Fourth down is usually the place where teams punt. Unless, of course, you have an athlete like Bellport senior Ka’Shaun Parrish on your football team.
Parrish, a scoring threat from anywhere on the field, changes the dynamic of fourth down. He scored two of his four touchdowns on fourth down in Bellport’s 28-0 win over Longwood in a non-league crossover Saturday at Joe Cipp Field in Bellport.
The win earned the Clippers (4-0) the first-ever Bellwood Cup between the south shore programs.
"We have a guy that can score on any play at any time and that’s scary for a defense," Bellport quarterback Jack Halpin said. "I just need to get the ball to him. I can trust he’ll catch any 50-50 ball."
Halpin connected with Parrish for three touchdown passes, one in each quarter. And Parrish scored his fourth touchdown on a 5-yard run with 8:12 left in the game.
Parrish caught a 35-yard scoring pass from Halpin to open the scoring with 6:32 left in the first quarter. The speedy wide receiver got behind the secondary and Halpin was on target with the fourth-and-4 pass for a 7-0 lead. The hookup capped a seven-play, 58-yard drive.
"It’s incredibly hard to defend him because he’s so elusive and has breakaway speed," said Bellport coach Jamie Fabian, in his third year. "He runs great routes and wants the ball."
Bellport made it a two-score game when the Clippers drove 58 yards in eight plays. On fourth-and-5 with 56 seconds left in the half, Parrish split two defenders and Halpin lofted a pass over the top of the defense to find his receiver all alone in the end zone for the 27-yard score and a 13-0 lead.
"That was a backbreaker," Longwood coach Jeff Cipp said. "We needed to keep them out of the end zone. We’d forced a couple of first-half turnovers and that score was tough to overcome."
Two fourth-down touchdown passes separated the teams at the half.
"We just aren’t making the big plays," Cipp said.
The Lions (1-2) punted three times and fumbled in the first four possessions but showed life in the final 47 seconds of the half. Longwood halfback Abeid Thomas ran for 12 yards and quarterback Noah Rattmer found Najee Henderson for 26 yards to the Bellport 35 with one second left.
"We tightened up the defense," said Bellport linebacker Calvin Pedatella, who had eight tackles, a sack and an interception. "We locked it down in the secondary."
Rattmer’s throw toward the end zone was intercepted by a leaping Parrish, his second takeaway of the half.
"I’m just out there doing my thing," Parrish said. "Defense, offense, whatever my team needs. We’re playing well as a team and everyone deserves the credit."
Midway through the third quarter, Parrish came up with another fourth-down gem. He went back into punt formation on fourth-and-12, this time in a reversal of roles and fired a pass to Halpin for 21 yards and a first down. Three plays later, Halpin found Parrish for a 24-yard touchdown strike. Parrish finished with six catches for 100 yards.
"When I sprint out, he’s my first look," said Halpin, who completed 7 of 14 passes for 117 yards. "He’s always open."
The Bellport defense recorded the shutout behind sophomore end Jaiden Green, who had three sacks and a forced fumble. Shaun Bolton, Alex Ciota and Jason Hunt also had sacks as the Clippers held Longwood to six first downs and 82 total yards.
"There’s a lot of ties between these coaching staffs at our schools," said Fabian, who graduated from Longwood in 1999. "We bring the communities together for a game scrimmage every year. This year, we had the chance to play a game that counts for the Bellwood Cup. It was a game between friends and family. I’m proud of our guys."