Rise Again in 2010! "If it is to be, it is up to me to do it."
Bellport Beats Garden City for Class II LIC Crown Originally published: November 27, 2010 3:21 PM Updated: November 27, 2010 7:34 PM By BOB HERZOGbob.email@example.com
For Bellport running back Travis Houpe, the pain was everywhere, except where it mattered most.
"I asked him if his knee hurt. He said, 'Yep,' " Clippers coach Joe Cipp Jr. said. "I asked him if his back hurt. 'Yep.' I asked him if his heart hurt. He said, 'Nope.' So I knew he really wasn't hurt."
Houpe shook off a couple of crunching hits early in the fourth quarter that sent him to the bench for several plays. Then he scored the winning touchdown on a 3-yard run with 1:23 left as Bellport defeated Garden City, 26-21, Saturday in the Long Island Class II championship game at Stony Brook University's LaValle Stadium.
"It was a hard-hitting game, but I knew my team needed me," said Houpe, a 5-5, 180-pound package of fury who had 104 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. "I gave it my all."
Both teams turned in all-out efforts as the Clippers (9-3) won their sixth Long Island championship, tying North Babylon for the most titles, and finished with a seven-game winning streak.
The defending Class II champion Trojans, making their record 12th appearance in the 19 years the Long Island Championships have been held, finished 10-2.
"It was a tremendous effort by both teams," Cipp said after his 211th career victory, 13 fewer than Garden City coach Tom Flatley. "They stopped us cold in the second half."
Garden City took a 21-20 lead on Patric Berkery's 1-yard run with 2:18 left in the third quarter and Ryan Norton's PAT. Berkery played a spectacular game - 160 yards rushing and two touchdowns (one on an 82-yard run), seven receptions for 108 yards (including a 4-yarder for a TD), an interception and 41/2 tackles.
The Trojans had two chances to take control. With 6:49 remaining, Mike Borges recovered a fumble at the Bellport 14. But the Clippers' defense stiffened and Tom Gordon's fourth-down pass from the 12 was incomplete. "We had a chance to put the game away and go up by eight points, and we didn't," Flatley said.
After the Trojans' Mark Ellis intercepted a pass at the Garden City 9 with 3:14 remaining, the Clippers came up big again, forcing a three-and-out. "Our defense stopped them when it had to," Cipp said.
Norton, an exceptional kicker, sent a soaring punt that was knocked down by a strong, gusty crosswind and went out of bounds at the Trojans' 30.
Houpe ran for six yards on two carries, putting Bellport in a critical third-and-4 from the Garden City 24. On "brickhouse slant," a delay route, Justin Honce found Armand Correa over the middle for a 21-yard gain to the 3.
Two plays later, Houpe followed tackle Ryan Sloan and others into the end zone. "I knew when the time was right, I'd be able to score," Houpe said.
Honce couldn't hold back the tears after the game, embracing teammate after teammate during the postgame celebrations.
"Travis - I call him Mighty Mouse. He's the hardest-working player out there," said Honce, who threw for 179 yards and two touchdowns. "Armand is a playmaker. It was a whip route and I knew he'd get open."
After Bellport reclaimed the lead, Garden City showed its heart - and some razzle-dazzle, too. Gordon threw a short pass to Matt Confort, who tossed a lateral to Berkery. The 42-yard hook-and-ladder play put the Trojans at the Bellport 36 with 53 seconds left. After an incomplete pass, Bellport's Mike Burton intercepted Gordon, who was under duress, to ice it for the Clippers.
"I saw the quarterback was scrambling," said Burton, who caught five passes for 121 yards, including a 28-yard TD that gave Bellport a 20-14 halftime lead. "I saw a crazy-duck pass and I knew I had to intercept it."
Determination carried the day. "We weren't going to let it slip out of our hands," the emotional Honce said. "I love everybody on this team."
The love was reciprocated after Honce threw that late interception. "They wouldn't let me lose my confidence," he said. "They picked me up. That's what team is all about."
