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Who will win battle of Suffolk II unbeatens: Centereach or Hills East?

Half Hollow Hills East's Drew Martin after his

Half Hollow Hills East's Drew Martin after his touchdown against Bay Shore in second half of a Suffolk II game at Bay Shore on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. Photo Credit: Peter Frutkoff

The similarities are uncanny. Two head coaches in their fourth season at the helm, two programs on the rise in a classic matchup to headline this week’s football schedule.

Say hello to the undefeated football teams at Half Hollow Hills East and Centereach. Both squads, mirror images of one another, are off to 4-0 starts and meet in the Suffolk II game of the week at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Dix Hills.

“It’s an exciting time for this side of the Half Hollow Hills district,” Hills East coach Mike Maratto said. “We’re having success and the players believe in what we’re doing. It takes a few years to turn a program around. We were at the bottom when I took over and the plan was to change the attitude and the culture about football here. Our first year we set a foundation and we’ve been building from there. This senior group was my freshman group.”

Hill East has never started a season 5-0 and the Thunderbirds have never won a regular-season crown. Both of those achievements are within reach behind the senior leadership of halfback / linebacker Drew Martin, halfback Ernesto Mitchel, quarterback Jay Spinelli and wide receiver / cornerback Kendall Nero-Clark.

Centereach is on a similar path to the postseason. The Cougars only regular-season title was in 1979. And the Cougars have never won a playoff game.

“Both of our programs have been on the rise,” Centereach coach Adam Barrett said. “We made the playoffs last year and we‘ve seen more dedication from our players. The system is all new and the players have been putting in the time in the spring and summer getting to understand the offense and the defense.”

Centereach has the highest scoring offense in Suffolk II with 129 points. And the Cougars defense has allowed a division-low 27 points.

The Cougars opened the season with a thrilling 18-12 overtime win against intradistrict rival Newfield. It was the first win over Newfield since 2004. The Cougars have rolled with halfback Alec Kiernan leading the way with nine touchdowns.

“That opening win was tricky and so important,” Barrett said. “It was a rivalry game which always evens the playing field and we had to come back to win it. Our defense really came up big.”

Both coaches agree the more physical team will win this one. Centereach has shut out Hills East two years in a row.

“Kiernan is a very special player and we have to stop him,” Maratto said. “He gets those critical yards after contact and refuses to be tackled. That’s a huge key here. And we need to solve their defense.”

Other games . . .

Carle Place/Wheatley at Cold Spring Harbor, Friday, 6 p.m.: Cold Spring Harbor (4-0) came away with a 21-7 win over previously unbeaten Seaford (3-1) last week. Can the Seahawks stop Carle Place/Wheatley (3-1)? The Wildcats are led by halfback Luke Caliendo, who has six touchdowns.

Freeport at Oceanside, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.: This Nassau I matchup could be filled with big offensive plays with Freeport halfback Aaje Grayson (7 TDs) and Oceanside quarterback Tommy Heuer, who’s thrown for 15 scores. Can Oceanside stay undefeated?

St. Anthony’s at Hayes, Saturday at SUNY-Maritime, 4 p.m.: St. Anthony’s quarterback Greg Campisi ran for two scores and passed for another in last week’s 35-13 win over Farrell. The Friars (3-1) face undefeated Hayes (3-0) in a pivotal game in the CHSFL’s AAA Division.

ANDY SLAWSON (18-12)

Sachem North

Kellenberg

Farmingdale

Oceanside

Elmont

Bethpage

Plainedge

Ward Melville

Bay Shore

East Islip

BOB HERZOG (19-11)

Sachem North

Kellenberg

Farmingdale

Oceanside

South Side

Lawrence

Plainedge

Ward Melville

Bay Shore

East Islip

GREGG SARRA (17-13)

Sachem North

Kellenberg

Farmingdale

Oceanside

Elmont

Lawrence

Plainedge

Ward Melville

Smithtown East

Bellport

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