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Dakim Griffin's 99-yard touchdown run seals win for Half Hollow Hills East

Half Hollow Hills East's Dakim Griffin (2) reacts

Half Hollow Hills East's Dakim Griffin (2) reacts in the end zone to scoring a touchdown against Northport during the first half of the game at Half Hollow Hills East High School on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Dakim Griffin was more than just a running back for the Half Hollow Hills East football team on Saturday.

Sure, the 5-9, 180-pound senior carried the ball a lot -- utilizing some scoots, a few jukes, as well as some old-school power -- for a dazzling running display throughout the game. He scored a few times, too, but he also took a shot at play-caller late in the contest.

Say what? "I noticed we could hit a big run to the outside," he said.

Even with his team backed up inside its own 1-yard-line, the Thunderbirds coaching staff went to Griffin on a sweep right with less than two minutes left against Northport holding a tenuous seven-point lead.

The Thunderbirds overloaded the right side on the big play, and 6-5, 255-pound right tackle Louca Charalambous made a beautiful block to seal the edge. Griffin picked up a few more blocks from his wide receivers, broke an arm tackle, bounced to the outside, and sprinted down the Hills East sideline 99 yards to seal a 35-21 Suffolk Division II victory.

Griffin ended his afternoon with 35 carries for 314 yards and four touchdowns on runs of 1, 71, 34 and 99 yards.

Interestingly, Griffin’s final run almost didn’t happen. He was nearly tackled in the end zone for a safety on a first-and-10 play from the Thunderbirds’ 1. Northport called a timeout with 1:37 remaining, hoping for one more chance for the tie or win. It never came.

"He’s special -- you see it," said Charalambous of Griffin. "If you block perfectly for one play, and get him past the line of scrimmage, he does the rest. No one is tackling him from behind. I’ve still never seen it."

Half Hollow Hills East (5-2) was aggressive on defense throughout the game and forced six turnovers, including four INTs. Still, Northport (4-2) refused to go away quietly.

Tigers defensive back Jack Helrigel returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown to bring Northport within 25-14 on JJ Ahlstrand’s extra point with 5:57 left in the third quarter.

After a 33-yard field goal by the Thunderbirds’ Gianni D’Agnese early in the fourth quarter made it 28-14, Ahlstrand hauled in a 14-yard scoring catch from Owen Johansen. Ahlstrand kicked the PAT to cut the lead to 28-21 with 3:05 to play.

Northport recovered the ensuing onside kick, but three plays later Morgan Talifiero picked off a Tigers’ pass near the goal line. Griffin and the offense did the rest.

"Dakim wanted to run to the outside there," Hills East coach Alex Marcelin said. "If that’s what he wants, we’re going to give it to him."

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