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Rory Connor helps Manhasset claim first Nassau Conference III title since '96

Manhasset defeated Plainedge, 28-19, to win the Nassau

Manhasset defeated Plainedge, 28-19, to win the Nassau Conference III championship, and its first football county title since 1996, on Saturday, May 1, 2021,  at Manhasset High School, Credit: Newsday / Owen O’Brien

It was the first day of spring and the second Saturday of the season at Manhasset. The home team had just claimed its second straight victory and Rory Connor was talking about this group having "something special this year."

And you know what? The senior quarterback was right.

Now it was the first day of May, right after the Nassau Conference III title game at Manhasset. There was Connor, striking a happy pose with the rest of this top-seeded, undefeated team and the championship plaque.

The Manhasset drought finally ended on its sun-drenched home turf. Its 28-19 win over two-time defending champ Plainedge on Saturday brought a county crown — Manhasset’s first since 1996.

"It means so much to all of us," Connor said after contributing two touchdown runs against the second-seeded Red Devils. "We’ve had this dream. Most people thought it was unrealistic. We just stuck together. We kept working. And this is what happens."

What happened was they beat Plainedge (6-2) twice, including 13-7 on the road in Week 3, on the way to going 8-0 in the delayed and truncated season, a season that had been endangered because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We were supposed to get nothing, but instead we got everything," senior linebacker Aidan Cole said. "It’s the best feeling in the world."

Everything was endangered for them with 4:57 left. The Red Devils’ Joe Leone, who had 70 yards on 24 carries, pulled up and tossed a 4-yard touchdown pass to Dylan Pepe. Manhasset’s lead was hanging by a thread at 21-19. Plainedge was going for two.

"Of course, I’m worried," senior linebacker/running back Blaze Conlan said. "But I had faith."

Travis Shaver rolled right. Cole came racing from behind him to apply pressure, and Shaver’s pass to Joe Iadevio fell incomplete.

The Red Devils, however, got the ball back at their 44 with 1:36 remaining. But on fourth-and-16, William Cargiulo intercepted a pass by Shaver on a day when the junior quarterback went 15-for-25 passing with two TDs.

Cargiulo turned it into a 60-yard pick-6.

"We made a couple of big plays in the second half when we had to," coach Jay Iaquinta said. " . . . These kids earned and deserve this."

Plainedge had begun the first drive of the day at its 32 and took the next 20 snaps. One, though, came on a punt. A flag flew.

"So I messed up on that punt," Cole said. "I roughed the kicker, got 15 yards."

Shaver ended up hitting a wide-open Vinny Cavalierre for a 5-yard score with 2:21 to go in the quarter. But Conlan countered early in the second quarter, breaking a tackle and running for 30 of his 70 yards, good for a touchdown.

After the Red Devils turned the ball over on downs, Connor got to the left sideline and ran 47 yards for the lead.

But Plainedge responded. Iadevio caught a Shaver pass while falling backward in the end zone late in the half — a 31-yard TD. The PAT was blocked, so it was 14-13 Manhasset at the break.

Then Connor plowed in from the 1 early in the fourth. The PAT made it an eight-point game.

"We knew if we got a shot, we would definitely make it," Conlan said. "We put [in] the work, and it paid off."

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