The Huntington football team rallied to nip visiting Riverhead, 20-19 before a crowd of 2,000 of Homecoming Day at Blue Devil Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Huntington struggled offensively through much of the first half and didn’t take command of the game until late in the fourth quarter when quarterback John Paci connected with wide receiver Alex LaBella on a 76 yard touchdown pass. Nat Amato converted the extra point to put the Blue Devils ahead, 20-13.
Riverhead responded by methodically marching down the field and scoring with 1:14 remaining. Down by a point, the Blue Waves attempted a two point conversation, but the pass fell incomplete. Huntington then ran out of the clock to improve its record to 5-2 and send Blue Devil fans home happy.
“It was a great comeback and a crazy play at the end when Riverhead (3-4) attempted a two point conversion,” Paci said. “It was a crazy game and a great win.”
Paci lofted the ball high into the air and LaBella caught it over his shoulders while running full speed and sprinted to the end zone leaving a pair of defenders in the dust.
“It meant a lot to me and the other seniors to come out with a win on our last Homecoming Day game in front of all of our great fans who didn’t stop cheering on our team,” LaBella said.
Riverhead led 7-0 at halftime before Eric Sands capped off a drive early in the second half with a five yard touchdown run to help Huntington tie the score at 7-7. The Blue Waves responded with another drive and touchdown to regain the lead, 13-7.
Sands scored again on a two yard plunge in the fourth quarter before Paci and LaBella teamed up for what proved to be the game winning touchdown. Amato’s extra point kick gave Huntington a seven point cushion and the Blue Devils needed every bit of it to survive Riverhead’s final push.
“We started off a little slow, but then during the second half, we came out strong and won the game,” Amato said.
Sands rushed 25 times for 132 yards and Sebastian Abreu carried four times for 26 yards. Paci completed four of eight passes for 123 yards. Alex LaBella had two receptions for 85 yards. Sam Bergman caught a pass for 25 yards and Jaylen Bush also had a reception for 16 yards. Luke Eidle led the Blue Devil defense with 11 tackles and an interception.
“I was very impressed with the resilience of our team in the second half of the game,” Bergman said.
Huntington was pushed to its limit by feisty Riverhead. “It was a very tough game, but our defense held them for a big win and I couldn’t be any happier,” Sands said.
The Blue Devils have been taking the season one week at a time and not looking ahead to their next opponent. “Today’s game was a huge win for us,” Eidle said. “Riverhead was right behind us in the standings and today’s win solidified a playoff spot for us.”
Huntington travels to Bay Shore (2-5) next Saturday (October 28) for the final regular season game. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.