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“Complete team” effort secures first round playoff win for Tigers; Lindenhurst up next

Schools by: John Mohlmann, November 8, 2021

Quarterback Owen Johansen makes some space in a 23-14 victory against West Islip on November 6. Photo by Laura Holden.

On a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon, the Lions from West Islip were looking to avenge a 21-7 week two loss to our Northport Tigers. The Tigers were also looking for revenge from last spring’s playoff loss to the Lions. Something had to give in this round one playoff matchup.

The Tigers won the coin toss and elected to kick off to start the game.

Coach Carol Rose, filling in for Coach Lynch as the PA announcer, gave Tiger fans a great laugh when she quipped, “And the tackle was made by… the entire Tiger defense.” Little did she know how much this moment of levity would pertain to what would transpire during the game.

On fourth down and short, West Islip decided to go for it. Ryan McEnroe shot through the line and dropped the back for a loss, giving the Tigers the ball on the Lion’s 40-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, QB Owen Johansen hit a wide open JJ Ahlstrand in stride for a 40-yard touchdown reception, giving the Tigers an early 6-0 lead.

The Tigers got the ball back deep in their own territory and started a drive. This drive consisted of great blocking from the offensive line and some smashmouth football. Jackson Campbell compiled 80 yards running during this drive as the first quarter came to a close. The drive stalled out, however, on the Lion’s 3-yard line and the Tigers elected to attempt a field goal. Brendan Connolly would put it through the uprights for a 9-0 Tiger lead.

The Lions cut the lead to 9-7 in the second quarter. On the kickoff, Evan Gaumont received the ball at the 9-yard line and brought the ball back all the way to the fifty on a beautiful return. The offense mixed it up on the next possession with Ahlstrand, Jack Helrigel, and Aidan Campbell all making a reception for first down yardage. This drive was finished off by Jackson Campbell when he busted a touchdown run from three yards out, giving the Tigers a 16-7 lead.

With 1:11 left in the half, the Lions drove all the way down to the Tiger 2-yard line with 2 seconds left in the half. The Lions went for it and scored on a QB keeper, cutting the deficit to 16-14 heading to the half.

Northport’s first drive stalled and the Tigers had to punt it away. The defense came on the field and the Lions were moving the ball with authority. The Tiger D got the Lions in a fourth down situation and needed a big play. It would come in the form of a sack from lineman Wes Camillone. The Tigers got the ball back and wasted no time scoring. Jackson Campbell took a handoff, made a few moves while getting hit, avoided others, got out to the sideline and raced all the way to the end zone for a 57-yard touchdown run. The blocking by the line, and the relentlessness of Jackson made this touchdown possible.The Tigers had a 23-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

The Lions refused to give up. They drove all the way to the Tiger 7-yard line before a huge play was made by defensive lineman Jack Pokiwicz. The exchange between the Lions quarterback and running back was fumbled and Pokowicz had the presence of mind to jump on it and give the ball back to the offense.

“It feels so good to be able to make a play of that magnitude,” said Jack after the game. “It didn’t register to me how important that play was until I came back to the sidelines and my teammates were all congratulating me and then I looked at the clock and then it hit me.”

The Tigers took the ball all the way down to the Lion’s 4-yard line after the turnover and went into victory formation as Johansen took a knee giving the Tigers the 23-14 win.

As Coach Rose said “by the entire defense,” this was an entire team win. The Tigers team got contributions from all of the regular players and then some. Asked about the win, Stelios Politidis had this to say, “ This was the most complete team win we have had by a country mile.”

Jackson Campbell, who was forced to miss the playoff game against West Islip last spring but was a major contributor to this win, said when asked if he was even more pumped up because of last year’s quarantine: “It feels very special to beat them in the regular season and then in the playoffs, especially at home. The crowd was also a great motivator.”

The Tigers’ playoff quest continues next Friday night at 6pm in Lindenhurst. The Bulldogs beat the Tigers 20-14 in a week five matchup. This will be another tough game between two very good teams.

Running back Dan Eagers brings in the Tigers flag at the onset of last Saturday’s first round playoff game. Captains Andrew Canales (left) and Owen Johansen are at his side. Photo by Laura Holden.

Jack Helrigel provides enough coverage to help running back Jackson Campbell gain yardage against West Islip. Photo by Laura Holden.