East Islip holds off South Side in LIC


Despite spotting East Islip 13 points within the first 4:22 of Friday’s Long Island Class III football championship game, South Side took a lead into the fourth quarter and was driving late after falling behind.

With senior quarterback Owen West and senior receiver Michael Melkonian starring, the Cyclones moved from their own 19 to the East Islip 24 before an intense final drive stalled as time expired, allowing the Redmen to hold on for a thrilling 19-14 victory before a crowd of 4,000 at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Junior quarterback Thomas Costarelli’s third touchdown pass of the game — a 22-yard dart to senior Matt McIntee with 5:49 remaining — won it for East Islip (10-2), which claimed its second-ever L.I. title while denying South Side (10-2) its first.

“They’ve been a dynamic duo all season,” East Islip head coach Sal J. Ciampi said of Costarelli and McIntee, who hooked up 7 times for 156 yards and a pair of scores. “[The winner] was an absolute laser of a pass.”

Costarelli, a southpaw, passed for 244 yards but also fell victim to a difficult South Side defense that forced him to fumble three times (one turnover) and throw an interception to his counterpart West. Sophomore Brendan Vetter had the fumble recovery for the Cyclones at their 12 early in the fourth quarter, but East Islip scored on its next possession after forcing a three-and-out.  

“We put ourselves in a 13-0 hole but the guys never put their heads down,” South Side head coach Phil Onesto said. “We fought hard all the way and gave ourselves a chance at the end. We just ran out of time.”

Melkonian, who recovered a West fumble for a touchdown in the third quarter, had a 16-yard grab on fourth-and-8 on the final drive to keep the season alive. Melkonian also had a first down on a hook-and-ladder toss from senior Pat Mullin that brought the ball inside enemy territory with just over a minute remaining.

Onesto used his final timeout with 18 seconds left with the ball at the Redmen 26. On third-and-7, West was flushed from the pocket and scrambled for two yards as time expired.

“The teams were mirror images of one another and we figured it could come down to the wire,” Onesto said. “It was a great game to be a part of.”

The Cyclones weathered an early storm some teams wouldn’t have recovered from. East Islip scored on the first offensive snap of the game when Costarelli hit senior Matt Ferraro in stride with a deep ball resulting in an 80-yard touchdown. On the ensuing kickoff, a grounder that struck an upback, Connor Junior recovered for the Redmen at the South Side 44. Costarelli then directed a seven-play scoring drive that culminated with a perfect fade pass to McIntee in the corner of the end zone to make it 13-0.

However, it didn’t take long for the Cyclones, coming off their first Nassau County title in 22 seasons, to respond. Junior tailback Justin Singh, who led the ground attack in the absence of injured senior Jack Lozito, had 28 of his 109 rushing yards on a burst up the middle for a touchdown with 2:31 left in the opening quarter to cut the margin to 13-7.

Melkonian blocked a 29-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the half to keep it that way. His 1-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and sophomore Lukas Papadopulos’ extra point provided South Side with its lone lead 3:14 into the second half.