The Half Hollow Hills West backfield boasts three backs with blazing speed and breakaway potential.
For one half of Saturday’s Suffolk III championship game at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium, that talent was completely stymied as Westhampton built a 10-point lead.
The second half of Hills West’s 21-10 victory? That was another story.
The Colts were in desperate need of an offensive spark, and they found it in 14-year-old freshman Dakim Griffin, a lightning bolt of a back with power beyond that of a 5-5, 160-pounder.
Griffin produced a stirring jaunt of 46 yards, running over two defensive backs on his way to a touchdown with 10:00 left in the third quarter. It fired up the Colts’ sideline, breathed life into an offense that managed only 63 yards in the first half and ignited a run of 21 unanswered points.
“He completely wrecked two guys trying to tackle him, and that got us hyped,” linebacker Mike Smith said. “He runs so hard and with so much power.”
“Dakim is just a machine,” Hills West coach Kyle Madden said. “His yards after contact are just off the charts. He gave us that lift that got us going.”
It was the second Suffolk title in the past three years for the Colts and avenged their only loss of the season. Defending Long Island Class III champion Westhampton (10-1) saw its winning streak end at a school-record 22 games.
Junior Justin Brown added a 55-yard touchdown run with 1:55 left in the third quarter and senior Deyvon Wright raced 79 yards for a score with 5:36 left in the game.
Hills West (10-1) will meet Plainedge (11-0) for the Long Island Class III title at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra. The Colts lost to Garden City, 13-6, in the Long Island Class II title game in 2016.
The victory over Westhampton offered a bit of redemption for a Colts team that was beaten by the Hurricanes in the 2017 Suffolk final, 28-14. Westhampton also edged the Colts, 17-13, during the 2018 regular season.
“We know the sting of losing in the final and it’s awful,” junior linebacker Joe Venezia said. “No one wants to go through that again. Winning the county was our goal since January.”
Westhampton opened the scoring on Tyler Nolan’s 5-yard run. Jackson Hulse added the extra point and the Hurricanes led 7-0 with 2:11 left in the first quarter. The 20-yard touchdown drive was set up by Aidan Cumisky’s fumble recovery.
Hulse nailed a 25-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the first half for a 10-0 lead.
“We had a slow start, but we never got down,” Smith said. “We needed that one big play.”
Perhaps the Colts’ biggest play came on defense. After Griffin’s touchdown got the Colts within 10-7 early in the third quarter, Nolan broke into the open field for what looked like a long scoring run for Westhampton. Wright took an excellent pursuit angle and ran down Nolan at the Colts’ 11 after a 58-yard gain.
“He makes plays,” said Griffin, his younger half-brother. “That turned out to be a big tackle.”
Westhampton would come up empty on the drive. On fourth-and-2 from the Colts’ 3-yard line, Venezia stuffed Jaden Alfano-St. John for a 1-yard loss.
“We felt the momentum swing in the third quarter,” Venezia said. “And our defense played lights out in the second half.”