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Sep 10, 2018 3:03 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Strong Second Half Leads To Comeback Victory For Hurricanes Football In Season Opener

Westhampton Beach junior Jaden Alfano-St. John broke out for three touchdowns on Friday night. DREW BUDD
Sep 11, 2018 3:54 PM

Trailing host and cross-town rival Eastport South Manor by 13 points just over five minutes into Friday night’s game, it looked as if the season opener, and possibly the season, was going to be a rocky one for the defending Suffolk County and Long Island Division III Champion Westhampton Beach football team. As it was noted after game, it was “very un-Hurricane-like football.”

The second half, though, was very much Hurricane-like football.

Westhampton Beach scored 35 unanswered points, including seven just before halftime, to come back and win its season opener, 35-13, extending its winning streak to 13 following last season’s 12-0 performance. It also marked the first victory under new head coach Bryan Schaumloffel.

“I told the guys all week, I saw ESM on film; they’re big, and they’re good and they’ve got tough kids over here,” he said after the game. “We had a lot of adversity this week with the weather—we really only practiced once—and we told the guys to weather the storm. It was a big storm in the beginning, but what you saw in the second half is Hurricane football. We came out and we wore them down and that’s what we preached to our guys. With the summer conditioning, the things that we do, we were in better shape, and being in better shape won us the game.”

ESM took the lead on the opening kickoff, when Ryan Hunt took the ball 90 yards for a touchdown. The Sharks missed the ensuing extra point attempt, but just minutes later, they increased their lead when Christian Bianco finished off a drive with a five-yard touchdown run. Dylan Peck’s kick was good and ESM held a commanding 13-0 lead, leading many on the Westhampton Beach sideline to grow a bit concerned. Some players, namely the captains, tried to keep the team upbeat.

“Emotions are going to run wild. We’re not going to score on every play, we’re going to have loss of yards, sacks, stuff is going to happen. It’s how you come back from it,” said Liam McIntyre, a co-captain. “We came out sloppy in the first half, went back into the locker room, took a deep breath, talked, relaxed, and said this is why we run the hills at camp, this is why we do everything we do, this is why we’re up at 6 o’clock in the morning in the summer. It’s what we did all summer to prepare for stuff like this.”

Needing something positive heading into the locker room at halftime, the Canes got it from Aidan Cassara, a sophomore, who scored his first varsity touchdown on a 17-yard run with 2:12 remaining in the first half. After Jackson Hulse’s successful extra point attempt, the Canes trailed, 13-7, which was the score at the half.

The Canes forced the Sharks to have a quick series to open the half, and on the punt return, a pair of personal foul penalties allowed Westhampton Beach to start its opening drive of the second half on ESM’s 24-yard line. Just a few plays later, Cassara scored for the second time on a 15-yard toss, and after Hulse’s extra point, Westhampton Beach took a lead at 14-13 that it wouldn’t relinquish.

On ESM’s ensuing drive, junior Jesse Alfano-St. John popped the ball loose that senior Jake Bennett recovered on ESM’s 14-yard line. Just over a minute later, junior Jaden Alfano-St. John scored what was the first of three touchdowns on a quick three-yard run to the left.

Senior co-captain Clarke Lewis intercepted a deep pass on ESM’s next drive, and a little over two minutes later, found Jaden Alfano-St. John over the top of the defense for a 35-yard touchdown strike, increasing the Canes’ lead to 28-13, which it would take into the fourth quarter.

ESM was putting together a good drive early in the fourth when Jaden Alfano-St. John intercepted another deep pass that allowed Westhampton Beach to take over on its own six-yard line. Eventually, Alfano-St. John capped off the drive with a 42-yard touchdown run, completing the Canes’ comeback victory.

Alfano-St. John finished with 123 rushing yards on 16 carries, including the touchdown reception and late-game interception. It was a complete game for the junior who is expected to take on a major role for the team this season.

“We just prepared all week and my line blocked,” Alfano-St. John said. “I ran alongside Liam. They got holes open so I made the best of them.”

McIntyre rushed for 121 yards on 18 carries and also made six tackles on defense, but the co-captain was more impressed with his sophomore teammate Cassara, who rushed for 47 yards on eight carries, including the two touchdowns. With senior Tyler Nolan missing the game, Cassara stepped up even though he admitted to McIntyre he was nervous. McIntyre said Cassara threw up in the locker room prior to the game.

But at halftime, with a number of shell-shocked teammates in the locker room, the young Cassara was actually one of the players who spoke up, McIntyre said.

“He says ‘Guys, I know I’m only a sophomore and you don’t want to listen to me but you got to. Liam told me before the game he will have my back and my brothers will be there for me. I’m telling you we got to have each others back. We are brothers, we are here for each other.’ He made his own little speech and it came out of nowhere and it came from the heart and I think it really impacted guys.”

Schaumloffel said that there were some young players playing some important roles on the team for the season opener and it’s what may have lead to the sloppy start to the game. Once they got acclimated to the varsity speed, though, he thinks that’s when the team started to play better overall.

Although their next three games will be at home, the Canes’ schedule doesn’t get any easier, starting this Friday night at 6 p.m. against East Islip.

“I told the kids we have to get back to work and we need to fix those things,” Schaumloffel said. “We’re not as good, yet, as the team thinks they are. And I think it was a little bit of a wake-up call that first quarter. Hopefully we’ll be a little bit sharper and focused in practice and clean up those things, and we have a lot of young kids on the team, a lot of returners, but a lot of young kids playing important positions for us, and that was great to get a win today so they can see what it was all about.”

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