November 3, 1994
When Earle Hopson caught a seven-yard touchdown pass from Robbie Peters, capping a 68-yard, 12-play drive near the end of the third quarter of Saturday’s high school football game at Deer Park, it seemed as if East Hampton, which was playing that day without its star running back, Rob Balnis, had things wrapped up.
But then the fun began.
For the next 15 minutes, Deer Park, which was trailing 21-7 after Hopson’s catch, not only knocked on the Bonackers’ door, but rammed, butted, and pounded so mightily upon it that everyone — players and fans alike — became caught up in the disturbance. Blood flowed in the veins like the river wild, sparks flew, emotions soared. The lid was off.
At the end, as the result of two magnificent goal-line stands by East Hampton in the final five-and-a-half minutes of play, the door, splintered and sagging on its hinges, remained shut. And the Bonackers, in the glow of one of the most exciting games ever played by an East Hampton team, dazed and elated — some to the point of tears — walked off the field the victors by a score of 21-17.
The win improved East Hampton’s record to 5-1, with two games remaining, with Islip (4-2) and Newfield (0-6), both at home. A third home game, on Nov. 19, in the first round of the divisional playoffs, beckons should the Bonackers finish at 7-1.
. . . Thirty-five seconds were left when the Falcons, trailing by 4 points, had the ball first-and-goal on East Hampton’s 2-yard line. Balnis, who had suffered a knee sprain in an accident at home last week, and who is one of Bonac’s most avid defenders, was pleading with Dave MacGarva, Bonac’s head coach, to be sent in.
On first down, R.J. Etzel rushed up to bat away a pass in the end zone intended for Nick Napolitano, the fullback. With 31 seconds left now, Deer Park chose to give the ball to Shane Tinling, its 215-pound running back. But this time he was met by a wall of tacklers led by Louis Carr and Mike Daniels, who pushed him back two yards as the seconds continued ticking off.
Deer Park hurriedly assembled for what it hoped would be the final push. Matt Whalen, the quarterback, sprinted out to the right, looked for receivers, then made for the goal line. Luis Ruano was the first to get to him; then, in quick succession, Troy LaMonda, Carr, and Etzel.
With the sack the clock ran out. Amazingly, Bonac had done it. The big play had been made, the final seconds had, at long last, ticked off, the fans — parents and relatives — were running out onto the field exultant. It had been a hell of a game. It was a delirious, heady, rare moment.