The Huntington varsity football team overcame a slow start and went on to topple Deer Park at Blue Devil Stadium last Thursday afternoon, 28-7.
Although the Falcons controlled the ball for most of the first quarter it was Huntington that scored first when quarterback John P. Paci IV fired a 17 yard scoring strike to Alex LaBella. Deer Park responded and went ahead in the second frame to take a 7-6 lead into halftime.
When play resumed for the second half, the Blue Devils reeled off 22 unanswered points to capture a convincing and much needed victory. “It was great to see us make all the plays we needed to make on both offense and defense,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said.
While Huntington dropped some passes and missed a few interception opportunities, the Blue Devils played what can arguably be considered their best game of the season. The team’s defense came up big in several important situations and the offense proved effective at moving the ball, even after star running back Sebastian Abreu was forced to the sidelines for most of the second half.
Paci completed 12-of-19 passes for 120 yards in the game. LaBella recorded five receptions and Luke Eidle caught seven passes and electrified the crowd by breaking free into open field several times.
After gobbling up yardage early in the game, Abreu twisted an ankle and stepped aside for backfield teammate Sam Bergman, who put on a dazzling display in his best game of the season. The teenager rushed 18 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns.
Shamek Parler anchored the defense, recording eight tackles. “Our defense stepped up and looked good overall,” Muller said. “There’s always room for improvement, but I liked the effort we showed. Our kids played hard.”
Huntington is striving for consistency. Both of the team’s losses came in home games that in retrospect were considered winnable, leaving both coaches and fans shaking their heads.
The Blue Devils stayed close with North Babylon throughout the first half of their game before being badly outplayed by the Bulldogs in the final frame and losing, 32-7.
Against state ranked West Islip, Huntington staked out a 10 point second half lead only to see the Lions rally for 13 late game points, including a field goal with less than a minute remaining to edge the Blue Devils, 20-17.
West Islip topped North Babylon last Thursday in a battle of the unbeatens to throw Suffolk Division II into disarray. Playoff spots are up for grabs and Huntington is smack in the middle of the mix. But the Blue Devils need to keep winning.
“The entire season is a learning process,” Muller said. “We have young players who are improving each week as they gain more experience. Each week we strive to be a better football team than the game before.”
Huntington will take to the field again at Smithtown West on Saturday at 5 p.m. It will be the Bulls’ Homecoming Day game and the Blue Devils are expecting to play before a large crowd.
Smithtown West will enter the contest with a 2-2 mark. The Bulls have defeated Deer Park (39-0) and Copiague (39-6) and dropped games to West Islip (26-7 and North Babylon (54-6). (Huntington defeated Copiague in the third week of the season, 41-0.)
Blue Devil Notes: The Huntington Highsteppers dance team and the Blue Devil marching band both performed at halftime of the game . . . Placekicker Nat Amato missed the game because he’s also the goalie for the Blue Devils’ state ranked soccer team . . . Paci and Eric Sands both notched two-point “extra points” in the game when they each found the end zone on running plays . . . The loss dropped Deer Park to 1-3 . . . Huntington scored 16 points in the fourth quarter . . . The Blue Devils final regular season home game will be played on Homecoming Day, Saturday, October 21 against Riverhead.