but Orlando Cabrera blocked the extra-point attempt, maintaining Plainedge’s one-point lead. The play sparked the Red Devils down the stretch as the defense held strong.
Plainedge recovered two third-quarter fumbles and stopped Bethpage on fourth down on the Golden Eagles’ final two drives as the Red Devils grabbed a rivalry victory they hope will help push them throughout the season.
”It feels amazing,” Kuinlan said. “It’s definitely big for us.”