Sam Ilario knows all about the East Islip-West Islip football rivalry. "You grow up in this town and that's what everyone talks about," said West Islip's senior quarterback. "And you want to be a part of its history."
Ilario had never played in an East Islip-West Islip game. The teams hadn't met in the past three years and Saturday was his first opportunity to put his stamp on the crosstown rivalry.
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Ilario ran for three touchdowns, including a 45-yard fourth-quarter dash, to seal host West Islip's 28-14 come-from-behind win before a packed house of more than 2,500 fans. The win moved the Lions to 4-1 and handed top-seeded East Islip (3-2) its second straight loss.
The teams also played for the right to keep the Islip Cup in their school showcase. East Islip, which won the previous three meetings, held the Cup for five years. Steve Restivo, the East Islip director of athletics, walked the Islip Cup over to West Islip athletic director Tim Horan, who presented it to his team.
"It's my first game against EI and to get the 'W' is a big deal," said Ilario, who finished with 183 yards on 26 carries. "Bringing the Cup back here is also very important to a lot of people who played here before me."
Ilario also pointed out the significance of the win and how it would factor into the postseason.
"This is a very tough division," he said. "Nothing is easy. East Islip is big and very tough and plays a disciplined game. Our guys played like family and stuck together, even when we were down."
East Islip got off to a good start when junior halfback Sean Karika followed a big block around the right end and went 43 yards for the opening score. Jack Piacenti added the kick to make it 7-0 with 6:36 left.
West Islip responded on its next possession. The Lions went 79 yards in 12 plays, capped by Ilario's 20-yard touchdown run up the middle. Bryan Woodburn added the kick to tie it at 7 with 11:26 left in the half. The drive lasted 7:10 as Ilario scored on the first play of the second quarter.
"He's a leader in every sense of the word," said West Islip coach Steve Mileti. "Sometimes he tries to be Superman and do too much because he wants to win so badly."
East Islip countered with a 15-play, 74-yard march that consumed 8:36 of the second quarter and ended with Jack Hannigan's quarterback sneak for a 1-yard touchdown. Piacenti's kick made it 14-7 with 2:42 left in the half. Karika carried eight times for 37 yards on the drive and finished the half with 90 yards on 10 carries.
The West Islip defense, led by inside linebacker Matt McKeon and end Kyle Ziegler, shut out the Redmen in the second half.
Speedy wide receiver Mike Moynihan, returning for his first game since suffering a high ankle sprain, took an inside handoff and broke a 40-yard run around right end to key a seven-play, 77-yard scoring drive in the waning moments of the third quarter. Ilario went off right tackle to punch it in with seven seconds left for the score. Bryan Woodburn's kick tied it at 14.
"It was a motion handoff and I followed a crushing block from the pulling guard Matt Pellati," Moynihan said. "And then it was just hit the hole and go."
West Islip end Anthony D'Elio recovered a fumble at the Lions' 38 to set up a nine-play, 62-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter. McKeon scored on a 13-yard run with 6:19 left for a 21-14 lead.
"This is one I'll never forget." Ilario said.