Maybe it was apropos of this welcomed-but-misplaced football season, but Westbury sophomore Jason Velasquez twice had put the ball back on the tee before he could get the Green Dragons’ game against Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK underway.
When Velasquez finally put shoe leather to pigskin, high school football was back on Long Island after the coronavirus pandemic kept it off the fields for more than a year. Section VIII and Section XI, the governing bodies for public school sports in Nassau and Suffolk, respectively, decided in August that if football could be played it wouldn’t begin until March. And it still was very much in doubt as the calendar turned to 2021. But on Jan. 22, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo – who had prohibited the start of high-risk sports – empowered county officials to decide. Within days, both Nassau and Suffolk counties had plans in place for the Island’s first March football season.
"It’s surprising that this kickoff would kick off Long Island’s season, but it’s great to be playing football again," Velasquez said. "People waited a long time for this. It’s March. We’re finally playing so I think it will be a season everyone will remember."
Certainly that will be the case for Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK, which used a series of big plays to build a 19-point halftime lead before rolling to a 25-14 Nassau Conference I victory at Westbury’s Fitzgerald Field.
"When the fall didn’t pan out we were all really disappointed," Hawks senior Dan Cook said. "It’s great to be back with the guys and you couldn’t do better than starting it off with a win."
The Hawks’ Joe Pastier, one half of their two-headed quarterback system, hit Sal Vazquez with a 30-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage. On their second possession running back Perry Azougi capped a 75-yard drive that included a pair of long Pastier-to-Dan Cook receptions with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Azougi came up big on the Dragons’ ensuing possession, scooping up a fumbled reception and taking it down the right sideline 40 yards for a touchdown.
"You spent all this time away from the team hoping you were staying in good shape," Azougi said. "But after that first hit I knew I was ready. It’s good to be back."
"We knew our skill position would be a strength," Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK coach Chris Rogler said. "Our concern was up front, but they did a good job. . . . and as a team we played pretty clean with very few penalties. Practices started 12 days ago, so that was another positive."
Vazquez downed Mark Siebenheuner's punt at the Westbury 5 and when the Dragons had to punt, the Hawks were in good field position.
Westbury got on the board in the third after Kaden Gibson's interception. Kevaugne Watson made a circus catch on a long throw by Michenson Simon and ended up taking it 47 yards for a touchdown. P-OB JFK got a 42-yard touchdown run from Alex Kyriacou to make it 25-8, but Thomas King III came up with a fumble and the Dragons closed to within 25-14 on Simon’s 3-yard touchdown run with 2:53 left in the third.