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SportsHigh SchoolFootball

Jared Zeigler spearheads North Babylon rushing attack in win over Hills East

North Babylon running back Jahjuan Winters is taken

North Babylon running back Jahjuan Winters is taken down just short of the goal line in a game against Half Hollow Hills East on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. Credit: Steven Ryan

Jared Zeigler has the speed. Jahjuan Winters has the explosiveness. Brandon Sobotker has the ability to run inside and outside. And fullback Nick Grassa has the power.

Together, they comprise North Babylon's young backfield. And together, they led the Bulldogs to what Zeigler described as a "must-win."

On the strength of its running attack, host North Babylon captured its first win, beating Half Hollow Hills East, 41-7, Saturday in Suffolk Division II.

"We knew if we lost this game, our playoff chances would probably be crushed," said Zeigler, who scored the game's first touchdown when he plunged over the middle from the 1-yard line. "So I think each one of our runners came out wanting to have a good game."

And they all did, behind a stout offensive line, led by Talib Ahmad.

Zeigler was the leader Saturday with 141 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. Sobotker racked up 126 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries. Winters ran for 105 yards on nine carries, and Grassa added 40 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.

North Babylon (1-2) dominated possession and controlled the ball for 31 minutes.

"Yeah, that's North Babylon football," Grassa said, smiling. "We never get selfish about it. It definitely makes it more like a brotherhood. It's a big rotation with four guys. This way, we learn to share the ball and how to block for each other."

Grassa was the lead blocker when Sobotker broke a 70-yard touchdown run down the left sideline on a reverse play that started with a handoff from quarterback Michael Hart to Zeigler, who then tossed it to Sobotker.

"It is fun to play like this because everyone has their own special part and strength," Sobotker said. "We're taught to do whatever is needed for the run game and for the win."

Half Hollow Hills East (2-1) was seeking its first 3-0 start since 1993. Eric Davis made a nice grab on a deep post and went untouched for a 63-yard touchdown from Derek Merckling to cut it to 14-7 midway through the second quarter. But the Thunderbirds couldn't keep the momentum going because of North Babylon's relentless rushing attack.

There was one passing touchdown for the Bulldogs, and Grassa said he actually saw it coming. He might've been the only one.

Hart, who completed 1 of 4 passes, faked a handoff to the right then rolled left and hit Grassa, who was wide open in the flats, for a 55-yard touchdown. The play capped an 80-yard, 12-play drive that took six minutes.

"The play before, I was thinking to myself, 'We're going to run it, we're going to run it,' " Grassa said. "And sure enough, it was the next play called. It was definitely exciting to finally get a pass."

But who needs to pass when you have a running game like North Babylon's? Tyson Thompson's 6-yard run made it 41-7 in the fourth quarter.

"We came in this game hungry for a W and this gives us a positive outlook," Grassa said. "Now we know we can do it. Our team knows what's possible. We just have to keep doing it."

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