Three weeks after suffering its lone regular-season loss to Plainedge, South Side flipped the script when it mattered most.
Senior quarterback Owen West tossed three touchdown passes to help spark the second-seeded Cyclones to a commanding 35-0 victory against two-time defending champion Plainedge in the Nassau Conference III football semifinals at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium Friday night.
The lopsided win was far different from a 21-16 loss suffered to the same Red Devils team on Oct. 20 in which an 85-yard interception return touchdown proved the difference.
“Compared to the last time we played Plainedge we really focused on our blitz pickup and our offensive line did a really nice job,” said 13th-year South Side head coach Phil Onesto
“In that first game the offense kind of sputtered a little bit and we made mistakes that we didn’t make in the first six weeks of the season.”
It was the South Side defense that spurred the first score of the game when lineman Michael Muscarella recovered a fumble in the end zone with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, sophomore wide receiver Jack Boyens hauled in a 49-yard touchdown pass from West for a 14-0 lead. West then connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Michael Melkonian for a 21-0 lead late in the second quarter followed by a 35-yard scoring pass to Michael Aiello midway through the third quarter to make it 28-0.
“In the first touchdown pass to Jack Boyens he timed it up great and stared down the barrel of a gun and took a big hit and delivered a perfect pass,” said Onesto of West, who threw for 172 yards on 7 of 11 passing. “It’s one of the best passes I have ever seen him throw.”
Junior running back Justin Singh capped off the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Senior running back Jack Lozito finished with 80 yards rushing on 16 carries. Melkonian led the way in the passing attack with four catches for 82 receiving yards.
The defense also stepped up, limiting Plainedge to 193 yards of total offense. Aiello recorded 11 tackles and one sack at linebacker. Lozito finished with six tackles and James Beatty registered four.
“We have a great coach in Coach [Keith] Lessuk who gets us ready every week,” Aiello said of the Cyclones’ defensive coordinator. “We have people everywhere who can make plays at will.”
South Side will vie for its first county title since 2001 when it battles fourth-seeded Floral Park on Friday at 7:30 p.m. back at Hofstra. The Cyclones edged Floral Park 15-12 in the teams’ regular-season meeting on Oct. 28.
“We feel we are one of the best teams in Nassau County and Long Island,” said Onesto, who was a wide receiver on the last South Side team to capture a county championship. “If we play our game and don’t make mistakes there is no reason why we shouldn't be raising the trophy Friday night.”