Westhampton Beach Football Loses Season Opener At Sayville

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In a rematch of last season’s Suffolk County Division III championship game, the Westhampton Beach football team was looking to avenge last season’s loss at Sayville on September 11. At times it looked as if the Hurricanes were going to pull out a victory, but in the end, the reigning-champion Golden Flashes came through with a 38-19 win.

Both teams looked very different from a year ago, since both programs graduated quite a few players who appeared in the county championship. Sayville and Westhampton Beach are both coming into the season with first-year starting quarterbacks, but the offenses looked fine on either side of the ball last week.

Sayville got things started right away when junior Kevin Murphy took the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown just 15 seconds into the game. Westhampton Beach responded on its first drive on the game, with a 22-yard touchdown run from senior Evan Gagne. After senior Max Pastor’s extra point was good, the Canes held an early 7-6 lead.

The Hurricanes then took what looked like a commanding lead late in the first quarter. Westhampton Beach senior quarterback Steven Tagliavia connected with senior receiver Tim Hoare on a long pass play that set the Canes up at the 1 yard line. Gagne punched the ball in for the score to give Westhampton Beach a 13-6 lead, but from that exact moment of the game, things went south for Westhampton Beach.

Gagne came up gingerly from the pile after scoring his second touchdown of the game. He wouldn’t see the field the rest of the game with a shoulder injury.

On the ensuing kickoff from the touchdown, Sayville had another long kickoff return and started its drive from the Westhampton Beach 22-yard line. On the next play, junior Matthew Selts ran for a touchdown, and after the blocked extra point by senior Zach Rignola, the Hurricanes led 13-12.

With 2:24 remaining in the first half, Sayville ran a hook and ladder play, where Murphy caught the ball 10 yards out, but then lateraled the ball backwards to Selts, who took the ball 36 yards for a surprising touchdown. The Golden Flashes added another score with 35 seconds remaining to take a commanding 24-13 halftime lead.

The Canes came out in the second half with some renewed life. They got a nice opening half kickoff return from Rignola, who brought the ball to the Sayville 48-yard line. Eventually, Tagliavia and senior Tyler Phillips connected on a 35-yard touchdown pass to make it a 24-19 game, in favor of Sayville.

Very early in the fourth quarter, with the Canes driving to take the lead with another touchdown, Tagliavia passed the ball downfield to hit Phillips on a deep ball down the middle of the field. Phillips slipped, though, and it led to an easy interception by Sayville junior Clay Peres.

With great field position, Selts scored on a 14-yard run with 10:31 remaining in the game, and after the two-point conversion was good, Sayville led 32-19. It added another touchdown with 2:41 remaining to create the final margin of victory.

Westhampton Beach head coach Bill Parry said after Gagne went down with the injury, he had to go to his second halfback, Rignola, who was suffering from cramps in the second half of the game.

Many players from both teams, especially in the second half, suffered from cramps, and it could be directly related to the heat wave that came through last week. Since there was a modified heat alert called at 2:30 p.m., the games could still be played, but with more extended water breaks.

“For a while there we were on our third halfback,” Parry said. “It’s the first time we’ve played in any type of heat. We haven’t even practiced in any heat. It happened to both sides, but you can’t give up kickoffs for touchdowns and expect to recover.”

Parry pointed to the two kickoffs—the one for a touchdown to start the game and the one that set up an easy touchdown for Sayville—as big factors in the game. Westhampton Beach also committed three turnovers. Meanwhile, Sayville didn’t turn the ball over once. Westhampton Beach possessed the ball for 30:52 to Sayville’s 17 minutes.

“We don’t commit those errors we beat them soundly,” Parry said.

The Canes will play their next game at Amityville on Saturday at 2 p.m. They have had 10 days to get ready for the Warriors, which were upset by Eastport South Manor in their season opener.

“Amityville is very, very athletic,” Parry said. “They’re going to cause a lot of matchup problems for us. They didn’t play well against Eastport. Eastport controlled the game, slowed the game down, and that was the difference. They didn’t make any mistakes either.”

Tagliavia, in his first varsity start, was 12 for 25 passing with 199 yards, two interceptions and one touchdown. Gagne, before leaving the game, rushed the ball five times for 52 yards and two touchdowns and had three catches for 30 yards. Rignola caught three balls for 55 yards and Phillips caught two passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Senior Liam Culhane led the defense with eight tackles, two for a loss.

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