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Paul Cooper keeps Kings Park's playoff hopes alive

Kings Park's quaterback Paul Cooper looks for a

Kings Park's quaterback Paul Cooper looks for a suitable pass in the first quater during a Suffolk football game on Saturday, Oct. 10, at Kings Park High School Photo Credit: Raychel Brightman

Craig Biggio couldn't attend yesterday's homecoming at Kings Park. But he was very much a part of the festivities.

Biggio, who starred for the Kingsmen in the 1980s, was inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame in July. He missed homecoming because he's with the Houston Astros who are playing in baseball's postseason. But an excerpt of his Cooperstown induction speech was read during yesterday's festivities, and his No. 44 was painted in gold on the 44-yard line of the Kings Park field.

So while the Astros are alive in the MLB playoffs, Biggio will be glad to learn that Kings Park (3-2) kept its playoff hopes alive with a convincing 28-13 win over Westhampton.

"This is a huge win,'' quarterback Paul Cooper said. "We haven't won homecoming in a while.''

After recognizing Kings Park's past with a pregame parade that also honored the 1985 team and former longtime coach Kevin Johnston, the Kingsmen showed that their future may be bright.

With Kings Park leading by 8 points, Matt Estherson picked off a tipped pass, giving the Kingsmen possession on the Westhampton 36-yard line with 6:02 left to play. On fourth-and-3 from the 30, Cooper broke tackles, found holes, and ran for a first down.

"I just followed the lineman,'' said Cooper, who ran for 124 yards on 15 carries. "If they don't block, the play is gone."

Jimmy Gadaleta, who had 53 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards then ran for a 12-yard touchdown with 1:02 remaining to open a 28-13 lead.

"We played a very good football team today and we found a way to win," Kings Park coach Mark O'Brien said. "That's what's important.''

What helped was Mickey Hopkins, Dillon Roske, Danny Byrne and Matt Guercio giving Cooper plenty of time in the pocket. He threw a fade to Matt Cebulski for a 21-yard touchdown with 8:32 left in the first half for a 7-0 lead.

After Estherson forced a fumble, Cooper extended the lead to 14-0 on a 43-yard touchdown run with 4:20 left in the third.

"It feels good to force some turnovers because it was a really important game,'' Estherson said.

Griffin Schulz connected with Zach Arrasate down the middle for an 85-yard touchdown, and Dylan Laube scored on an 80-yard run to pull Westhampton (2-3) within 21-13 with 10:14 left.

But the Kings Park defense forced four turnovers -- featuring bruising tackles by Jac Cutillo, and constant pressure from Frank Lavecchia -- and didn't allow much more.

"This was a huge game,'' Lavecchia said. "Hopefully we can keep winning.''

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