VSS slips below .500 mark


After driving 65 yards for a touchdown to get within eight points of No. 2-seed Locust Valley early in the third quarter of last Saturday’s Nassau Conference IV football matchup, Valley Stream South wasn’t able to keep momentum on its side for long.

That’s because Will Whitehead returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards for a touchdown to give Locust Valley its breathing room back on the way to a 28-14 victory. Ramell Phillips rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns as Locust Valley improved to 4-1. South, which got a pair of touchdown passes from senior quarterback Matt Doncell, dropped its third straight after opening the season with back-to-back wins.

“We’ve got a very competitive group of kids and they’re not happy with the loss,” VSS head coach Joe Guastafeste said. “They know their season is riding on the last three games. 

“You’d never know by looking at the score how tough we played,” he added. “The turning point was the kickoff return. I would’ve loved to see how the game might have turned out if we didn’t let up that score.”

South trailed 7-0 at the half and fell behind 14-0 early in the third quarter when Phillips scored on a 35-yard run. Doncell (10-for-21, 137 yards) then directed an impressing touchdown drive with senior Nick Hernandez and junior Michael Hicks leading a two-headed ground attack. Senior Andrew Lazzara got South on the board when he hauled down a 4-yard touchdown pass from Doncell.

“Matt’s a first-year starter who brings a lot of intangibles to the quarterback position,” Guastafeste said. “He has mental toughness and he’s getting better and better each week breaking down the game.”

Lazzara made a spectacular catch for the score, with a defender draped all over him and the ball bouncing in and out and back into his hands.

South’s extra-point try failed and so did its special teams coverage when Whitehead caught the kickoff that followed. Locust Valley increased its lead to 28-7 on another Phillips touchdown, however South wasn’t done. With a little more than six minutes left, the Falcons (both teams share the nickname) reached the end zone on Doncell’s 15-yard pass to senior Jared Ortiz. Junior Jason Vincent added the 2-point conversion run for the final margin.

South will try to get its offense back on track this Saturday in a pivotal game at home against Malverne at 2 p.m. It hasn’t cracked 14 points since putting up 30 and 25 against Mineola and Island Trees, respectively, in its two victories.

‘Down 14-0 and 28-7, it would’ve been easy to hang our heads but the kids kept battling,” Guastafeste said.

Hicks rushed for 93 yards and Hernandez added 61. Senior Abe Cordero led the defense with eight tackles. Hernandez had huge performances against Mineola and Island Trees with five total touchdowns and 301 yards rushing. Hicks had 185 yards and a score in the Island Trees win.

“Our skill position guys are strong,” Guastafeste said.