Plainedge is no fool.
After essentially steamrolling all of Nassau Conference III, the Red Devils are back in familiar circumstances. They lost in last season’s LIC after quarterback Dan Villari suffered a broken humerus bone from and early hit while the game was close. But the unbeaten Devils (11-0) face an opponent in Sayville (11-0) which is maybe the most-lethal passing offense in the area.
“This will be the best team we faced,” Plainedge head coach Rob Shaver said. “They’re more balanced than any team we’ve played. And they’ve been in more highly-competitive games than we’ve been in.”
That’s where junior Jason LaScala and sophomore Anthony Morello can be the difference-makers. They are the often-anonymous tackles in the Devils’ line, They perform their duties but rarely get a headline. But stopping Sayville quarterback Jack Cheshire? “We will be the same team we’ve been,” Morello said. Added LaScala, “We can make it hard on [Cheshire].”
LaScala and Morello are tackles on the defensive line. Plainedge faces one of the most dynamic passing attacks in Sayville. Cheshire set a Long Island record with 41 touchdown passes in capturing the Suffolk III title game. But those two are a big part of the plan.
“The pass rush is probably the most important part," Shaver said. “We got to get him off his launch point. A lot of their stuff is about timing. So if we can disrupt this timing a little bit, maybe we’ll have a chance of stopping the pass.”
And the secondary has to hold. That’s a question no one knows about after seniors Luke Lombardi and Donovan Pepe missed the last game with ankle injuries. Each is in the rehab process and will be evaluated before the game.
“South Side throws it around a little bit, but this can definitely be our biggest challenge, secondary-wise, covering people,” senior defensive back Doug Elsessor said. “We’re up to it. We’ve got a bunch of the leaders back there. We’ll be fine. I think we’re fast enough and strong enough to play with these guys. And the linebackers are key – Reid DeGroff – that kid’s a beast. They run a lot of short stuff across the middle. [He] and Braden Clark are going to be huge when they run a lot of their crossing routes.”
Linebackers DeGroff and Clark, who have been standout performers, will be part of the ensemble effort to stop the Sayville passing game.
“We are going to work hard again,” LaScala said.
“Blocking and tackling is the game,” Morello said. “We treat every game the same but this has to be our best.”
He called shutting down the Sayville pass attack, "the biggest challenge.”
“If we want to cover them, we might have to rush only four. But our front four has gotten it done,” Elsesser said. “If we bring extra I think it’s going to be a long day for the guy back there.”
Added Shaver, “While most teams don’t get pressure with their interior guys we’re going to need to get pressure with our interior guys. They’ve done some pretty good things. So we’re going to need them to really be on their game.”
Plainedge LIC Results
Year, Opponent, Result, Score
2005: Huntington, lost, 27-13
2015: Sayville, lost, 59-15
2018: Half Hollow Hills West, lost, 34-6