The Westhampton Beach football team showed on Saturday why revenge can sometimes be sweet.
The Hurricanes avenged their worst loss of the regular season—a 34-0 drubbing at Miller Place on October 20–with a 19-14 victory on the same Miller Place field, only this time it came in the Suffolk County Division III semifinals. It is the first time in school history that Westhampton Beach has made it to back-to-back county finals.
The Hurricanes will face top-seeded and undefeated Sayville for the championship on Sunday, November 25, at Stony Brook University at 3 p.m. There is a $6 admission fee. Sayville defeated Huntington, 41-14, on Saturday to advance to the finals.
Second-seeded Miller Place was not only favored to win on Saturday based solely on its victory over third-seeded Westhampton Beach from earlier in the season. The Panthers physically outmatch the Hurricanes at almost every position on the field. But Westhampton Beach head coach Bill Parry said his players come to play every week.
“Every single week, you think we’re going to fold, and every single week these kids battle,” he said. “We were physically outmatched again and they battled.
“Honestly, I think [Miller Place] just decided they were going to run the same plays they ran as the first time because they beat us up,” he continued. “And I think they were looking a little bit past us. Our coaching staff did an outstanding job preparing on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”
Westhampton Beach saw a 13-7 lead at halftime vanish with 1:08 remaining in the third quarter. Miller Place senior Adin Greenfield took a direct snap 38 yards for a touchdown, and after senior Jan Schoonen’s extra point was good, the Panthers led 14-13.
Then, Miller Place surprisingly went for an onside kick, which it recovered on Westhampton Beach’s 40-yard line. The Panthers, though, were stopped on 4th and 1 when senior Hurricane Brian Corrigan tackled Greenfield in the backfield for a loss and the Canes took over on downs.
Westhampton Beach then went on a lengthy drive to score the go-ahead touchdown. A 9-yard run by junior Evan Gagne setup senior quarterback Jack Murphy, who ran the ball 14 yards for a touchdown on what was the 14th play of the drive. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Canes held a 19-14 lead with 4:18 remaining in the game.
Miller Place was initially able to move the ball down the field on its next drive, but it eventually faced a 4th and 11 on the Canes’ 14-yard line with 20 seconds remaining in the game. On the 15th play of the drive, Corrigan pressured Miller Place senior quarterback Ryan Gray, who was able to get the ball out before getting sacked, but it fell incomplete. The Hurricane’s defense stormed off the field and the offense came on to run two kneel-downs to run out the clock and win the game.
Many of the Canes were looking to avenge their loss from earlier in the season. “Beating a big team like this is something else,” Murphy said. “This doesn’t feel like last year at all. Coming back from that 34-0 loss to kickin’ their butt … it’s pretty awesome.”
Westhampton Beach was missing eight starters and four two-way players in the loss to the Panthers earlier in the season. Senior Brian Culhane was one of those two-way starters who missed time but was able to get back at Miller Place.
“Losing to them, 34-0, and having them beat up on our quarterback and to try and hurt our players, really motivated us to really stick it to them on their home field in the playoffs,” he said.
Corrigan said more motivation came simply from it possibly being the seniors’ final organized football game of their lives. “From the beginning of the season, this was our goal, to get to the semifinals and win and get back to where we were last year,” he said. “We fought today. We knew if we stuck to our game plan and played a physical game, we were going to get this win.”
Parry said the key was slowing the game down and keeping the ball out of the hands of a Miller Place offense that averaged almost 33 points per game this season. To do that, the Hurricanes used a balanced attack on offense that converted eight of 11 third downs on Saturday.
The Hurricanes came out of the gates quickly and scored on the first drive of the game when Murphy connected with Corrigan on a 4-yard pass in the end zone with 5:21 remaining in the first quarter. Senior Peter Broccoli’s extra point made it 7-0.
But Miller Place answered back. Greenfield was able to gain 56 yards on a run play that could have been called back on a holding penalty that was never called. He eventually scored from 4 yards out and the extra point tied the game at 7-7.