Two weeks ago, when Plainedge shut out Hewlett to clinch the four seed, Ralph Caccavale had one name to say: Andrew Jones. The gregarious running back added a few more thoughts, but that, too, boiled down to one word: Defense. This team, he said, was ready for even the stiffest opponents.
Caccavale, who amassed 104 rushing yards and added a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, can add soothsayer to his list of credentials, as the Red Devils unseated No. 1 Bethpage, 28-14, in the Nassau III semifinal at Hofstra Saturday.
"Nobody knew we could win this game except us," Caccavale said.
The two X-Factors were, as predicted, defense and . . . well, defense. Plainedge flourished behind Dan Spurgeon (10 tackles) and Jones (seven tackles and Plainedge's first TD of the game -- a one-yard run with 7:04 left in the second quarter), while Bethpage (9-1) was on its heels after the season-ending injury to linebacker Paul Bitetti, who had 13 tackles in the teams' previous meeting. Bitetti broke his arm, according to coach Erwin Dill.
"We played outstanding defense today," Plainedge coach Rob Shaver said. "We tackled their guys one-on-one, which in the past we had a tough time doing . . . We changed up our coverages. We gave them some different cover looks. If you stay in anything for too long, they're going to figure it out."
Plainedge (7-3) moves on to play No. 2 Lawrence, Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Hofstra.
Trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Bethpage's Justin Rohr took control, faking the handoff to Joe Schultheis and bursting through a hole off right guard for a 54-yard gain to the one-yard line. He scored on the next play but the tie was short-lived as Caccavale returned his second kickoff return of the year for a 93-yard score -- a winding run where he burst up the right sideline, cut left at the 30 and broke a tackle at the 10.
"I don't get kickoffs much, so when I got my chance to do it, I hit one seam, and when I hit it, I was just gone," he said. "Off to the races."
In the fourth quarter, Tyler Manez recovered a fumble at the 10 and streaked home for the 90-yard TD. Gianfranco Soriente added a two-yard run with 1:28 left to give the Red Devils the 28-7 lead.
Prior to Saturday, the Plainedge starting defense had allowed three points in four games - thanks partially, Shaver said, to Jones' move from defensive end to middle linebacker.
"He played unbelievably," Shaver said.
Caccavale echoed the sentiment, and, true to his new role, offered up a second prediction on next week's game: "Defense," he said. "[Lawrence] puts up a number of points, so if we're able to stop them, we'll be able to score on them."