The Bellport football team knows how to rally.
They know how to rally and come back and win football games. They’ve learned through crisis and adversity how to rally around one another and take care of their own.
"We’ve been hit with an unimaginable amount of grief and circumstances that are out of our control this season," Bellport coach Jamie Fabian said. "But we’ve stuck together like family and supported one another through the most difficult of times. And I believe it’s made us a closer football team. These guys all care about one another, and the coaches, and they battle through everything as one. It’s definitely translated to the field and made us so much more resilient."
That chemistry and the ‘all for one love’ has helped the Clippers move through what was arguably Long Island’s toughest division in high school football.
Bellport moved past Lindenhurst in the Suffolk Division II championship with a hard-hitting 13-0 victory late Saturday night at Stony Brook University's LaValle Stadium.
It was the sixth time that Bellport (10-1) had earned a shutout in the Suffolk title game and the program’s 12th Suffolk championship overall. The Clippers last title came in 2010.
They will meet undefeated and top-ranked Garden City (11-0) for the Long Island Class II title at noon on Saturday at LaValle Stadium. It is the fifth meeting in the LIC between these historic programs.
Incredibly, Bellport has never lost to Garden City, winning all four games. Garden City has been to the LIC more than any other school since the inception of the Long Island games in 1992. They have an overall record of 8-10.
"Whether it was an injury, an illness, or a death, we addressed everything head on," said Fabian, whose Dad Robert died suddenly in January at 73 years old. "My Dad was my go-to guy. I’d talk to him about everything. It’s very tough because he was such a big part of my life when playing sports or supportive of my coaching. He’d enjoy this playoff run for sure. It hasn’t been an easy season from a personal aspect for anyone."
Assistant coach Kyle Moodt had emergency brain surgery to alleviate migraine headaches less than two weeks ago. He returned in time for the Suffolk title game. The school’s director of athletics Bob McIntyre, a huge supporter of the football program, has been out battling oral cancer. And junior varsity football coach Rob Cuffie suffered through the death of three family members in the past year.
"We are unwavering in our belief that we can do just about anything," Fabian said. "This team has managed to bond together and find strength in each other to focus and win games. It’s been an incredible ride of pride, spirit and strength."
Bellport lost quarterback Jack Halpin in the first half of the season opener and lost 17-14 at Northport. Since that loss, Bellport has gone on a 10-game win streak, including a 30-28 comeback win over North Babylon on Halpin’s 1-yard run with 15 seconds left. And a 34-28 comeback win over Half Hollow Hills East in the final minute of a Suffolk semifinal. In that encounter, they were forced from the field by tornado warnings and inclement weather and came back the following morning to play the final 4:55.
They trailed 28-26 and Hills East had possession of the football at midfield. The resilient Clippers never wavered.
In some way playing Garden City, who many consider to be the best team on Long Island, is just another hurdle, another major challenge for this Bellport squad.
"It’s been an extremely emotional season here in Bellport," Halpin said. "The goal is to go out and put our best foot forward every time we take the field. Our division is the toughest on Long Island. It’s a grind just to get through the division."
While Halpin directs the offense, the defense is led by outside linebacker Calvin Pedatella and inside linebacker Marc Promutico.
"Our defense needs to play well against Garden City," Pedatella said. "Defensive end Jason Hunt has emerged as an impact player, and we have seven or eight guys rally to the ball every play. That’s Bellport football."
They rally around each other for everything.