Dan Villari is not a player defenders want to meet in the open field. Just ask teammates and opponents alike how that can end.
On a fourth-and-1 at the Bethpage 21-yard line in the third quarter, it seemed like Plainedge was in some trouble. The 6-4 quarterback was met by a wall of Bethpage defenders on the rush, but Villari broke the first of a string of tackles, reversed field, and broke more tackles before diving and hitting the pylon for the Red Devils’ third touchdown in their 36-12 home victory over Bethpage in Nassau III football on Saturday.
“Every time I run the ball,” Villari said, “in my head I’m just thinking, ‘I’m not going down, I’m not going down.’”
For those in the crowd who are treated to see Villari perform only on gameday, the run seemed spectacular. For his teammates, though, it was just about another 21-yard score.
“I was trying to get a block on somebody and I just see him breaking eight tackles,” receiver/defensive back Donovan Pepe said. “He was going down the field and I’m like, ‘Yup, there he goes again.’ He does it all the time.”
Villari finished with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries and completed 14 of 22 passes for 150 yards. Pepe was his favorite target, with the receiver recording six receptions for 76 yards, including a 25-yard touchdown for the game’s opening score.
“We know where we are going to be and it’s very helpful, as you can see,” said Pepe, who also recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown. “We had a lot of nice first downs just by knowing where we are going to be at what time.”
Plainedge (2-0) took a 14-0 lead with 9:31 remaining in the second quarter after Villari’s 3-yard touchdown run capped off a 14-play, 95-yard drive spanning nearly eight minutes.
Bethpage (1-1) rallied late in the first half following an interception by Patrick Dalton. Three plays later, Kevin Mouton found Cristian Castles for a 13-yard score and Plainedge led 14-6 heading into halftime.
“Typical Plainedge-Bethpage game,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “Good defenses back-and-forth. Lots of heavy hitting."
Mouton and Dalton connected for a 71-yard touchdown following Villari’s barrelling touchdown run to cut Plainedge’s lead to 21-12. But the Red Devils scored 15 points in the fourth quarter, capped by Dion Kuinlan’s 37-yard touchdown run for the final score behind the offensive line of Alex Abrams, Pat Whidden, Christopher Gentile, Tom Everding and Jason LaScala.
And for someone who has the challenge of tackling Villari during the week, it was a lot more enjoyable for linebacker Joe Cavaliere to see others struggle to do the same.
“It was amazing,” Cavaliere said. “It was just Dan. He’s big, tough, hard to bring down. It’s all about toughness. I try to tackle him all week and it’s pretty hard.”