Losing senior halfback JoJo Pirreca to injury last week was a huge blow to Mount Sinai’s football team, but a junior fullback stepped up to fill the void.
Fullback and linebacker Mike Sabella scored four touchdowns, one coming on a 35-yard interception return, and added a fumble recovery to lead the Mustangs (4-2 in Division IV) to a 38-16 homecoming win over Bayport-Blue Point Oct. 14.
“It’s a huge win for us after last week’s loss,” Sabella said. “We came together after losing at home and put up big numbers against a competitive team. We needed someone to step up when our halfback went down, and we had multiple players come ready to contribute.”
Sabella was quick to share credit despite totaling 191 yards rushing on 17 carries and returning a kickoff 80 yards for Mount Sinai’s first touchdown of the day.
“Obviously, nothing is more important than coming out and getting the win,” Sabella said. “The numbers I put up and the plays I make don’t matter unless the end result is a win. It was a bit sweeter knowing I played at a high level, but in the end winning the game is what really matters to the team and I.”
Although Bayport-Blue Point got on the board first, Sabella’s kickoff return to the house was a quick answer.
“Running down the field and beating 11 guys for an 80-yard touchdown, there’s not much you can do in a football game that is more exciting than that,” Sabella said. “Celebrating with my teammates in the end zone was an amazing feeling.”
On his pick-six, which gave Mount Sinai the lead for good at 14-7, Sabella said he dropped back to watch for the slant route, which he said Mount Sinai’s coaches stressed in particular to watch for during practice.
“I saw the quarterback drop, got underneath the receiver’s slant route, and the football got thrown right into my hands,” he said. “Taking that interception to the end zone felt just like that kickoff return; it’s something teams just can’t account for. Those are plays that aren’t supposed to happen, and it felt great to make it happen and take that into the end zone.”
During its week of preparation Mount Sinai focused on Bayport-Blue Point’s potent passing attack. The Mustangs defense caused five turnovers, including additional fumble recoveries by Thomas Bokinz, Kevin Johnston and Antonio Palmiotto to go with Sabella’s two takeaways.
“My team executed the game plan the best we could today, and that result of that showed on the scoreboard at the end of the game,” Sabella said. “All week we focused on Bayport’s throwing game, and we caused a lot of struggles for their offense throughout the game, so credit to the coaching staff. On offense, we had a great performance from the linemen, which led to success in the running game. When we execute the game plan we set during the week, we are a very difficult team to deal with.”
Mount Sinai junior running back Liam McGrath rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries to officially put the game out of reach. He said the continued support from the audience helped carry him into the end zone.
“It felt great to play in front of the town,” he said. “From the opening touchdown the crowd brought great energy to the team and it definitely set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Sabella said seeing his squad come away with the total team win is a big confidence booster for the important games ahead. Mount Sinai travels to Miller Place (5-1) Oct. 20 for a 6 p.m. game. The Panthers are fresh off a homecoming win of their own over previously undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. The Mustangs will head to Greenport (0-6) Oct. 27 for the final game of the season, currently scheduled for 6 p.m.
“Knowing we have two games left to play in this year’s regular season and we’ve already passed last years win total makes me feel great about our team going forward,” Sabella said. “We’re gaining momentum at the right time, and we’re going to continue to get better every week for playoffs. I believe if we continue on the path we’ve set ourselves on, we can really make some noise this postseason.”