The Bellport Clippers are on top once again. For the first time since 2010, the Clippers are County Champions and are on the cusp of a Long Island Championship. It wasn’t an easy journey for the men in red; four teams stood in their way at the start, now only one remains. It started with the Huntington Blue Devils and now it will end with the Garden City Trojans.
However, the Clipper’s biggest hurdle up to this point took place on Saturday, November 13th where they took on the Lindenhurst Bulldogs under the gleaming lights of LaValle Stadium. Surprisingly, the County Championship game got off to an unconventional start for the Clippers. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was the pressure, but both teams headed into Halftime with zero’s on the scoreboard and many mistakes to correct. The Clippers did have their fair share of chances in the half, as Donte Phillips had three interceptions. Despite Phillip’s defensive back dominance, Bellport's offense failed to capitalize on the junior's big plays. Heading into the second half the Clippers looked for their offense to execute on their defense’s opportunities.
This is exactly what happened when the game took a turn late in the third quarter. With under a minute to play, Bellport's defense yielded a timely, game-changing play. As Lindenhurtst quarterback David Varela scanned downfield from the pocket at his own 24-yardline, junior Jason Hunt delivered pressure with a big hit from Varela’s blindside, leading to an interception by linebacker Calvin Pedatella on Varela’s errant throw. Pedatella snatched the momentum of the football and concurrently Lindenhursts offense clean out of the air. Pedatella returned it for seven yards, mobilizing the Clipper's offense at the Bulldogs 17. Just a few plays later quarterback Jack Halpin converted on a 2-yard rush with 28-seconds remaining in the third to give the Clippers the lead.
Down one possession heading into the fourth quarter, Lindenhurst’s offense needed to charge down the field and answer back. The Bulldogs responded with their best drive at exactly the right time. Marching 62 yards down the field in fifteen plays to the Clipper's 4-yardline, the endzone seemed so close yet so far for the Bulldogs. On fourth down, with two yards to go and 5:48 left in the fourth quarter, the Clipper’s defense collectively shut the door on the Bulldogs’ attempted rush, leaving Lindenhurst one yard short; turnover on downs.
Two plays later the Clippers added to their lead on a bombshell play that erupted the 4,000 person crowd with 4:55 left in the game. On Bellport's 4-yardline, Halpin fired a pass to a blazing Justin Miles in stride for a 95-yard touchdown reception, tying a school record. Justin Miles stressed after the game how, “if you want to talk about anything, talk about the big stop from our defense on fourth down. Without that stop, my touchdown doesn’t happen and we don’t have a two-possession lead.” Because of it, Bellport's lead expanded to thirteen, propelling them to a 13-0 DII Suffolk County Championship victory.
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