East Islip QB Derek Burrell takes the keeper 32 yards...

East Islip QB Derek Burrell takes the keeper 32 yards against Kings Park, in the Conference III Semifinal playoffs, Friday, November 12, 2021 at East Islip. Credit: George A Faella

There was only one way that East Islip was going to have a shot to win a Suffolk Division III football title this fall.

And that was to put the ball in the hands of Derek Burrell as much as possible.

East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi made the decision to move Burrell into the quarterback position in late August and what followed was one of the most electric performances in East Islip football history.

When East Islip needed a big play — Burrell gave them one.

He accounted for 33 total touchdowns, 2,952 all-purpose yards, culminating in the school’s first Suffolk title since 2016, with a 35-28 win over Sayville at Stony Brook University.

Burrell was dynamite with the football. The explosive senior quarterback with cheetah-like speed and outstanding field vision was a dual threat to score on any play, whether it was a well-thrown pass or a dazzling run.

"You just don’t know what he’s going to do," Sayville coach Reade Sands said. "He’s a nightmare for a defensive coordinator. We’d have guys in the right spots to make a stop and he’d still make plays. He’s so difficult to tackle in the open field."

East Islip's Derek Burrell, Dakim Griffin of Half Hollow Hills East and Tyriek Mays-McKoy of Whitman are the 2021 nominees for Newsday's Hansen Award as the most outstanding football player in Suffolk County. Credit: Newsday

Burrell was equally important to the East Islip defense, contributing 45 tackles, and returning two of his four interceptions for touchdowns.

For his accomplishments, Burrell was named the 62nd recipient of Newsday’s prestigious Carl A. Hansen Award presented to Suffolk’s top football player Monday night at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association banquet held at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge.

Surprisingly, Burrell is the first player from the proud East Islip program to win the award. And when you consider East Islip alumni like NFL MVP Boomer Esiason, Denver Broncos first-round draft pick Ted Gregory and Central Florida quarterback Rob Calabrese, who now coaches the quarterbacks for the New York Jets — Burrell’s achievement is even more impressive.

The other Hansen finalists were senior halfback Dakim Griffin of Half Hollow Hills East and senior wide receiver Tyriek Mays-McKoy of Suffolk Division I champion Whitman.

"In my 21 years as the head coach at East Islip he is far and away the best player I have ever coached," East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. "We moved him to play quarterback and he picked up the position quickly. He made plays that left you in awe, just spectacular plays."

Burrell’s signature moment came in the waning seconds of the Suffolk Division I championship against Sayville, the defending champion. It was the Hansen moment.

With the score tied at 28, Burrell bolted around the left end with 19 seconds remaining and cut inside the defense for a 31-yard game-winning touchdown run.

It was vintage Burrell.

"We started the final drive with a holding penalty and Derek responded with a 20-yard run to jump-start a 78-yard championship march," Ciampi said. "I put the ball in his hands on every play against Sayville. That final drive was a glimpse into what kind of special player he was for our program."

Rather than settle for a field-goal attempt, Ciampi handed it to Burrell. He rushed for 20, 25 and 17 yards on the drive.

"I didn’t want to play it safe and go into overtime against Sayville, no way," Ciampi laughed. "We knew going into every game we had the best player on the field. And I wanted to let Derek make plays. He accounted for every yard on the drive and delivered a championship."

Burrell finished the Suffolk title game with 294 all-purpose yards. He completed seven of eight passes for 116 yards and added 178 yards rushing and three scores.

In a regular season win over Kings Park, he rushed for 261 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns in a 25-21 win.

Even in defeat he was a monster. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 277 yards and three scores and added another 141 yards rushing and a score in a wild 51-44 loss to Sayville.

"He would scramble away from pressure and get into the secondary and we’d marvel at the way he’d put his foot in the ground and change direction," Ciampi said. "As plays developed at the line of scrimmage, he’d improvise and see something where the defense caved and turned back and ran completely in the other direction for a long gain. He’s made some very good defensive players look foolish in the open field."

Newsday Hansen Award Winners

2021 — Derek Burrell, East Islip

2021 Spring — Jack Cheshire, Sayville

2019 — Jaden AlfanoStjohn, Westhampton

2018 — Liam McIntyre, Westhampton

2017 — Dylan Laube, Westhampton and Jeremy Ruckert, Lindenhurst

2016 — Jack Coan, Sayville

2015 — Elijah Riley, Newfield

2014 — Isaiah White, Longwood

2013 — Jordan Gowins, St. Anthony’s

2012 — Steven Casali, Sachem East

2011 - Stacey Bedell, Floyd and Dalton Crossan, Sachem North

2010 - Mike Pellegrino, Connetquot

2009 - JeVahn Cruz, Half Hollow Hills West and Malcolm, Cater Riverhead

2008 - Miguel Maysonet, Riverhead

2007 - Brock Jackolski, Floyd

2006 - Ed Gowins, Bellport

2005 - Chris Eanuze,l St. Anthony's

2004 - Jason Gwaltney, North Babylon

2003 - Jason Gwaltney, North Babylon

2002 - Trevon Rodney, Babylon

2001 - Josh Johnston, Harborfields

2000 - Eugene Nottingham, Amityville

1999 - Omar Palmer, North Babylon

1998 - Barry Baker, North Babylon

1997 - Derric Rossy, Patchogue-Medford

1996 - Marc Riley, Longwood

1995 - James O'Neal, Sachem

1994 - Joe Parmentier, Lindenhurst

1993 - Jason Schuster, Longwood

1992 - Jamie Lynch, Islip

1991 - David Sumner, Northport

1990 - Antonio O'Ferral, Bellport

1989 - John Paci, Huntington

1988 - Adam Mariano, Comsewogue

1987 - Darren, Ward Huntington

1986 - Tom Gilmartin, St. Anthony's

1985 - Mark Wojciechowski, Sachem

1984 - Randy Beverly, Central Islip

1983 - Craig Biggio, Kings Park

1982 - Tom Watson, Bellport

1981 - Joe Gagliardi, St. John the Baptist

1980 - Rodney Cooke, Bellport

1979 - Kevin Baugh, Deer Park

1978 - Kevin Riccio, West Islip

1977 - Brian Dehler, Sachem

1976 - Mike Tice, Central Islip

1975 - Chris Dieterich, Ward Melville

1974 - Tom Donovan, Holy Family

1973 - Rich Scudellari, Holy Family

1972 - Chad Smith, Sayville

1971 - Curtis Smith, Brentwood

1970 - Jamie Franklin, Brentwood

1969 - Dan Scott, Amityville

1968 - Tom Tarazevits, Southampton

1967 - Frank Ahrenhold, Northport

1966 - Kevin O'Connor, Commack

1965 - Gary Steele, Commack

1964 - Bob Lavinia, Smithtown

1963 - Hal Becker, Port Jefferson

1962 - Bob Schroeder, Lindenhurst

1961 - Jim Smith, Harborfields

1960 - Len Sears, West Babylon


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