Not only can East Islip play with the big dogs, it can beat the Bulldogs.
East Islip, the preseason No. 9 seed in Suffolk II, remained perfect with a 38-13 win over the visiting North Babylon Bulldogs Saturday behind three rushing touchdowns from running back Andre Deegan. The senior scored on runs of 45, 54 and 69 yards and finished with 182 yards on only seven carries.
"It was all my O-line," Deegan said. "They created huge holes. It's the greatest feeling when you look up and nobody's in front of you. You don't have too much to worry about."
The Redmen (4-0) and West Islip are the only remaining undefeated teams in the division. But the longtime rivals don't play this season because of the Redmen's low seeding.
"What [the seeding] said to me was that the other coaches in this league have a lack of respect for my program and my kids," East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. "The kids have risen to the challenge."
Added Casey Stengel, one of the Redmen's two returning starters from last season: "When I saw the ninth seed in the paper, I knew we were better than that. We can compete with any team."
After cruising to wins over teams that combined to win one game the first three weeks, North Babylon (2-2), the preseason No. 6 seed, provided the stiffest test to date for the defending county finalists.
In fact, the Bulldogs got on the board first, as Eric Marzocca made a spectacular leaping catch over a defender on a 28-yard pass from Kevin Conner. With the extra point, East Islip had allowed more points in the first 10 minutes than the six it allowed total in its first three games.
But the Redmen answered on the ensuing possession. Erik Adon returned the kickoff 42 yards to the North Babylon 40-yard line, and three plays later, Casey Nolan hit a wide open Mike Lee for a 41-yard touchdown. Then, after Deegan scored from 45 yards on a counter play, Matt Walter took a perfectly executed middle screen from Nolan for a 37-yard score to make it 21-7 with 1:26 left in the first half.
Nolan finished 5 of 12 for 103 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also ran for 71 yards on 16 carries and had an interception and tackle for a loss from his free safety spot. Walter's touchdown was his team-leading eighth of the season, but his first one receiving. He also made all five of his extra-point tries and kicked a 29-yard field goal to give East Islip a 31-7 lead at the 2:32 mark of the third quarter.
North Babylon ran 18 plays in the second half, but gained only 41 yards, 21 of which came on Conner's 21-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-18 that made it 31-13.
"We clogged up every single hole," Stengel, a defensive end, said. "We were playing for respect today."
Through four games, East Islip has scored the most points in the league (168) and allowed the fewest (19), but things ratchet up another level next week when East Islip plays host to Riverhead, the preseason top seed, which is 3-1.