By: Jack Nevins
In the first round of the Suffolk County playoffs, the T-Birds defeated the offense-heavy West Islip Lions. After losing to the Lions early in the season, Hills East was hungry for a win and just barely slipped by, winning 9-7 with a game winning field goal by Max Futter. Futter’s kick sent the T-Birds to Bellport where they played the Clippers on Saturday afternoon. This was a highly anticipated matchup as the same time a year ago, the Clippers beat the Thunderbirds in dramatic fashion, sending the T-Birds home.
The T-Birds scored first on a three yard rush from junior, Shakie Bethea. The first quarter was in the hands of the Thunderbirds’, Jordan Heyman, the quarterback and punter, could not get it to go through the air, but punted the ball out of bounds at the one yard-line, leaving the Clippers in a pickle. This quick lead taken by Hills East was taken away by a muffed punt by Jovanny Brown and a fumble off of Nigel Clay. The T-Birds turnover led to a 36 yard touchdown through the air on the connection of Justin Miles to Dontae Phillips. Later in the first quarter, Phillips punched it in for six, again extending the Clippers lead to 13-7. The Thunderbirds were charged with an abundant amount of penalties. This has been an ongoing trend throughout the season for both the T-Birds offense and defense. After sitting down with Coach Marcelin earlier in the week he said, “The penalties have affected us greatly and have played a huge role in the way our game is run and shaped.” Before the first half ended, the Thunderbirds struck hard with a 21 yard rushing touchdown by Jovanny Brown to take a 14-13 lead, but were met with another Dontae Phillips touchdown, a kick return for 87 yards. Phillips was not done yet as he scored another rushing touchdown, this time a 44 yard rush downhill to put the Clippers up 27-14 late in the first half.
The Clippers continued their dominance in the second half starting out strong with a blocked field goal by Trey’von Holland. Holland then followed it up with a blocked punt, putting the Clippers in scoring position. Nicholas Anderson and co. took control as he punched in another six for the Clippers on a three yard score, which was followed by a Jason Hunt 2-point conversion, making the score 35-14 late in the third. Justin Miles found his man, Jesse Barnes over the middle of the field for a 51 yard reception and another Bellport touchdown.
Injuries played an enormous role in the Thunderbirds’ loss. The T-Birds were without sophomore and captain wide receiver, Lucas Martin, and Josh Isaacs, a leader of the defense, who went down early in the first half with a knee injury. Isaacs led the team in tackles in the first quarter and played a vital role in the Thunderbirds defense. The senior linebacker was very disappointed by the loss but glad to see his teammates go out there and compete, “My brothers got me either way, it just wasn’t in our favor today, but they’ll be back.”
The Thunderbirds played an outstanding season which featured ups and downs, from the win over Lindenhurst and a game winning field goal over West Islip, to heartbreaking losses such as this one. The T-Birds have learned a lot this season under Coach Marcelin and the Thunderbirds are ready to do whatever it takes to come back stronger next year and show their true winning potential.