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Plainedge looks to future after painful LIC loss

Luke Lombardi #5 of Plainedge rushes for a

Luke Lombardi #5 of Plainedge rushes for a gain during the Class III Long Island Championship against Half Hollow Hills West at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018. Photo Credit: James Escher

Dan Villari cradled a football in his right arm with his helmet strapped on tightly as he stood by Plainedge coach Rob Shaver’s side early in the second half.

If the game had been closer, the quarterback might have tried to power through an injury to his left arm that forced him to leave with 7:43 left in the first half. Without him, Shaver’s offense struggled to find rhythm.

With Villardi sidelined, Luke Lombardi and Dion Kuinlan took most of the snaps from shotgun formation as Plainedge fell to Half Hollow Hills West, 34-6, in Saturday night’s Long Island Class III championship game at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

“He hurt his bicep,” Shaver said of Villari, who was tackled hard — but cleanly — by Joseph DeTommaso. “We think he might have an avulsion fracture in his bicep. A piece might have broken loose, and it was just tight. He couldn’t get it past the point; it kept getting stuck.”

Villari, a junior, tested the injury before the second half. He struggled to raise his left arm to corral snaps, an indication of the pain he was in.

“He told us he could [play],” Shaver said. “He’s a tough kid. If the game was a little closer, we might’ve put him in . . . We kind of held him out getting him ready for next year.”

Next year now is the focus for a team returning big talent.

Villari ran for more than 1,100 yards and passed for more than 700 yards during the Red Devils’ 11-1 season. Lombardi, a junior, ran 15 times for 167 yards, including a 72-yard score with 3:02 left before the half Saturday.

Though he struggled against Hills West — running 10 times for 11 yards — Kuinlan is an effective runner, too. The junior was asked to throw six times and completed three passes but also threw two interceptions.

“We put poor Dion in a situation he’d never been in,” Shaver said. “It was kind of unfair of us to ask him to do things that he had to do that he hasn’t done all year. I have to give him a ton of credit; he stepped up and tried his best.”

Plainedge also returns a pair of 6-3 receivers, Douglas Elsesser and Donovan Pepe. As a preseason No. 5 seed, Plainedge exceeded expectations.

“We’ve never had something like this, where we have this many juniors coming back,” Shaver said. “It’s just a tremendous experience for them to get into this game and know what’s possible.”

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