While on defense playing linebacker early in the fourth quarter, Bellport's Jabari M'Bhaso had one thought in his mind.
"I knew I had to make up for what had just happened because I had to make up for my fumble incident," said M'Bhaso, who also plays running back. "I was disappointed in myself and I told myself I was going to make something happen."
He did. M'Bhaso returned an interception 97 yards for a touchdown with 8:30 left to lead No. 6 seed Bellport over No. 3 Eastport-South Manor, 14-0, Friday night in a Division III quarterfinal. The junior broke an ankle tackle near the 50 and went the rest of the way untouched.
"I just kept pushing because all I could hear were my coaches on the sideline telling me to keep pushing," said M'Bhaso, who ran for 111 yards on 19 carries. "I knew how important it was."
ESM (7-2), which hosted a playoff game for the first time in the program's 10-year history. had a chance to cut into the lead on the ensuing drive, but Bellport's Andrew Trent sealed the game with an interception with about six minutes left near the 50.
On the play before the turnover, Trent let an opportunity for an interception slip through his fingers.
"That was so big because we knew they were trying to march down field and score again, so it took all the momentum away," said Trent, who also made two catches for 41 yards. "I was on point for that second try. I knew in my mind I couldn't drop it."
Bellport will play either Huntington or Hauppauge next week (time, date to be determined) in a semifinal.
Bellport scored on its first drive of the game. Conor Haverty capped an eight-play, 55-yard drive with a 1-yard run up the middle for a touchdown with about nine minutes left in the first.
After losing to ESM early in the season, Bellport switched from a zone to man coverage on defense. The decision paid dividends in the secondary. James Fitzgerald, a lineman, also created pressure up front and had nine tackles.
"Our defense did the job tonight," coach Joe Cipp III said. "For two years, we got into the playoffs only to get knocked out in the first round. These kids have been working hard and our goal was to get a different result this time."