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Whitman vs. Massapequa: Two powerhouses vie for Long Island title

Whitman's Nicholas Bottoni throws a pass in the

Whitman's Nicholas Bottoni throws a pass in the first quarter during the Suffolk Division I football game against Longwood on Sept. 10, 2021 at Longwood High School. Credit: Bob Sorensen

The Massapequa football team hasn’t been to a Long Island Class I championship game since 1998.

The Whitman football team has never been to the Long Island Championships.

They’ll meet Friday at noon to decide the Long Island Class I title at Hofstra University in an intriguing matchup of two offensive powerhouses.

"They’re loaded on offense and we don’t have a real feel for their speed until we get on the field and see how we run with them," Massapequa coach Kevin Shippos said. "But we’re battle-tested against athletic teams like Oceanside, Syosset and Farmingdale."

The key matchup in this championship game can be found in the speed of the Whitman offense and the athleticism of the Massapequa defense.

Whitman quarterback Nicholas Bottoni has thrown for 2,116 yards and 26 touchdowns and run for five more scores. But facing a top-notch quarterback is nothing new for Massapequa, which has beaten Oceanside’s Charlie McKee, Nassau’s all-time leading passer, in three straight games, including the spring championship of 2021 and last week’s fall title game, 35-26.

Whitman poses a different kind of threat. It has a fantastic set of speedy wide receivers in Tyriek Mays-McKoy, Brandon Ivy, Rasahn Thompson and Chris Silverio. When the Wildcats go four-wide, they have been unstoppable. Throw halfback A.J. Evans and his hard running into the mix, and Whitman is a well-rounded offense.

"We know we have to pressure the quarterback," Shippos said. "And they have a good line also. It’s a heck of a challenge. But we’re up for it. We’ve been knocking on the LIC door, and we’ve had special teams, but just not enough to get back here. This is our time."

Only Ward Melville showed it could compete with the Wildcats and their overall team speed. The Patriots were able to do so with an athletic secondary.

Bottoni has been the difference for Whitman, leading a team averaging 39 points per game.

"He’s improved so much from when we had him as a sophomore," coach Robin Rosa said. "He’s making all the right reads and running the offense; he’s the maestro of the band. We have a lot of weapons and he has to spread it around, but everyone checks their egos."

Whitman (11-0) last won a Suffolk championship in 1984. The Wildcats are 15-1 in the last 16 games, winning the Suffolk Division I title game with a 42-7 thrashing of Floyd.

Massapequa (10-1) also has an outstanding quarterback in Ryan Heidrich. He’s passed for 2,050 yards and 21 touchdowns and rushed for 689 yards and 11 scores for Massapequa, which has averaged 36 points per game.

"I think we match up very well at quarterback and the skill positions," Shippos said. "The game is going to be won up front. We need to establish the run and get a push on the line. And our defense has to do a good job of tackling and limiting explosive plays."

Massapequa boasts an athletic secondary led by Jake Ciolino, Ryan Fountain and Luke Ciolino. Linebackers Mike D’Alessandro and Johnny Yahner stop the run.

"You don’t realize how a football team can generate this kind of excitement in a community," Rosa said. "At Whitman, it’s never been done, so I didn’t know how we were going to react. The support from ex-players, community and the student body has been overwhelming."

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