The Year Of Two Seasons: Manhasset, football champs in the spring, rebuilding

Manhasset’s Aidan Haggerty completes a 19-yard scoring run in the second quarter against Bethpage as safety Luke Galgano defends. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

By a vote of coaches, those who know best, Manhasset was tabbed the best football team in Nassau County this past spring, copping the prestigious Rutgers Cup.

The fall and winter sports seasons were erased by the pandemic, and Section 8 (Nassau County) scrambled to move all of its interscholastic sports campaigns to the winter and spring of 2021.

Football players hit the practice field in March and went through an abbreviated seven-game season.

Jay Iaquinta coached the Indians to their first championship in 25 years. He has coached at various schools for more than 30 years.
(Photo by Frank Rizzo)

On May 1, Manhasset won its Nassau Conference III title tilt against two-time defending champ Plainedge, 28-19. The win capped a perfect 8-0 season and was the Indians’ first title since 1996. It outscored opponents by an average of 33-9 per game.

Three months later, when fourth-year coach Jay Iaquinta presided over his first practice, he had lost 29 of 35 players, including the heart of the offense in quarterback Rory Connor and halfback/wide receiver Aidan Mulholland and the defense anchored by linebackers Blaze Conlan and Aidan Cole.

“This is not those kids,” Iaquinta said of his squad after a 32-21 loss to host Bethpage in the Sept. 11 Division III opener. “We went from being a seasoned, experienced team to a young and inexperienced team. There’s only two returning starters and we have four sophomores starting. We’re not talking about championships.”

Quarterback Matt Gargiulo attempts a pass under pressure from Bethpage’s Anthony Falabella. Tyler Giacobbe (54) is one of the offensive linemen providing protection. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Junior quarterback Matt Cargiulo showed his running chops with touchdown runs of 29 and 1 yards. Aidan Haggerty added a 19-yard score. Will Cargiulo converted a two-point run and kicked an extra point to complete the scoring for the Indians, who were down 19-13 at the half.

Bethpage converted on four fourth-down situations and came up with key plays as it pulled away in the second half before a late Manhasset score made it respectable.

Manhasset’s stat sheet showed the leading tacklers as James Brady (16), Aidan Haggerty (15), Matt Cargiulo (14), Chase Woodson (9) and Jack Mullholland and Tyler Roszko (8).
“We did a lot of good things today, but we made some mistakes, and that came back to bite us,” Iaquinta said.

Asked to sum up his expectations, Iaquinta answered, “Our goal is to show up every day and practice hard, keep the faith and get better. That’s it.”


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