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Fullback Kyle Haff, O-line pound out West Islip win

West Islip's Kyle Haff goes over the top

West Islip's Kyle Haff goes over the top for a touchdown in the second quarter during the Suffolk High School Division II football game between West Islip and Connetquot on Friday Oct 4, 2019. Credit: Bob Sorensen

Forget the spread offense for one night at least. Go old school on your opponent and bring it full house.

That’s what West Islip did to Connetquot Friday night in a Suffolk Division II football game.

The Lions went old school.

West Islip lined up and went north and south with a physical style that wore out the Connetquot front and gave the Lions a stirring 41-15 comeback win. A cohesive offensive line and punishing fullback Kyle Haff was more than the Thunderbirds could handle.

West Islip rushed for 327 yards and erased a 9-0 first-quarter deficit with ball control and stellar line play behind center Chris Magliaro, guards Ryan Jean and Will Reichel, tackles Donnie Ryan and Ed Talanian, and tight ends Matt Calhoun and Nolan Walters. Halfback Eric DeMaille led the way with 104 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

“We fell behind and had to rally back into the game and we didn’t panic,” Haff said. “We went full house backfield and just took it to them.”

It started poorly for West Islip (4-0) when a fumble on the first play from scrimmage was recovered by the T-birds’ James DeLucia at the Lions’ 10-yard line. Connetquot (2-2) failed to move the ball and settled for Cole Bunicci’s 27-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

The Thunderbirds extended the lead to 9-0 when Drew Guttieri capped a short drive with a 10-yard TD run to give the Thunderbirds a 9-0 lead with 32 seconds left in the quarter.

“We’re a resilient group and our line play is our team strength, so we just went back to basics,” West Islip coach Steve Mileti said. “And we knew we were playing a big-threat offense, so we settled it down.”

West Islip’s Dom Sagginario, who rushed 15 times for 101 yards, got the Lions deep in Connetquot territory when he broke a 56-yard run up the middle. Haff dove over the top for a 2-yard score and Bobby DiCapua added the extra-point kick to make it 9-7 with 7:15 left in the half.

An intentional grounding call on Guttieri on the ensuing series set up West Islip’s next TD. The penalty moved the ball back to Connetquot’s 6 where Bunicci’s ensuing punt was blocked by Ryan and recovered in the end zone by DiCapua for the go-ahead TD. DiCapua added the kick for a 14-9 lead.

“The ball bounced right to me,” DiCapua said. “It was another big play for our defense.”

DiCapua, who became West Islip’s all-time leading scorer for kickers Friday night, sandwiched field goals of 37 and 32 yards around a Connetquot scoring drive and West Islip took a 20-15 lead into the half.

The T-birds’ drive covered 65 yards -- six plays in  1 minute, 7 seconds -- capped by Guttieri’s perfectly thrown fade for a 15-yard TD pass to Bunicci in the back of the end zone. Tyler Cordes’ 33-yard reception down the middle set up the score. Guttieri was 14-for-23 passing for 131 yards.

“It was close at the half, but we came out and blew them off the ball,” Talanian said. “We just dominated up front.”

Haff, who scored two touchdowns and led a swarming defense with eight tackles, believes the Lions can push around any team.

“We got four strong quarters in us every game,” Haff said. “You better come ready to play a physical brand of ball. And you better bring it for four strong.”

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