An explosive offense helped the Huntington High School football team captured its first victory of the season on Saturday as the Blue Devils toppled Smithtown West, 42-20. The star of the game was sophomore Eli Mollineaux, who scored a touchdown on a 50 yard “run” during an exhibition play near the start of the third quarter.
Huntington utilized a series of sensational passing and running plays and exceptional kick returns to overwhelm the visiting Bulls, who despite trailing for most the game refused to surrender and played hard to the final snap.
The game played out before a near capacity crowd of about 1,500 fans, who jammed into Blue Devil Stadium on a splendid afternoon. Huntington scored early and kept scoring during all four quarters.
Following halftime performances by the Blue Devil marching band and the Huntington Highsteppers competitive dance team, Mr. Mollineaux emerged from the south end zone, surrounded by family and friends. The sophomore has been very public with his fight against mitochondrial disease, a rare disorder that severely comprises the ability of cells to grow. The teenager’s response to the challenges he faces daily has been an inspiration to the entire school community.
Former New York Jets great Marty Lyons was on hand to present Mr. Mollineaux with an autographed NFL football and game jersey and to announce the sophomore and his family will be guests at an NFL game this fall.
Kevin Thorbourne and Kevin Zaharios, founders of the Young Leaders youth development organization presented the sophomore with an award for being one of the most inspirational members of the community.
Huntington Class of 1987 alum and former Blue Devil football player Michael Brown, a partner/owner of the 22 dealership strong NY Auto Giant-Atlantic Auto Group, came down to the field and presented Mr. Mollineaux and his family with a car van to make life a little bit easier. The vehicle was brought out near the field as the crowd roared its approval of the generous gesture.
Smithtown West emerged from its locker room at halftime wearing white jerseys with the name “Eli” emblazoned on the back. The Bulls lined up on the field across from the Blue Devils and stood in silent tribute during the ceremony before a contingent of Smithtown West players and coaches approached Mr. Mollineaux and presented him with one of the team’s white jerseys, offering kind words to the special young man. The touching gesture drew an ovation from the crowd.
Eli Mollineaux scored a 50 yard touchdown
on an exhibition play. (Mike Connell photo.)
The real highlight of the day came when Huntington’s offensive unit lined up across from the Smithtown West defense at the 50 yard line. With referees in place, Mr. Mollineaux took a handoff and took off in his wheelchair, making a beeline for the goal line. When he crossed over into the end zone both teams mobbed him, congratulating the teenager and wishing him well.
“Today was yet another day where I and am sure many others felt so proud to be part of the Huntington school community,” Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “Under a bright blue sky, spectators enjoyed a terrific football game. More importantly, however, they contributed to a special day for a special young man. Tremendous thanks to Jarrett Stein, Ilene Messina, Georgia McCarthy, Brenden Cusack, the Blue Devil coaches and players, the Smithtown West coaches and players and so many others who helped make the day possible. As significantly, thank you to the Mollineaux family and to Eli for being the terrific people that they are!”
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Huntington scored first in the game when Blue Devil field general John Paci hit Taqwan Gooden-Hill with a 26 yard touchdown strike in the opening minutes. Jared Leake later sprinted 10 yards into the end zone in the second quarter to give the home team a 14-0 halftime lead.
The Blue Devils extended their advantage to 21-0 when Paci threaded a pass to Kei’Ron Byrams and the speedy senior dashed to daylight for a 52 yard touchdown. Smithtown West responded with a drive that ultimately resulted in the Bulls scoring for the first time to narrow their deficit to 21-7. Byrams took the ensuing kickoff and raced 90 yards for Huntington’s fourth touchdown of the day. Leake went on to score two fourth quarter touchdowns on runs covering one-yard and 14 yards to put the game out of reach for the Bulls.
Quarterback John Paci hands-off
to Sam Bergman. (Mike Connell photo.)
Placekicker Jose Veliz successfully converted four extra point attempts during the game. Byrams notched a two point conversation on a run following the Blue Devils’ second touchdown.
Huntington’s ground game saw Byrams run for 141 yards on 16 carries. Leake rushed seven times for 80 yards. Gooden-Hill had a pair of receptions for 39 yards. Paci threw for 101 yards.
Anthony McDonald led Huntington’s defense with 10 tackles. Despite the victory, Blue Devil coaches weren’t happy with the number of penalties called against the team, several of which proved to be especially costly.
“We definitely have plenty to work on,” head coach Steve Muller said. “But, it’s also nice to win a game after two tough losses. Our offense executed well and overall we got a great effort out of our players.”
Huntington has a bye next week. The Blue Devils will take the field again on Saturday, October 1 for a Homecoming Day game against Centereach. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
Blue Devil Notes: Plans to honor Mr. Mollineaux were developed by Woodhull School Assistant Principal Jarrett Stein, Huntington High School Principal Brenden Cusack, Huntington Director of Athletics Georgia D. McCarthy, Smithtown Director of Athletics Patrick Smith, Huntington High School teacher aide Ilene Messina and coaches and players from both teams . . . Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey Edwards, a Huntington High School alum, attended the game and ceremony . . . Senior Christiana Reinertsen sang the Star Spangled Banner . . . the Blue Devil pep band performed throughout the game from the center bleacher section . . . Many Huntington School Board members could be found in the crowd . . . The Huntington Booster Club offered a revamped menu in the fieldhouse for hungry fans . . . Banners celebrating Mr. Mollineaux and his trademark “bELIeve” logo were affixed to the Blue Devil Stadium bleacher facade.