The votes were tallied. Not once, but twice.
That’s how tight the difference was between undefeated 12-0 Long Island champions Freeport and Plainedge in the running for the Rutgers Cup.
In the closest vote in the trophy’s 83-year history, Plainedge nipped Freeport to win its first-ever Rutgers Cup at the Nassau County Football Coaches Association banquet on Dec. 11 at Crest Hollow Country Club.
Plainedge received 26 first-place votes among the 49 that were cast and finished with 122 points. Freeport received the other 23 first-place votes and finished with 121 points. Four-time Nassau Conference II champion Garden City (43) was a distant third, while Conference IV champ Seaford tallied eight points.
Plainedge and Freeport had plenty in common this season and not just their Red Devils nicknames. Both were nothing short of dominant in ripping through their respective rivals to captured the Conference III and I titles, respectively. Plainedge outscored opponents by a 539-119 margin, capped by its first-ever LIC victory, 56-20 over Sayville. Freeport, last year’s Rutgers Cup recipient, repeated as L.I. champs with a 42-14 win over William Floyd and outscored the competition by a 499-100 margin.
Freeport’s Jinks named top LB
Senior Makhai Jinks played an instrumental role on both sides of the ball to help Freeport win a second straight L.I. title, capped by his five-touchdown performance against Floyd.
Last week, he joined a long list of standout linebackers to come through the program as the Piner Award winner, given to the top player at the position in Nassau. MacArthur’s Hugh Kelleher and Garden City’s Christian Sullivan were the other finalists.
Jinks’ former teammate, Gerald Smikle, won the Piner in 2018. Other Freeport winners include Clifton Smith in 1997 and ’98, Eddie Gordon in 2000, Jerry Mackey in 2001 and Stanley Gutierrez in 2003.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Jinks had 48 tackles, including six for loss, a pair of interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery. “He has a very high football IQ,” Freeport head coach Russ Cellan said.
Top of the line for MacArthur’s Tierney
A three-year starter on both lines, Sean Tierney helped spearhead a dominating defense (L.I. best-6.8 ppg allowed) ground attack that led MacArthur to an undefeated regular season and the Conference II title game. A finalist for last year’s Martone Award, given to the county’s top lineman, Tierney earned top honors this time. Neil Levantini of Farmingdale and Freeport’s Myles Norris were the other finalists.
“Sean is very athletic for his size and an unselfish player,” MacArthur head coach Bob Fehrenbach said of Tierney, who cleared holes for Kelleher and backfield mate Ryan Isom.
Oceanside’s Platia grabs WR honors
Senior Nicky Platia of Oceanside won the Pat Pizzarelli/New York Jets Receiver Award. The 6-foot senior wideout led Nassau in receptions (66), yards (983) and touchdowns (13). Floral Park’s Taliek Nelson, Massapequa’s Alex Rende and Cold Spring Harbor’s Casey Reynolds were finalists for the honor. Platia made it back-to-back Oceanside winners of the award, following Jake Lazzaro.
Thorp goes to Plainedge’s Villari
Nassau’s most outstanding player award, the Thorp, went to Plainedge senior quarterback Dan Villari. He piled up 1,495 rushing yards and scored 25 touchdowns and completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,315 yards and 13 touchdowns. In the LIC win over Sayville, he proved unstoppable with 306 yards rushing and six total touchdowns. Freeport’s Jinks, MacArthur’s Kelleher and Farmingdale’s Kevin Wilson were the other finalists. Villari is the second Plainedge player to win the Thorp, joining Davien Kuinlan (2015.)
Mepham’s Hegi top scholar athlete
Senior linebacker/running back Matt Hegi of Mepham was selected as the Jay Fiedler/Top Scholar Athlete award winner after helping lead the Pirates to the Conference II semifinals and piling up big stats in the classroom. Hegi earned All-County honors for a second straight year, leading Mepham in tackles for a third straight season and scoring seven touchdowns. He also thrives in the classroom with a GPA over 98 and a 1480 SAT score. He’ll graduate in June having completed a dozen advanced placement classes.