The Northport Lady Tiger flag football team was scheduled to start their maiden season this past Saturday against Center Moriches. That game, however, was postponed due to inclement weather.
When the season started two days later, on Monday vs. Half Hollow Hills, they received no clemency even though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, getting drubbed by the Lady Thunderbirds, 33-6.
Not exactly an auspicious start to this historic campaign, the Lady Tigers had a few factors heavily working against them. Their top two quarterbacks, Grace Gilmartin and Pixie Ryan, took an untimely school trip to Iceland leaving the offense to juniors Megan Brustmeyer and Allie Murdock, neither of whom were able to move the ball with any consistency, combining to throw four interceptions on the day. Two of these were returned for touchdowns for the Lady Birds.
Northport was playing a new sport for the very first time and it showed. They were penalized for illegal procedure before their very first offensive snap, and this was a sufficient enough indicator of what was to come for a bulk of the afternoon. In another sequence, they needed just two yards to gain a first down with four chances to get it. They gained just one yard.
“We need to learn how to hit the hole and run north and south,” said Tiger Head Coach Pat Campbell, who is unaccustomed to losing games by four touchdowns. “We tried to run outside on them, and their defense has a lot of speed. We will work on this over the next few practices.”
Half Hollow Hills, on the other hand, was playing in their fourth game and looked very well-oiled. Freshman quarterback Samantha Heyman played like a season veteran, deftly mixing in runs and passes showing great skills in handling the ball and finding open receivers. The Hills offense exuded professionalism and even took to some razzle-dazzle scoring the first touchdown of the game on a 35-yard double-reverse pass that caught the entirety of the Tiger defense out of position.
“The score looks pretty bad, but I thought we did some things well,” Campbell said. “No matter what kind of football you are playing, one thing always is true — you can’t turn the ball over and expect to win.”
The game was competitive for a good chunk of the first half and tied the score with a long TD reception by junior Kenzie Bliven. She was able to sneak past cornerback Rose Azmoudah down the right sideline and race 45 yards to tie the score at 6-6.
But with less than a minute remaining in the half Brustmeyer underthrew Bliven on the same route and this time defender Jolie Boyle would intercept it and bring it back to the Tiger 10-yard line. Hills punched it in with 20 seconds to take a 12-6 lead at the break.
T’Bird senior middle linebacker Jahniya McCreary would intercept two passes and return one of them for a touchdown in the second half. She would also catch two touchdown passes from Heyman as did wide receiver Olivia Hamilton.
“Jahniya is the heart and soul of defense and she was amazing today,” said Hills Head Coach Michael Lupa. “She makes all the calls and reads and anticipates so well. It makes it tough on the opposing offense.”
“We really have a passion for this sport, and we really play well as a team,” McCreary said. “We come out here expecting to win.”
And all of this winning is being led by the ninth grader Heyman, who was eight for 18 for 155 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. She also had 81 yards on the ground.
“Sammy can really throw the ball,” Lupa said. “She also knows when to tuck it in a run. She’s really impressed me with her decision making so far.”
“I’ve been playing football since elementary school,” said Heyman. “I look for an open receiver and if there are none, I’ll take what I can get by running.”
So far, the Thunderbirds are running the table with their perfect 4-0 record and are looking for more when they travel to Connetquot on April 11. Northport took on Lindenhurst April 5 but results were unavailable at press time.