That's what victory is all about. It takes the pain away.
Bellport's Cipp wins historic 209th
Originally published in Newsday: November 13, 2010 9:19 PM
Joe Cipp Jr. stood with his hands on his hips and soaked it all in. His Bellport football team had just beaten host Newfield, 30-15, to move into next week's title game in Suffolk's Division II. The win was especially significant in that it tied Cipp Jr. with former Comsewogue coach Tom Cassese as the all-time wins leader in Suffolk at 209.
"He's proud of the accomplishment but he really doesn't like all the attention," said his son Joe Cipp III, Bellport's offensive coordinator. "It's quite an achievement."
Cipp's record in 32 years now stands at 209-87-3 for a .704 winning percentage. He's led the Clippers to nine county titles and four Long Island crowns.
Photo credit: Joseph D. Sullivan | Bellport's Mike Burton signs his letter of intent to play with C.W. Post, accompanied by his mother Jennifer Burton.
Photo credit: Kevin P. Coughlin | Bellport's Eddie Carson kisses the championship plaque after beating Garden City, 26-21, in the Class II Long Island Championship game at Stony Brook University. (Nov. 27, 2010)
Sarra: Clippers add another title to Bellport tradition
November 27, 2010 By GREGG SARRA MSG Varsity
The path to the Long Island Championships was marked with red paw prints. They appeared on the signs planted along the landscape on Nicolls Road, Route 97, from Sunrise Highway north to Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium.
Although Bellport's nickname is the Clippers, the team has taken on the rough-and-tumble aura of junkyard dogs. The team mascot is Jiggs the Bulldog. Hence, the paw prints.
Two buses carrying the precious cargo that is the Garden City football team traveled the route and couldn't help but notice the signage. It was a simple reminder that the Trojans were traveling into hostile territory. Bellport, which had won five Long Island Class II titles, was seeking a sixth.
"Our community is so supportive," Bellport coach Joe Cipp Jr. said. "The program is all about family and tradition. And our players appreciate the support they get from the program in and out of the school."
Cipp has formed a brotherhood in Bellport, similar to the groups that support the high school teams in other states where football is king. Bellport could be Woodlands, Texas, or Miami, Fla., two areas that live and breathe high school football.
"I wouldn't be who and where I am today without Bellport football," said wide receiver/linebacker Mike Burton, who sealed yesterday's 26-21 win with an interception at the Bellport 36 with 30 seconds remaining.
Said Burton, "I moved here from Georgia . . . and got into quite a bit of trouble. Coach Cipp took me aside and helped me straighten things out. He's a father figure to so many guys."
Burton, who also caught a 28-yard touchdown pass, is doing well academically and considering multiple scholarship offers to play college football. His relationship with Cipp exemplifies the extended Bellport family.
"Football in Georgia is about star players, sometimes one guy," Burton said. "In Bellport, it's family-oriented. Everything we do is about respect for yourself, your school, your opponent and your family."
Senior co-captain Kevin Schwicke was a water boy as a seventh-grader. He never missed a game and watched firsthand as his brother Stephen, an All-Long Island linebacker, helped Bellport win the Long Island Class II title in 2005.
"I wanted to follow in my brother's footsteps and make him proud," Schwicke said. "I saw how dedicated he was to Bellport football and coach Cipp. I wanted to know that feeling and play in that title- game atmosphere. It's an honor to play for this man and be a part of something special."
Stephen Schwicke, wearing his championship jacket, roamed the sideline Saturday rooting for the Clippers. "I can't tell you how proud I am of my brothers," said Schwicke, a standout linebacker at Stony Brook who watched twins Robert and Kevin raise the trophy. "It's so emotional to see them achieve something so great."
Since Cipp started the program in 1976, he has galvanized a community, instilling the kind of pride only football can produce. His son Joe Cipp III, who has coached by his side the last seven years, said he's seen his father persevere through difficult times in the community and bring it together. "I grew up in this program," Joe III said. "He's taken kids off the streets and showed them the right way. He's believed in his principles and never swayed under pressure, always believing in his ideals."
