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Jack Hannigan, John Sihpol lead East Islip past Riverhead, 21-14

East Islip QB Jack Hannigan looks to pass

East Islip QB Jack Hannigan looks to pass in a game against Riverhead on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2014. Photo Credit: George A. Faella

East Islip's Jack Hannigan -- 5-7, 170 pounds -- stood near the 20-yard line, the lone roadblock standing in front of a lumbering Ethan Greenidge, 6-5, 320 pounds.

He braced for impact, and oh, did the impact come.

"It's crazy, he's a huge guy," Hannigan said laughing. "Then the whole team just piled on me and he got in. I was done. He was in the end zone."

The interception return was, perhaps, the only real blip in a satisfying day for Hannigan -- a 21-14 win over Riverhead in Suffolk II -- but it illustrated what coach Sal Ciampi called one of his quarterback's biggest weapons: "He is physically and mentally as tough as any player I've ever coached."

East Islip got on the board in their first series, when Hannigan hit Jake Piacenti on a corner route for a 25-yard score five minutes in. After both team sputtered a bit in the second quarter, John Sihpol picked off a pass on a third-and-5 and sparked East Islip's next scoring series, a six-play, a three-minute, 41 second drive that culminated on Justin Tavares' 5-yard TD run around left end on a reverse play with 1:29 left in the third. Hannigan's 1-yard dive made it 21-0 with 9:38 left.

That's when things got weird.

Ryun Moore broke through the scrum on the ensuing kickoff, deked David Tapley downfield and scored on a 99-yard return. Three plays later, Greenidge popped up from left tackle, snagged Hannigan's pass and charged down the field for a 37-yard score.

Riverhead (4-2) had a final chance to even it up, but a block in the back on their next possession cost them good field position, and Sihpol (eight tackles), causing massive damage at strong safety, picked off another pass to all but seal it.

"This is going to bring us right into the playoffs, beating a great team like this," Sihpol said -- especially considering Riverhead ousted East Islip in the Suffolk final last year.

Ciampi pointed out, though, that this isn't exactly the same team that fell to the Blue Waves last year. Hannigan was injured for most of the playoffs and, Ciampi said, he is the game-changer.

"He allows us to do more than anyone else," Ciampi said. "Physically, he takes a beating and mentally, he's had to deal with me for a couple years . . . if you can do that and have success, you're OK."

And if you can take on someone twice your size and laugh it off later? Well, that's a pretty good indication, too.

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