How Sweet It Is

Winning streak extended
R.J. Notel, with the ball above, rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and led the defense as well, with 12 tackles and a blocked extra-point kick. Jack Graves

   The East Hampton High School football team extended its win streak to two in Riverhead Saturday, defeating McGann-Mercy 34-13 after overcoming a rather sluggish start.

    R.J. Notel, a senior who rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns, and who made 12 tackles and blocked an extra point, agreed afterward that it was a far more pleasant feeling to win than to lose.

    “R.J. had a heck of an all-around game. I’m not sure I can remember the last time one of our kids had such a game,” said East Hampton’s head coach, Steve Redlus. “Maybe Danny Wood . . . in 2003.”

    (Wood, “the fiery fullback,” ran for 123 yards and had 11 tackles and a sack in a 25-0 rout of Deer Park in October of that year.)

    But, as aforesaid, East Hampton did not get off the mark early. A 44-yard touchdown run by Reggie Archer in the opening minutes put the home team on the scoreboard first.

    A bad punt that gave East Hampton possession at Mercy’s 34-yard line provided the Bonackers with an opportunity, one that they didn’t squander. Notel ripped off 20 yards on a first-down carry, and raced into the end zone on the next play. Lucas Escobar’s kick was good, for 7-7.

    Mercy scored again, however, when the second quarter began, by way of a 30-yard fourth-down pass that Marco Sciarra, who had beaten his defender, Thomas Nelson, grabbed in the end zone. Notel then blocked the point-after attempt, though East Hampton remained in a hole, at 13-7.

    But then the Bonackers began to wake up: The subsequent kickoff was caught by Jordan Johnson at the 15. He was, Redlus said later, supposed to run the ball up the middle, but instead scampered all the way up East Hampton’s sideline. That 85-yard return, and an interception a few minutes later by Nelson, provided the spark that the Bonackers needed.

    “We never were to trail after Jordan’s kickoff return,” said Redlus.

    Nelson ran his interception back to midfield, at which point the Bonackers launched a scoring drive that included a 13-yard run by Brendan Hughes and two completed passes from Cort Heneveld, East Hampton’s senior quarterback, to Nelson, the latter giving East Hampton a first-and-goal at Mercy’s 7. Heneveld scored on the next play, sweeping the left side. Escobar’s point-after kick sailed wide left, but the Bonackers, with the halftime break looming, seemed finally to be in control.

    The third quarter was largely taken up by a Mercy drive, though it came to naught at East Hampton’s 27 as a fourth-down pass fluttered to the earth near the 10.

    Twelve plays later, with Johnson, a sophomore better known for his defense (he leads the team in sacks, with eight), gobbling up yardage behind the blocking of George Calderon, Heneveld, and Nelson, East Hampton was in Mercy’s end zone again, as the result of a 1-yard dive by Heneveld. Escobar, a varsity soccer player who is seeing double duty this season, tacked on the extra point for a 27-13 East Hampton lead.

    Michael Frosina, Mercy’s quarterback, primarily took to the air after that, though, with fourth-and-eight from East Hampton’s 32, Mark Frosberg forced Mercy to turn the ball over by knocking down a pass at the 10.

    Six plays later, Notel, who had broken his nose in the homecoming game with Southampton the week before (and who also has been playing with a broken left hand), broke off a 40-yard touchdown run, which was followed by Escobar’s point-after kick.

    In the final minute, Johnson broke through from his linebacker position to cause a fumble by Mercy’s quarterback that Luciano Escobar recovered. With 47.9 seconds remaining, Heneveld took a knee on the next play, at Mercy’s 34.

    The win improved East Hampton to 2-4, and dropped McGann-Mercy to 0-6.

    As for statistics, besides Notel’s 136 yards on 15 carries, Johnson, in addition to his 85-yard touchdown kickoff return, gained 76 yards rushing on seven carries. 

    Notel, who had two touchdowns, led the team defensively with the aforementioned 12 tackles and the blocked extra point. Johnson had two sacks and forced a fumble, and Danny McKee, Notel and Johnson’s fellow linebacker, had 10 tackles. Calderon, who played a linebacker position from the end of the third quarter through the fourth, had seven tackles in that brief span.

    “It’s good to win two in a row,” said Redlus, “though we have to keep in mind that Southampton and Mercy are not playoff-bound. The teams we lost to — Mount Sinai, Greenport, Center Moriches, and Glenn — are.”

    Babylon, the undefeated division leader, is to play here in the last game of the regular season on Nov. 2. Meanwhile, there’s a game at Wyandanch, which is 1-5, this Saturday.

Thomas Nelson’s interception soon after Jordan Johnson’s touchdown kickoff return provided the spark that the Bonackers needed.