East Islip and Kings Park traded touchdowns throughout a wildly entertaining first half.
EI scored quickly using the big play. And Kings Park managed the clock well to score on two long methodical drives. That back and forth, punch, counterpunch action all stopped with 2:32 left in the half.
Halfback Leo Lopez caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Derek Burrell to give East Islip a seven-point lead. And then came the onside kick that would change the complexion of this one.
Kicker Kevin Smith dribbled a perfect onsider and recovered his own kick at the Kings Park 33-yard line.
Three plays later, Burrell scored on an 8-yard run and East Islip reeled off 35 straight points in a 55-21 win over Kings Park Friday night in a Suffolk Division III semifinal playoff in Islip Terrace.
The win sends No. 2 East Islip (9-1) to meet top-seeded Sayville (10-0) for the divisional title at Stony Brook University on Thursday at 7 p.m.
"Kings Park never recovered from the onside kick, it was definitely a game changer" said East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi. "We were having trouble stopping them and it seemed like the right time to try it. The 15-yard penalty on the extra point try presented that opportunity. We practice the onside kick all the time. It was a great kick."
Burrell’s touchdown run made it 28-14 at the half.
East Islip extended the lead with the three quick-strike, third-quarter touchdowns, scoring on the first play of three consecutive possessions. Burrell found wide receiver Gavin Herzog streaking across the middle of the Kings Park defense with a perfect throw for a 94-yard touchdown to make it 35-14. East Islip’s Mike Baldino recovered a fumble and on the very next play, Lopez ripped off an 87-yard scoring run for a 42-14 lead.
"The hole was there, then it was clogged, and I shed the first hit," Lopez said. "And then it was all open field and a foot race. And I’ve been working on my speed."
Lopez added a 55-yard scoring run with 2:30 left in the third quarter for a 49-14 lead. "We had all the momentum and had it going on offense," said Burrell, who had 244 all-purpose yards and two scores. "The line was opening huge holes and Leo was doing his thing."
Lopez finished with 179 yards and two scores on seven carries.
Early on, Kings Park quarterback Jonathan Borkowski engineered a 10-play, 73-yard drive capped by his 3-yard TD run to give Kings Park a 7-0 lead with 6:21 left in the first quarter.
That lead lasted 13 seconds as East Islip’s Ryan Bauco returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown and Smith’s extra point tied it at 7 with 6:08 left.
Burrell then guided East Islip 68 yards in six plays and scored from 6 yards out for a 14-7 lead with 11:54 left in the half.
Borkowski answered with a 15-play, 90-yard drive, scoring on a 9-yard run to tie it at 14. He finished with 116 yards on 15 carries and three scores and was 7-for-15 passing for 115 yards.
"Once we had that two-touchdown lead it was over," Burrell said. "We had all the momentum and that was it."