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Alex LaBella

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Huntington's Eric Sands pushes through the pack. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

A series of fortunate events led Huntington football to a homecoming victory Oct. 21.

Down the entire game, a 76-yard touchdwon toss from quarterback John Paci to Alex LaBella gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the game, 20-13, with 6:22 remaining in the fourth quarter. Then, with one minute left to play, Riverhead went for a 2-point conversion following a 3-yard touchdown run from Darnell Chandler that made it 20-19, instead of trying to tie the game with an extra-point kick. The ball was dropped by Riverhead’s Albert Daniels in the end zone on the attempt to hand Huntington the game.

Huntington’s John Paci pulls back to launch a pass. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“Winning is always something we look to do,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said, adding he did not anticipate the game finishing in this fashion it did. “We take it game by game no matter who they are. We respect everybody. We’re trying to get into the playoffs.”

At halftime, Huntington was down 7-0 after a 40-yard touchdown pass from Christian Pace to Chandler in the second quarter. The Blue Devils offense was lifeless in the first half.

“We thought we didn’t play good Huntington football,” Muller said. “I said to my guys in the locker room that there’s really nothing to say, but we can take over this game if we want to. It’s how bad you want to be remembered for this homecoming.”

Eric Sands, a Top 25 rusher in Suffolk County, had two touchdowns in the second half. The senior said he just wants to go to work every time he steps on the gridiron.

“I’m always excited when my name is called,” he said of consistently getting the football. “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do and stay focused.”

Sands has 611 yards on 87 carries and 11 touchdowns through seven games this season. He scored on runs of 5 yards and 2 yards in the win, and finished the game with 132 yards on 25 carries.

Paci, who completed four of eight passes for 123 yards, seemed to be the hero after heaving the big touchdown pass to LaBella for the advantage, but the junior was quick not to take all the credit.

Huntington’s Alex LaBella races toward the end zone. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“I was scared when the ball was in the air,” Paci said. “It had some arc on it, but I was so excited when LaBella caught it.”

His senior wide receiver was also sweating on the other side of the field.

“There was a lot of nervousness,” LaBella said. “I just had to keep my eye on the ball, run down the field and score.”

Luke Eidle, who had 11 tackles and an interception, also aided Huntington.

Huntington hasn’t lost a game since Sept. 23, a 20-17 loss at home against West Islip. With the win over Riverhead, the Blue Devils have won four straight and improve their record to 5-2.

“I’m always proud of my team,” Muller said. “They’re all great kids and they work real hard everyday. That’s all I could ask for.”

Huntington will go on the road to conclude the season with a game at Bay Shore, which hasn’t lost its last two games, but only scored 10 points in that duration. The game will be Oct. 28 at 2:30 p.m.

Huntington football fans come out to celebrate homecoming. Photo by Jim Ferchland