Bellport Builds 4-Game Winning Streak

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Halfway through their 2016 regular season schedule, the Clippers have built a four-game winning streak and are  proving a growing contender among the 13 varsity football teams in Suffolk Division II.

Ben Erkan and his teammates want to enjoy repeated success during his senior season.  “It definitely feels [good] to be winning again,” said Erkan, a senior linebacker-fullback. “The guys have been putting in a lot of work and it definitely pays off. There is a lot of joy. Our community is excited. In the beginning, a lot of people doubted us. Now we are getting the community together again.”

The 2016 Bellport players are all eager to redeem themselves because they recall the team’s dismal 1-7 season a year ago. The Clippers are the highest-scoring Suffolk team (averaging 45.6 points per game) and have a versatile offense sparked by senior quarterback Jimmy Morrell, wide receiver Dequan Wilson and sophomore running back D.J. Trent, who has scored a touchdown in every game.

After opening with a 28-7 victory over 12th-seeded Smithtown East, the 10th-seeded Clippers have dominated 11th-seeded Centereach 36-20, 13th-seeded Copiague 56-0 and sixth-seeded Deer Park 63-6. Head coach Joe “Sonny” Cipp is pleased, but he’s not bragging.  “We have a low seed and are playing weak teams,” said Cipp. “Our opponents are 4-10. We are upbeat and in good spirits, but we have beaten the teams we are expected to beat. We had dogfights in two of them [against Smithtown East and Centereach].”

The Clippers are also a big favorite for their fifth game, hosting winless Riverhead Saturday at 2 p.m. at Joe Cipp Field. Eighth-seeded Riverhead is scoreless in its three games.  Erkan, a 5-foot 8-inch, 165-pounder, is proving a steady team leader and a persistent aggressive defender. “Our biggest leader vocally is Ben Erkan,” said Cipp.  “He is not that big, but he is all over the field [and has] a lot of energy.”

Erkan has made a team-high 42 tackles (22 solo hits), three sacks and an interception.  “I try my best on every play,” said Ekan. “We say ‘JYD.’ That means Junkyard Dogs [a longtime nickname for Bellport defenders]. We say that a lot around here. It means a lot to us.”  Stephen Schwicke, a former All-County defender for the Clippers, keeps the defenders motivated, said Erkan. Other leading tacklers include Rocale Reyes and Jake Gennusa.  Morrell, an agile QB, has helped produce 17 touchdowns in the first four games.  He has completed 29 of 52 passes for 646 yards, 10 TD passes and one interception. Morrell has rushed 41 times for 325 yards and seven touchdowns.  “He is active and fast,” said Cipp. “He is definitely the leader of the offense. Jimmy has improved his escape-ability in the pocket and he is maturing in fundamentals.”  For the rushing attack, Trent has gained 345 yards and five TDs on 39 carries for offensive coordinator Jamie Fabian. Wilson has caught 11 passes for 329 yards and kicked 11 extra points. Justin Rountree has grabbed eight passes for 185 yards.  As for the defense, Ryan Baumann has three sacks and 18 tackles. Defensive tackles Issaiah Wallace and Shawn McGorty also contributed, along with Anthony LaGrega, Cole Cipp, Nicky Cornacchiulo, James Highsmith and Teandre Rountree.

Erkan knows the Clippers still have to challenge second-seeded West Islip and fourth-seeded North Babylon.  “Our schedule is going to get harder,” said Erkan. “We have to keep evolving and working hard.” 

(Jim Furlong, Long Island Advance 9/29/16)