According to head coach Bill Parry, the Westhampton Beach football team hasn’t quite peaked yet.
For opposing teams, that’s scary.
The Hurricanes dismantled West Babylon, 61-21, at home in the Suffolk County Division III semifinals on a frigid Friday night to advance to their first county championship since 2012. They improved to 10-0 on the season, and in their last five games, the Canes have defeated opponents by an average of more than 30 points. But Parry said on Monday night there’s still room for improvement.
“We’re always making corrections, we did that today in practice. We’re always looking for perfection, and maybe that’s not possible, but I think we played a pretty good game Friday night. Still looking for that perfect game, of course,” he said.
Westhampton Beach has at least one more try at perfection, with the Suffolk County Division III Championships at Stony Brook University at noon on Saturday. The Canes will face off against Half Hollow Hills West, which defeated Sayville, 37-6, in the other semifinal this past Saturday. The Colts were picked as the preseason favorite coming into this season after reaching the Division II county championship the past three seasons. Westhampton Beach defeated Hills West on its home field, 33-7, on September 16.
Parry said that the Colts have greatly improved since then but so has his team. Westhampton Beach was without at least three starters in that game, including junior Liam McIntyre and seniors Tom Blake and Nery Luna, who have all since returned and have been playing extremely well. With both teams playing at the top of their game, it should be an exciting county final.
“I think it’s going to be a good game,” Parry said. “It’s going to be a physical game, but our guys will be ready to play. We’ll see what happens.”
Parry said that Hills West has three players that he described as just as fast as his senior star Dylan Laube, and added that the team has plenty of size. Westhampton Beach senior co-captain Craig Conner said he’s not worried about the Colts, and that he and his fellow teammates are going to play their game no matter what.
“We’re just going to play Westhampton Beach football, be the most physical team on the field, and go out there and have some fun,” he explained. “We just play together and we play for each other. Rain or shine, that’s what we do.”
Laube did what he’s continually done throughout the season on Friday night against West Babylon. The Eagles prepared for him by putting 10 players up on the line, but they still couldn’t stop him. He rushed for 201 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries. Everyone got into the mix for Westhampton Beach, though. Tyler Nolan, a junior, scored twice and finished with 120 rushing yards, including a 52-yard run just 20 seconds into the third quarter.
West Babylon senior quarterback Marc Esposito pulled his team within a touchdown of the Canes’ lead when he scampered for a 17-yard score, his second of the game, with 1:52 remaining in the first half. After that, Westhampton Beach scored 33 straight points, aided by recovering three kickoffs, which all led to touchdowns.
The first touchdown came in the final seconds of the first half. Westhampton Beach junior quarterback Clarke Lewis threw a ball in the back of the end zone for senior receiver Nolan Quinlan, who made a great catch over a West Babylon defender to complete the 28-yard score.
After Nolan’s run to open the second half, the ensuing kickoff was lofted into the wind that held the ball up for a few seconds, but it went well over the 10 yards needed to be a live ball. West Babylon thought it didn’t have to recover the ball and stayed away from it, but the Canes, recognizing it was live, pounced on the ball and took over on the Eagles’s 41. Laube ran off a 53-yard score to make it 47-14.
Westhampton Beach recovered the ensuing kickoff as well after the ball hit off a West Babylon player. The Canes weren’t able to capitalize on that drive, but they recovered a fumble a few minutes later, setting up a 12-yard run by sophomore Joe Sarno to make it 54-14, and Westhampton Beach ran away with the win.
“It was really surreal,” Conner said of the win to put the team into the county final. “To put in so much work, it’s taken three years of hard work, with me now being a senior, and it was amazing to win that game. It was the sum of everything we had worked for.”
It was an uncharacteristically sloppy game for West Babylon, which had trounced East Islip, 27-0, in its playoff opener a week before. But the Eagles had multiple offsides penalties on both sides of the ball in Westhampton Beach, and they had a hard time recovering kicks and just taking care of the ball in general. Parry thought a lot of it had to do with the weather. Temps were in the teens on Friday night due to a gusty wind which made West Babylon’s offense one dimensional, since it couldn’t throw the ball as much as it would have liked.
“That made it much easier for us to ratchet down and stop the run,” Parry said.
Conner said West Babylon may have underestimated the Canes a little bit as well.
“I think teams, they think one thing of us, and then when they play us it’s different,” he explained. “They can watch all the film on us but we’re never what they expect. I think West Babylon was caught off guard and maybe they thought they would come in there and beat us, but we had other plans. We were prepared, we worked really hard all week and it turned out well.”