Jackson Campbell carries Northport to win over West Islip
It was everything Campbell on Saturday afternoon in Northport.
Whether it was fullback Jackson Campbell breaking off a spectacular 57-yard touchdown run. Or wide receiver Aidan Campbell making a clutch third-down catch in the final drive to seal the win. Or head coach Pat Campbell, Aidan's dad, calling the right play at the right time. It was the perfect mix of Campbell as Northport rolled to a 23-14 win over West Islip, the defending champion, in a Suffolk Division II quarterfinal playoff game before 1,200 fans in East Northport.
Senior Jackson Campbell, who rushed 23 times for 171 yards and two scores, ripped off that 57-yard touchdown run with 3:46 left in the third quarter for the final margin. The run started off right guard where Campbell was momentarily stopped for what looked like no gain.
"I got hit right at the point of attack and my helmet popped up and I couldn’t see anything," Campbell said. "I kept churning my legs and moving forward for a few extra yards. And as I bounced off a few tacklers I broke free and got outside. The defensive back thought I was down and stopped pursuing and I ran right by him down the sideline."
The win moves No. 4 Northport (7-2) into the Suffolk II semifinal against top-seeded Lindenhurst (8-1) on Friday.
"We moved Jackson to fullback this season, and he’s really embraced the position," said Pat Campbell. "He broke out against West Islip in our first meeting and today he was incredible. That last touchdown run was unbelievable. I thought he was stopped but he never gives up."
West Islip (4-5) had cut a nine-point deficit to 16-14 on the final play of the first half. Lions coach Steve Mileti made a gutsy call on a first-and-goal play with three seconds left in the half. He passed on a short field-goal attempt and sent junior quarterback Patrick Keenan on a keeper up the middle. Keenan, who rushed 26 times for 93 yards, twisted his way through the defense for the 2-yard scoring run as time expired. The kick made it 16-14.
"West Islip ran a lot of different looks and moved the ball well," Pat Campbell said. "I thought our defense played much better in the second half. When we needed a stop, we got it."
Northport can credit the defense for two huge stops in the second half. The first came on a 4th-and-6 from the Tigers 36. West Islip had driven to the Tigers 36 on a 10-play march and threatened to take the lead. Keenan dropped to pass and was sacked by linebacker Tom Butler for a seven-yard loss.
"We stopped their momentum," said defensive back Aidan Campbell, who also had three receptions, including two for first downs. "Our defense played well all game."
On the ensuing play, Campbell scored from 57 yards.
West Islip didn’t go away. The Lions put together a 15-play, 63-yard drive to the Northport nine. On first-and-goal, Keenan went option left and when he tried to pull the ball away from halfback Konrad Maciejny, lost the ball. Defensive tackle Jack Pokowicz recovered, the only turnover in a well-played game, that finished in under two hours.
The Northport defense also set up the Tigers first score. Linebacker Ryan McEnroe stopped Dillon Gagliardo on a fourth down and one run from the Lions 39. On the Tigers first play, quarterback Owen Johansen fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to JJ Ahlstrand for the 6-0 lead. Johansen completed six of seven passes for 91 yards.
Brendan Connolly capped a 13-play, 87-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal for the 9-0 lead with 10:26 left in the half. West Islip sophomore Chris Piropato returned the ensuing kickoff to the Northport 49 and the Lions embarked on a 10-play scoring drive capped by a Maciejny 7-yard run to make it 9-7. Campbell’s first touchdown, from three yards, made it 16-7 with 1:27 left in the half.
"Two very good football teams in a division that anyone can win on any given day," Pat Campbell said.
Saturday it was all about the Campbells and Northport.