By Joe Galotti
The Smithtown East football team’s defense gave an admirable effort in the school’s homecoming game Saturday afternoon, but in the end could not do enough to help the Bulls earn their first victory of the season. Visiting Copiague scored only once in regulation, but still came away with a 14-8 win, thanks to an overtime rushing touchdown by junior quarterback Ronald James.
“From top to finish it was the best game we’ve played all year long,” Smithtown East head coach Chris Denton said. “The result was tough — having to end the game like that, especially on homecoming, but our defense played a great game.”
Even with wet and windy weather conditions, Smithtown East was able to draw a large crowd of students and parents for the school’s homecoming festivities, but on the field, the Bulls did not give their fans much to cheer about in the first half, as the team’s offense struggled to move the ball up field. Both defenses were sharp through the first two quarters though, resulting in a scoreless game at the half.
The contest’s first points came 4:11 into the third quarter, when Eagles junior running back J’Quan Brown delivered a 7-yard rushing touchdown. James then connected on a pass to junior tight end Tyrone Browne on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, to give Copiague an 8-0 advantage.
Smithtown East provided a quick response to the Eagles strike. With 6:01 remaining in the third, sophomore running back Lauden Hendricks broke a 70-yard touchdown run, giving his team a much needed spark. The sophomore was able to find a hole on a rush up the middle of the field, and once he found an opening, used his speed to race into the end zone.
“It was a trap right call,” Hendricks said. “It was a perfect blocking scheme and a perfect block that got me up to the second level. Then I just had to run it.”
Denton was not surprised by Hendricks’ highlight-worthy run, and said that his team has seen that level of play from him before.
“Lauden is a fantastic athlete,” Denton said. “Once he gets hot, he gets really hot. And then we just let him run the ball.”
The Bulls tied the game at 8-8 when junior quarterback Anthony Voelker found sophomore wide receiver Andrew Durland in the end zone for the two-point conversion.
After the two quick scores, the game returned to being a defensive struggle. The Eagles threatened to score in the final minute of regulation, but Smithtown East’s defense held strong, forcing overtime.
In the extra period, each team was given a chance to start a drive at their opponent’s 20-yard line. The Bulls got possession first, and nearly punched the ball into the end zone, but were denied when Copiage senior linebacker Dylan Dixon forced a Smithtown East fumble just shy of the goal line. The Eagles recovered the loose ball.
On the fifth play of Copaige’s ensuing drive, James faked to his running back and ran three yards to the outside for the game-winning touchdown.
While the Bulls defense was unable to avoid a frustrating defeat, Hendricks still was pleased with the unit’s effort.
“I think our defense played as good as we have all year,” he said. “There were just certain moments where we gave up the big play, and were just in bad situations.”
Smithtown East will look for better results in the second half of their 2015 campaign, beginning this Saturday, when the Bulls travel to Half Hollow Hills East for their opponent’s homecoming at 1:30 p.m.