In their first matchup since a whirlwind county semifinal last November, Bellport anticipated that Half Hollow Hills East might treat Saturday’s meeting as much more than a regular-season football game.
So Bellport matched that intensity from the outset and never looked back.
The defending county champion forced a safety on the opening possession before quarterback Justin Miles ran for a touchdown and threw for another minutes later. Donte Phillips later tacked on the final touchdown in the closing minutes as the Clippers earned a Suffolk Division II road victory, 22-10.
Bellport (4-1) won a memorable semifinal meeting between the two sides last year, 34-28, on a go-ahead, last-minute touchdown run by Marc Promutico after the game was initially halted and resumed the following day due to tornado warnings in the area. The Clippers then proceeded to win their first county final since 2010.
“Everyone knew what they wanted from us today after the last meeting,” Miles said. “They knew it, we knew it, all our coaches knew it. We knew this was going to be a big game, so we had to face adversity. There were times that things didn’t go our way, but we turned it around and got a W.”
Miles capped off a dominant first quarter for Bellport with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Jason Hunt with 2:32 left to extend Bellport’s lead to 16-0.
Hunt recorded five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown, and echoed a similar sentiment as his quarterback.
“This was a big game because we knew how badly they wanted to beat us last year,” Hunt said. “We knew that coming into this game it would be a really good fight. So we stepped it up and came out with the win.”
Pressure up front from Bellport forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone – resulting in a safety – five minutes after the opening kickoff. The Clippers earned their first touchdown three plays later, as Miles bounced left and went 34 yards down the left sideline for the score.
Bellport coach Jamie Fabian said his team’s heavy production in the early going certainly paid dividends as the game progressed.
“It was very big,” Fabian said. “It kind of put us in position where we were able to get ahead and when we had some struggles later in the game, it was nice that we scored points early.”
Jovanny Brown’s 2-yard rushing touchdown for Hills East (2-3) with 1:47 remaining in the second cut Bellport’s lead to 16-7 entering halftime.
Leading 16-10 with about nine minutes remaining, Bellport turned to Miles and Phillips to earn the final score on the ground. Phillips, who had 53 carries on 23 attempts while playing through a minor injury, ended the 41-yard drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown with 4:29 left to stretch the lead to 22-10.
Bellport’s defense then forced a turnover on downs at the three-minute mark to essentially seal the victory.
“The guys on the defense are always doing their job,” Miles said. “They’re all great players…I’m feeling really good about this team. We still have room to improve and ways to step up. I’m extremely proud of all of them.”