Where there's Houpe, there's always hope. And no one knows that better than the Bellport football team.

Pressed by a swarming Smithtown West defense, the Clippers turned to senior halfback Travis Houpe Saturday when faced with playoff elimination. And Houpe rushed for 172 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries to lead Bellport to a 21-14 comeback victory in a Suffolk Division II playoff quarterfinal.

No. 4 Bellport (6-3) will travel to No. 3 Newfield (8-1) for a semifinal at 1 p.m. Saturday. Houpe had a three-touchdown effort a week ago against previously undefeated Newfield.

Houpe helped erase a seven-point deficit with two fourth- quarter touchdown runs before a crowd of about 1,400 at Joe Cipp Field in Bellport.

His 40-yard scoring run capped a five-play, 74-yard drive and got the Clippers within 14-13 with 10:43 left, but his two-point conversion run came up short.

"We weren't losing by a point, no way, not on our home field," Houpe said. "Our defense was playing a great game and I knew the offense would get another shot to score."

Correct. With the season on the line, the Bellport defense stiffened and forced a punt, and Eddie Carson returned it 40 yards to midfield with 7:10 left.

Quarterback Justin Honce hit Mike Burton for an 11-yard gain and beat the blitz with a short dump pass to Houpe coming across the field for 34 yards to the Bulls' 10. Two plays later, Houpe followed a kick-out block from Ryan Sloan and scored on a 12-yard run for a 19-14 lead.

"I pull on that play and get out in front," said Sloan, who also had eight tackles and a sack. "He got outside and beat the defender."

But the Bulls stopped the two-point conversion run again.

"We played our hearts out," Smithtown West coach Peter Cerullo said. "It could have gone our way. It was an emotional end to a fine season. Bellport is well-coached and a great team. We had trouble moving the ball."

On the ensuing kickoff, Nick Bredy stopped returner Anthony Gatto at the Bulls' 10 with an excellent open-field tackle. Two plays later, defensive end Dykeman Mosely came upfield off the left end to sack quarterback Kyle Keenan as he tried to roll right. As Keenan tried to get loose, Carson put the finishing touches on him from the back side for a safety and a 21-14 lead.

"It's a tough loss after a great season," Gatto said. "It was an unbelievable experience. This Bellport team was very quick and very physical, the toughest team we played."

Bellport opened the scoring with a 3-yard run by Houpe that capped a 30-yard drive in the first quarter. Honce's kick made it 7-0 with 1:24 left.

Smithtown West (6-3) had trouble moving the ball but found a slight crack in the Clippers' armor in the second quarter. Junior wideout Zack Naja beat man coverage across the middle of the field, caught a short pass from Keenan and went 85 yards for the score. The touchdown came on a second-and-18, shocking the crowd. Derrick Ladeairous' kick made it 7-7 with 6:43 left in the half.

"It was a simple play," Naja said. "It was man coverage and he was playing outside. It was a great throw on the run and I just booked it to the end zone."

It was the momentum swing the Bulls would ride into the fourth quarter. On the next possession, the Smithtown West defense came up with a huge turnover. Ryan Mathie stripped Honce to force a fumble at the Bellport 7 and Naja took it in for his third defensive touchdown of the season. Ladeairous' kick made it 14-7.

"We are an opportunistic team," Naja said.

"They had one first down in the first half and we were losing by a touchdown," said Bellport coach Joe Cipp Jr. "The ball bounces funny sometimes. We finally found our rhythm in the second half."

And they did it with a lot of Houpe.

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