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Half Hollow Hills West added tough 'D' to impressive offense

West Prucha #50 of Half Hollow Hills West,

West Prucha #50 of Half Hollow Hills West, right, and teammates celebrate after their win over Plainedge in the Class III Long Island Championship at Shuart Stadium in Hempstead on Nov. 24. Credit: James Escher

  Halfbacks Justin Brown and Dakim Griffin had the big-play capability. Quarterback Gerald Filardi had the strong arm. And the Half Hollow Hills West offense was as explosive as any on Long Island, averaging 30 points per game.

    But the adage that defense wins championships held true for the Colts. All those big offensive plays were pretty helpful, too. The Colts had 23 scoring runs of more than 40 yards this season.

    “We’re blessed with such incredible athletes here,” Half Hollow Hills West coach Kyle Madden said. “And our offense can be exciting and score a ton of points. But this year we focused more on the defense and stopping our opponents and figured the offense would continue to do well.”  

    Half Hollow Hills West used a ferocious defense to beat Plainedge, 34-6, on Nov. 24 to capture the Long Island Class III football championship at Hofstra.

    The Colts (11-1) knocked off Westhampton, 21-10, in the Suffolk Division III final, avenging the team's only loss of the season. They also won the Class III title in 2009.

    “We played lights-out defense,” said senior linebacker Michael Carubia. “It was a team defense where everyone knew their roles. We gang-tackled and our open-field tackling was a sure thing.”

     Madden, known for imaginative offense and gadget plays, stressed the word defense before the second game of the season and his thoughts became prophetic.

“We will play lock-down defense this season,” Madden said 10 weeks ago. “We can stop anyone with our defense. We’re so fast and so physical and if we stay within our scheme and stay within our roles, we’ll shut down everyone.”

The defense made him look good, limiting opponents to an average of one touchdown per game.

The defensive line led by Keith Slaughter  didn’t allow cutback runs and the active linebackers led by Carubia,  Jake Cetta, Mike Smith and Joey Venezia were all over the field. The defensive backs, Sadiq Hinds, Deyvon Wright and Filardi were devastating hitters. They had closing speed and rarely missed an open-field tackle.

“Our secondary was no joke,” Wright said. “We hit people hard, real hard.”

As the season progressed and his team took on the defensive posture, Madden became comfortable with ball control, clock management and big defensive stands.

“Can you believe I’m still talking defense and not offense?” he said. “This group is super athletic, and they bought into the system.”

    Madden watched a season unfold that included a number of bone-jarring hits, forced fumbles and interceptions. The Colts' takeaway advantage for the season was a plus-17.

 The Colts' smash-mouth style enabled them to go toe-to-toe with Westhampton, a very physical team, which was defending the Long Island Class III title and on a school record 22-game win streak.

  “Our defensive coordinator, coach [David] Pitman, did such an amazing job,” said Venezia, a junior linebacker. “We got better every week.”

  Filardi, the leader on both sides of the ball, left a lasting impression on the Colts season in the Long Island championship game.

  Filardi sprinted downfield on the final kickoff of the season and put a tremendous open-field hit on the ballcarrier. The thunder of the hit resonated through both sidelines and punctuated a season filled with big plays.

  “It was a great run with a special bunch of teammates,” Filardi said. “And we’re champions.”       

COLTS’ road to the championship

Suffolk playoffs

Miller Place, 31-12

Sayville, 9-0

Suffolk championship

Westhampton, 21-10

Long Island championship

Plainedge, 34-6

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