Everything was different about Dakim Griffin for the fall football season of 2021. The former Half Hollow Hills West star as a freshman and then student-athlete at St. Anthony’s was now donning a Thunderbirds uniform in his senior year at Half Hollow Hills East.
The path to the other side of the Half Hollow Hills School District made an immediate impact on Suffolk’s Division II.
Griffin was more mature, physically strapped, and much faster. The senior halfback had changed the complexion of the division the first day he stepped onto the Thunderbirds practice field.
Griffin was a game changer.
And on opening day he served notice on the division. He rushed for 154 yards and three first-quarter touchdowns and Hills East went on to a 48-19 win over Centereach.
Griffin finished the season with 176 carries for 2,045 yards rushing and a Hills East school record 29 touchdowns.
For his achievements Griffin was named the winner of the Joe Cipp Award presented to Suffolk’s top running back at the Suffolk County Coaches Association banquet Monday night at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge. The finalists were Dylan Harris of Floyd and Leo Lopez of East Islip.
"His arrival was a difference maker in our division," said Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo. "Here was an exceptional halfback that could score on any given play."
Lindenhurst would allow two Griffin touchdowns, including a 63-yarder to open the second half, but the Bulldogs scored 17 unanswered points for a 17-13 come-from-behind win over Hills East in the second week of the season.
"He’s scary," Lombardo said. "We made some great open field tackles. But he’s a special player."
Rob Burnett Award
Deontae Sykes missed his junior year of football. For most players that would be a major setback when looking for college offers. Sykes, a two-way impact player for the Riverhead football program, needed a place to play. Riverhead had disbanded its team at the varsity level in 2020 and Sykes needed a home.
He made that home at William Floyd. And his arrival was welcomed by head coach Paul Longo.
"He is a high character kid, a role model for the rest of our team," Longo said. "And he’s a great football player."
The 6-1, 265-pound Sykes dominated the line of scrimmage and had 71 tackles, 22 tackles for a loss, including 14 sacks. He was named the Rob Burnett Award winner as Suffolk’s Defensive Player of the Year.
"He was just so explosive off the ball and unstoppable," Longo said. "He already has a few college offers on the table."
Other award winners
Elias Barrett of Half Hollow Hills East took home the Collotta Award for best linebacker. The finalists were Joe Bonilla of Central Islip and Benny Sands of Sayville.
Commack’s Christian Baldi earned the National Football Foundation Receiver Award. Whitman’s Brandon Ivy and Bayport-Blue Point’s Jameson Smith were finalists.
Sayville’s Mack Murtha copped the Cassese Award for the top defensive back. The finalists were Rasahn Thompson of Whitman and Shane Patterson of Half Hollow Hills East.
Sayville’s Charlie Sands earned the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Award for achievement in academics, care for community and football. And Dawson Atlas of Kings Park won the 12th Man Award for overcoming adversity to play football.