According to head coach Bill Parry, his Westhampton Beach football team didn’t start practicing overtime scenarios until just two weeks ago.
Better late than never.
The Hurricanes looked poised in their 6-0 overtime victory at home over Comsewogue on Friday night in the Suffolk County Division III playoff opener as their quest to return to the championship continues. Westhampton Beach, the third seed, will now play at second-seeded Miller Place in the Division III semifinals Saturday at 1 p.m. Miller Place defeated Bellport 44-7 in its playoff opener. There will be a $6 admission fee to Saturday’s game.
“It’s a great feeling,” Parry said of Friday night’s victory. “The kids never panicked, they weren’t worried.
“It was a little rough for four quarters,” he continued. “We weren’t executing, we were making mistakes, we got a few penalties that took us out of position. But the kids hung in there and played tough. We had a lot of young kids step up and play well these past couple of weeks and they’re really doing well.”
The Division III playoff opener was a tightly-contested bout, much different from the season opener, which Westhampton Beach won, 21-12, at Comsewogue.
Overtime in Suffolk County high school football is similar to college football. Each team gets four downs to score and starts on the opposing team’s 20-yard line. There is no game clock but there is a play clock.
Comsewogue started with the ball but couldn’t get anything going on its four downs so Westhampton Beach took over. On the first play of their drive, the Hurricanes went with a quarterback sneak up the middle with Murphy, which garnered a 3-yard gain. Parry said that play was done on purpose to force the Comsewogue defense to pinch the middle of the field.
It worked. On the very next play, the Hurricanes ran 21 buck sweep, one of the most basic plays in their playbook, to junior running back Evan Gagne. Following two key blocks from senior tight end Tim Curry and junior wide receiver Zach Rignola, Gagne went on to score from 17 yards out to end the game and send Westhampton Beach to its second consecutive Division III semifinal.
“It was unbelievable. It was unexplainable,” Gagne said of the score. “It’s probably one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.”
Murphy, the Canes’ signal caller, called the play his team’s “bread and butter.”
“I think the coaches just tried to stop working out of our playbook and just went back to our basic plays and it worked,” he said.
Parry explained that his team ran the same play about 20 times in the season opener at Comsewogue and that it worked very well. So this time around the Warriors planned to stop it. “They schemed to take that away from us because we’ll run it 20 times if you let us,” he said. “We ran the play about four times tonight and they stuffed it three times. The fourth one they missed.”
The Warriors’ best opportunity to score came early in the second quarter. After a number of runs by junior running back Ade Nelson and senior quarterback Ryan Keefe, Comsewogue found itself inside the Hurricanes 5-yard line. On 4th and goal from the 1-yard line, Nelson tried running it up the gut but Westhampton Beach’s stout defense came up with the stop.
“They’re mostly a run team and [Keefe] doesn’t really like to pass it and when he does try and pass it he runs it,” Westhampton Beach senior Jack Murphy, who had an interception, explained. “So we were just bringing a lot of kids in the box and hoping for the best.”
Westhampton Beach had a number of chances as well, especially in the fourth quarter. The Canes missed three field goals and the game wound up going into overtime.
Parry had a lot of praise for his defense, particularly senior linebacker Brian Culhane, who had missed the past four weeks due to a badly sprained ankle. “We were able to play him one way, and I would tell you if I had to guess right now he had 12 tackles,” Parry said. “He played outstanding. He’s a half a step slower than he usually is. [Ade Nelson] is one of the best [running] backs in the division and we kept him in check for the most part today.”
The Canes will now get ready for Miller Place, which handed them their worst lost of the season in a 34-0 defeat on October 20. Westhampton Beach was missing a number of players in that game though, namely Culhane.