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VSC stops Carey in playoff opener

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Gas up the bus and set the GPS for Hofstra.

For the first time since 1993, Valley Stream Central will play a football game on the big stage in the Nassau semifinals. The fourth-seeded Eagles pulled away from No. 5 Carey in a Conference II first-round matchup last Saturday, 42-14, before a packed house at Memorial Junior High.

Senior Robert Nunez threw for 114 yards while completing all five of his passes, including two for touchdowns, and ran for 76 yards and two scores as Central (7-2) emerged victorious in the first home playoff game in program history. Seniors Nathaniel Grimsley and Lionel Phillips added touchdown runs, and juniors Chris Lewis and Wakeem Jackson had interceptions in the Eagles’ first playoff win since they captured a county championship in 1989.

“We had an excellent game plan and it’s an amazing feeling,” Nunez said. “Everyone did their jobs. The O-line was great and probably the biggest reason we won this game. It’s a blessing I’m able to be a part of this my senior year.”

Senior Frank Scarantino and junior Anthony DeNicola had touchdowns for the Seahawks (4-5), who saw an impressive streak of 12 consecutive semifinal appearances come to an end.

“Carey has a tremendous program and I’m just so proud of our guys,” Central head coach Mike Rubino said. “Honestly it really goes back to all the work these kids put in during the offseason. They practiced hard again this week and didn’t come in here nervous or intimidated.”

The Eagles made a statement on the game-opening drive, with Nunez hooking up twice with senior J.J. Beaubrun for a total of 54 yards including a 26-yard touchdown. Senior kicker Kyle Harper, who was a perfect 7-for-7 on the day, booted the extra point for an early 7-0 lead.

Carey answered on the first snap of the second quarter when DeNicola found the end zone on an 8-yard run. Nick Bell’s extra point made it 7-7, but it would be the last time the game was tied.

Grimsley, with the offensive line of Jayden Lubin, Romario Jackson, Reese Kaufman, Nick Jones and Hamza Choudhry, scored  out of the wildcat formation — from 22 yards — to make it 21-7 after Nunez gave the hosts the lead with a 1-yard score. The Seahawks responded with Scarantino’s 18-yard touchdown grab from senior quarterback Jason Kessler to get within 21-14 with 2:37 remaining in the half.

The visitors got the ball back with about a minute to go inside their own 10 and would commit a costly turnover. Lewis picked off a pass at Central’s 39 and the offense needed only four plays to turn it into a momentum-swinging touchdown. Senior Jaicob Tejada hauled in an 11-yard scoring strike on the final play of the half and the Eagles stormed into the locker room up 28-14. “That was huge,” Rubino said.

Central advanced to face top-seeded MacArthur in the semifinals at Hofstra this Saturday at 1 p.m.