The Huntington football team came oh-so-close to toppling one of the top teams in the state last Sunday. The Blue Devils had undefeated West Islip on the run for most of the game before falling in the closing minutes to the Lions, 37-35 in the final game of the regular season.
Huntington quarterback John Paul Paci had the best day of his Blue Devil career, completing 14-of-27 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The senior also rushed six times for another 45 yards and a touchdown.
Huntington took an early 7-0 lead at Blue Devil Stadium before a near capacity crowd. Quarterback John Paul Paci hit Jaylen Bush with a 52 yard scoring strike to put the home team ahead. West Islip responded in short order to knot the score at 7-7. But then Paci fired a 23 yard touchdown pass to Jordan McCoy to give the advantage back to Huntington, 14-7.
The Lions narrowed their deficit to 14-10 in the second quarter with a 32 yard field goal. The Blue Devils went ahead 21-10 when Paci threw his third touchdown of the day, connecting on a 19 yard pass play to Chad Rowe. West Islip again responded with a touchdown of its own to pull to within 21-17 at halftime.
The Lions scored back to back touchdowns in the second half to take a 31-21 lead. But Huntington wasn’t done yet. The Blue Devils were able to move the ball with a series of strategic passes and short runs. The drive was capped off on a broken play that saw Paci scamper nine yards to the corner of the end zone to pull Huntington to within 31-28.
Again West Islip responded with a touchdown of its own to go ahead 37-28. But Paci managed to pull off another magic act with a quick 60 yard touchdown pass to Rowe. Placekicker Lex Colato split the uprights for his fifth extra point of the day and the Blue Devils found themselves trailing 37-35. The teams went on to trade possessions before West Islip managed to run out the clock.
The game was a remarkable performance for Huntington, coming against an undefeated team ranked among the best in the state. The Blue Devils scored more points against the Lions than any other Suffolk team this fall.
West Islip came into the game having outscored its first seven opponents by a 218-61 margin. But Huntington’s line, corps of receivers and running backs and Paci nearly pulled off what would have been the biggest upset in Suffolk this year.
The Blue Devils’ defense led by Jon Koumas came up big several times against one of the county’s top offensive units. Huntington did enough to keep the game close until the final seconds.
“I’m really proud of our players,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said. “They didn’t quit. They kept playing hard for the whole game against a great team.”
Huntington missed a spot in the playoffs by the slimmest of margins. The Blue Devils were 0.75 of a point behind the eighth place team in the Suffolk Division II power rankings, which determine who advances to post-season play.