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Third straight playoff shutout gives Wantagh Nassau III championship

Wantagh teammates celebrate after a 29-yard rushing touchdown

Wantagh teammates celebrate after a 29-yard rushing touchdown by Gavin Casey #32 in the first quarter of the Nassau Conference III final against Roosevelt at Hofstra University on Friday, Nov. 18, 2016. Wantagh went to halftime leading 7-0. Credit: James Escher

Playing against Wantagh in this season’s playoffs is a pointless exercise.

No, really, it’s pointless.

The Warriors’ stellar defense was impenetrable for a third straight game as they defeated Roosevelt, 13-0, on Friday night at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium in the Nassau III championship game.

“We all know how to play our position. We all have the same mindset,” said linebacker Gavin Casey, who made eight tackles.

Wantagh (11-0) won its first county football crown since 2004 and will face East Islip for the Long Island Class III championship Friday at 4 p.m. at Hofstra. Wantagh won its previous 2016 playoff games by 48-0 and 28-0 scores.

“Our defense is not only good, but they have to carry us because our offense isn’t as explosive as it’s been in past years,” Wantagh coach Keith Sachs said.

But the Warriors had more than enough offense to win after the first drive of the game as they marched 67 yards in seven plays after the opening kickoff. Casey (121 yards, 12 carries) capped it with a 29-yard burst up the middle for a touchdown.

Roosevelt played exceptional defense for the rest of the first half, but after the Rough Riders were forced to punt on the first drive of the third quarter, Wantagh again went on the march. Without throwing a single pass, the Warriors moved 85 yards in 14 plays that covered 7:36. Tommy Rohan (113 yards, 19 carries) zipped 20 yards for the score.

“We probably did wear them down a little in the second half,” Casey said.

Wantagh also had a time-consuming drive into the red zone lat in the fourth quarter that didn’t result in points but did, in the words of cheering teammates, “seal the deal, O[ffense]!”

“At some point, we decided to count on our defense and just try to move the ball,” Sachs said of putting its passing game into storage for the night. “In the second half, we just tried to knock them off the ball instead of looking for the perfect hole like we did in the first half.”

The Wantagh defense knocked Roosevelt off stride all night, limiting explosive Corey Bull to 61 yards on 13 carries and the Rough Riders to 147 yards of total offense. Defensive tackle Joe Valenti made 7 1⁄2 tackles (two sacks), linebacker Sean Colbert had 6 1⁄2 tackles and defensive tackle Jack LaVache had five tackles.

“All of us just do our jobs on every single play,” safety Jimmy Joyce said. “We fill the gaps and create a wall that no one can get through. We team tackle.”

Yes, unassisted tackles are rare for Wantagh. They swarmed the Rough Riders all night, surrendering only eight first downs. “We knew we couldn’t take even one play off against their speed,” Sachs said. “If we did, they’d score a touchdown.”

There were no chants of “L-I-C” afterward for Wantagh, which won its only Long Island championship in 2001. That’s because, according to Sachs, “winning the county title is a big deal. It’s been 12 years. Alumni reached out to us to wish us luck and a lot of them were here. It’s really great to break through.”

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