That’s all it took for Sayville returner Luke Hansen to take the opening kickoff and sprint 94 yards for a touchdown.
It ignited a 21-point first quarter as Sayville beat Plainedge, 33-7, to capture the Long Island Class III football championship before a crowd of 2,800 on Saturday afternoon at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.
“It didn’t seem real to me,” Hansen said. “I wasn’t touched. I picked up a perfect block by Dan Holahan and all I saw was green turf and a clear path to the end zone.”
Sayville (12-0) won the school’s seventh Long Island crown in 11 appearances. Plainedge (11-1), the two-time defending Class III champion, saw its winning streak end at 23 games.
“We came in hot in every phase of the game,” Sayville coach Reade Sands said. “Plainedge has an unbelievable program, but they never recovered from the first quarter. And we were flying around on defense and not giving up any big plays to let them back in.”
Even after Hansen’s return, Sayville never took its foot off the gas pedal. Kyle Messina’s interception and 15-yard return to the 14-yard line on Plainedge’s first possession set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Messina that made it 14-0 with 8:11 left in the first quarter.
The Sayville defense forced a three-and-out and junior quarterback Jake Tripptree executed an eight-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Tripptree capped the march with a 9-yard scoring strike to Anthony Contaldi for a 21-0 lead with 3:18 left in the first quarter.
Just like that, Sayville had scored as many points in 8:42 of one quarter as any of Plainedge’s previous 11 opponents had in an entire game.
“We haven’t had a rough day like this in a very long time,” Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. “Saying we had a bad start would be an understatement. We’re a ball-control team, and being down three scores is a difficult climb. We got stuck in a seven-on-seven type of game with a team that is better than us in that style.”
Sayville extended the lead to 27-0 with 11:19 left in the half. Tripptree found tight end Ben Sands in the seam for a 55-yard pass to the Plainedge 10. Two plays later, he threw a beautiful out to Michael Milo in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown.
Tripptree, who was cleared to play Friday after recovering from a left shoulder injury, hadn’t practiced all week.
“I was in physical therapy every day and studied a lot of film to be prepared if I was cleared,” he said. “I wanted to play so badly.”
Sands said the announcement of Tripptree’s availability was a huge emotional lift for the Golden Flashes. “You could just see it in our guys,” Sands said. “Jake’s their guy.”
Tripptree, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 200 yards and two scores, was not sacked by a Plainedge defense that totaled 43 this season.
“The offensive line [guards Griffin Perez and David Christiansen, tackles Ryan Leniec and Liam Higgins and center Vin Bonfanti] gave me enough time to make my reads,” Tripptree said. “They were the stars. I really didn’t get hit.”
“I’m proud of our line. The pass protection was great,” Sayville line coach Jim Knote said. “Plainedge is so good. But our guys are five seniors that didn’t miss a game and play at a high level.”
Plainedge found the end zone midway through the second quarter. On fourth-and-11, Caden Morra threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Vinny Cavaliere to make it 27-7.
The Sayville defense did not allow Plainedge to reach the red zone in the second half.
Senior defensive back Anthony Morrione led the Golden Flashes with eight tackles and caught six passes for 59 yards.
“We put in the work with Jake in the early mornings all summer,” Morrione said. “We have so much confidence in him. When we found out he was playing, we were so fired up. We came in hot.”
Sayville sophomore halfback Messina helped balance the offense with 97 yards on 22 carries, including a 35-yard scoring run for the final margin. Messina also was impactful on the defensive side with an interception, a fumble recovery and three tackles for a loss.
“We won with speed,” Sands said. “Our linebackers are fast and were aggressive to the holes to stop a terrific offense before it got going.”