Smithtown East's Liam Hendricks has a memory that reaches back all the way to 2012, when North Babylon's punishing ground-and-pound offense put 35 points on the board in the first half against the Bulls in a Week 9 matchup.
North Babylon's offensive philosophy hasn't changed in the past two years, but a bunch of other things have. First, Hendricks and his teammates have gotten bigger. Second, Smithtown East has learned how to clog up its running lanes. And the third thing? Well . . . that lesson came straight out of the North Babylon playbook.
"We ran the ball all over them," quarterback John Daniggelis said.
Hendricks punched in two touchdowns, Daniggelis ran in two more and Nick Cutrone added another as the Bulls defeated North Babylon, 35-7, in the Suffolk II opener yesterday. Daniggelis had 135 yards on eight carries, while Cutrone had 100 yards on nine.
"From the first snap, the line gave me a great push on the ball," said Daniggelis, who faked a handoff and was able to scramble up the right side for a 15-yard gain on the opening play. Eight plays later, Daniggelis pitched to Hendricks, whose four-yard run was good for the early lead.
After that, "it was all about the shutout in the first half," said Hendricks before referencing the 2012 game. "It was that tenacious East defense . . . Our defense was better than their offense."
The Bulldogs stayed true to form on their first possession -- repeatedly pounding the ball inside for short gains while devouring the clock. Their 11 minute, 12 second drive ended, though, when Sam O'Malley recovered a North Babylon fumble in the end zone.
North Babylon sputtered after that and the Bulls scored five plays later, when, on an option run, Daniggelis broke a tackle near the line of scrimmage and scampered through a hole up the middle for a 32-yard touchdown with 8:10 left in the first half.
Smithtown East led 21-0 at the break, courtesy of Cutrone, whose 30-yard run brought the Bulls to the 9, and Daniggelis, who faked the handoff to Cutrone and ran the ball in untouched with 16 seconds left.
The Bulldogs were further compromised at halftime, when quarterback Michael Hart was sent to the hospital with an eye contusion. Running backs Brandon Sobotker and Jared Zeigler were thoroughly contained, held to 46 and 35 yards total.
"Our defensive coordinator did a great job," Daniggelis said. "Almost shutting out North Babylon is unheard of."
North Babylon was held to seven points or fewer only twice last year. Smithtown East beat the Bulldogs 56-35 in their last meeting.
The Bulls scored in their first two possessions of the second half -- on Cutrone's one-yard score, facilitated by Daniggelis' 52-yard jaunt, and Hendricks' 26-yard touchdown through a hole up the middle.
"We ran the ball and we stopped the run," Daniggelis said.