football played on the edge all night.
The Blue Devils’ Francis Caravetto intercepted a pass in the end zone on the final play of the first half. Dan Plant fell on the ball in the end zone after Islip’s Johnny Maher fumbled at the 1.
Then Thomas Mulligan recovered an onside kick at midfield with the clock ticking down.
So many momentum-shifting plays bounced Huntington’s way against Islip Friday night, it seemed the Blue Devils couldn’t escape their destiny.
But the Blue Devils never could capitalize and had no answer for the heady and gritty play of Islip quarterback Joe Sabbatino. He ran for a pair of second-half touchdowns to guide the No. 4 Bucs over No. 5 Huntington, 17-9, in a Suffolk Division III quarterfinal.
“We knew he was their team,” Huntington Coach Steve Muller said. “We knew he was going to put them on his shoulders every chance he got.”
Sabbatino, who completed just one pass all night, ran for 155 yards on 23 carries. His 19-yard bull run with 5:02 left put Islip ahead 17-3.
The Bucs rushed for 292 yards.
, just two weeks earlier. That was homecoming. And the Blue Devils fully expected to host a playoff game with another win to close out the regular season.
But rival Harborfields mastered the elements and shut out Huntington, 30-0, in the freezing rain last Saturday. That dropped Muller’s team to fifth in the standings. It meant the Blue Devils opened the playoffs on a cold and windy night at Islip instead of a sunny, balmy Saturday in Huntington.
“We hurt ourselves by losing to Harborfields in that ice storm,” Muller said.
Considering how close the Blue Devils came in the rematch with Islip (6-3), playing at home may have made all the difference.
Plant rallied the Blue Devils in the final minutes, engineering an 11-play, 65-yard drive. Trayvon Toney’s 2-yard scoring run with 2:16 left closed the gap to 17-9. Patrick Reilly, who earlier nailed a 34-yard field goal, pushed the extra point attempt wide right.
Huntington wasn’t through yet. The Blue Devils recovered the ensuing onside kick, setting the stage for a thrilling finish. But four straight pass plays went nowhere. With the ball at midfield, Plant slipped on third down for a loss of 7. His final pass downfield fell incomplete.
“We get that kick and we’re never say die on the sideline,” Muller said. “That [sums up] what the season was for us. The kids never gave up. They played their hearts out no matter what the situation was. We had another shot at it. We just came up a little short.”
Plant completed 11 of 21 passes for 122 yards and ran for 19 more.
As the Blue Devils marched off the field and into the darkness, Huntington fans lined the exit and gave this group an ovation. Win or lose, the Blue Devils earned that much.
Suffolk Division III Quarterfinals
Teams..............1.....2.....3.....4 – F
Huntington......0.....3.....0.....6 – 9
I – Rosenthal FG 20
H – Reilly FG 34
I – Sabbatino 1 run (Rosenthal kick)
I – Sabbatino 19 run (Rosenthal kick)
H – Toney 2 run (kick failed)