East Islip’s emotional leader Dylan Rigo called it a statement game.
The rugged linebacker couldn’t be more right.
When you rout the defending Long Island Class III champions, that speaks for itself.
Rigo and the East Islip defense shuttered the explosive Half Hollow Hills West offense in dominant fashion for a 38-7 victory before a crowd of more than 1,100 on the newly turfed Sal Ciampi Field at Boomer Esiason Stadium in Islip Terrace.
Rigo led a swarming defense that limited Hills West to two first downs in the first half as the Redmen built a 28-7 lead.
“There’s no doubt that we have the most physical defense in the division,” said Rigo, who had eight tackles. “We attacked the ball, followed our responsibilities and shut down an outstanding offense.”
Hills West (1-1) scored on its first drive and never reached the red zone thereafter. Senior Justin Brown, arguably one of Long Island’s top halfbacks, raced around left end untouched for the 33-yard opening score just 2:25 into the game to give the Colts a 7-0 lead.
East Islip played a punishing style, gang tackling and eliminating all the cutback runs that usually allow the Colts to score on long breakaway runs.
“We blew one assignment and then shut it down,” Rigo said. “They really did nothing from there.”
Hills West finished with 161 total yards and seven first downs.
East Islip (2-0) scored 38 unanswered points using a methodical bulldozing style of running between the tackles. And when the defense came up to stop halfbacks Rigo, Derek Burrell and Nick Baldino, first-year quarterback Brandon Miller carved up the secondary.
Miller, a senior who battled during training camp to become the starter, completed 10 of 13 passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He did not attempt a pass in the second half.
“My job is to settle things down in the huddle because we have an emotional group,” Miller said. “We keep everyone calm and focused on what needs to be done. And I’m feeling very comfortable with the line, which has been great.”
East Islip scored on four straight possessions between the first and second quarters. Baldino scored on a 5-yard run to even the score at 7 with 3:14 left in the first. Miller’s strike to Ryan Glennon for 25 yards set up the score.
The go-ahead score came early in the second quarter. Miller located Baldino cutting across the face of the secondary and zipped the pass slightly behind the receiver. Just as safety Eliot Porter made a play on the ball, Baldino reached his left hand out and plucked the ball from the air and fell into the end zone for the score. Tom Boyd’s kick made it 14-7 with 9:58 left in the half.
“He was scrambling, evading the pressure and we made eye contact,” Baldino said. “It was a tough throw and I had to make a play.”
East Islip took a two-score lead with a nine-play, 71-yard drive, capped by a Burrell 6-yard run. They padded the lead further when defensive back Rob Kreush intercepted a pass at the Colts’ 35 with 1:48 left in the half. Two plays later, Miller found Kreush for a 30-yard touchdown pass and the 28-7 halftime advantage.
“We had some distractions this week and I’m really proud of our guys because they were able to focus through it all,” East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. “They understood the importance and the significance of this game. We were playing our first game on our new field. Kyle Madden, our new offensive coordinator, was preparing to play his old championship team. And Hills West is a real good program, so that’s a lot on our plate. There was so much emotion everywhere.”
In the middle of the practice week, East Islip also celebrated a new arrival into the Redmen family when Ciampi and his wife of 14 years, Jessica, welcomed their fourth child, Sal J. Ciampi Jr..
“I have a lot to smile about,” Ciampi laughed. “My wife has been my rock and the calming influence in my life on and off the field. And she and Sal Jr. came home this morning and they’re doing well. It’s been a great week.”