Cipp eclipsed the Suffolk career victory record last week. When he earned number 211 yesterday, it was a record-tying sixth L.I. title for the Clippers - or the Cippers, if you will.
"Turning kids around and setting them on the right path is what I've always tried to do," said Cipp, 62, who also serves as the district's superintendent. "The alumni continue to come back and support the program. The community is involved and we've built a strong tradition."
Hulking offensive lineman Ryan Sloan wrote an essay for college and had this to say about Cipp and Bellport football:
"I am very fortunate to play for coach Cipp and learn life lessons in his program," Sloan said. "He has taught me to never give up and have hope when things don't go my way. I admire him and he's had a major influence in my life. I don't get to tell him how thankful I am for everything he has ever done for me."
No one was more celebratory than Sloan after the big win. He held the championship plaque above his head and screamed for the world to hear. He bear-hugged Cipp and told him how much he loved him.
Early Saturday morning, a huge banner hung on an overpass leading to Stony Brook University that read, "Go Bellport, Suffolk Champions."
Last night, the outbound overpass had a different message: "Congratulations Bellport, Long Island Champions." Beware of the dogs.
Photo credit: Kevin P. Coughlin | Bellport's 62 Ryan Sloan looks over and congratulates Travis Houpe after falling backwards in the end zone to score the go-ahead touchdown with 1:23 left to beat Garden City in the Class II Long Island Championship, 26-21. (Nov. 27, 2010)
Bellport senior captain has overcome physical and emotional obstacles along the way.
Ryan: Bellport's Sloan a Survivor
By Shawna Ryan | Tuesday, November 23 Courtesy: MSGVarsity.com
When we first caught up with Bellport's offensive tackle Ryan Sloan at the beginning of the season, he was soft spoken. Not exactly what you might expect when you see the 6-foot-3, 320-pound senior captain.
"It means a lot to me," he says when asked what football represents in his life. "It's everything in fact."
Sloan's size may make him an imposing and intimidating force on the football field, but his story makes you realize how very human he is.
He has had to face incredible obstacles. An early childhood accident left him blind in his right eye. His mother died of heart failure in 2003. Yet, through it all, he says football's positive influence has been the one constant that's pushed him forward. After being recruited by Rutgers, Stony Brook and Central Florida, he has signed his letter of intent with Syracuse. He is considered a top candidate for the Zellner award, as Suffolk County's best lineman.
"He's been thrown a few curve balls in his young life," says Bellport head coach Joe Cipp, Jr. “He lost his mom and that's a difficult thing and I hope he sees people do care about him. I'd like to see him be the best he can be in life or in football."
"We're all family here," says Sloan. “My coaches help me and my brothers are my team mates."
When we caught up with Sloan again recently, he was a little less soft spoken, and he had reason to shout. As he walked onto the field at Stony Brook University, to face East Islip for the Division 2 County title, he carried a big stick. And I'm not speaking metaphorically. He really carried a big stick—called the "Hit Stick."
"Last week against Newfield I had a big it," says Sloan. “Players with big hits get this. It's a big thing in our program. Everyone wants it and I just happened to get it!"
Sloan went on to help the Clippers grab the title, setting up key blocks that led to touchdowns. He also helped Coach Cipp grab his 210th career win, breaking the Suffolk County record.
After the County Championship, Sloan has 30 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, six sacks, one interception, 12 assists and two caused fumbles.
"It feels so great," says Sloan. "I've been waiting for this my whole life, since I was a kid in PAL. We had ups and downs. We started 1-2 but we came together as a family and turned the season around. It's the best feeling in the world. I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world right here in Bellport with my brothers."
High school football preview: Can Bellport keep it going? Originally published: November 17, 2010 7:58 PM Updated: November 17, 2010 8:13 PM By BOB HERZOGbob.firstname.lastname@example.org
Strike a rematch and turn up the heat. It's county championship week for Nassau and Suffolk public schools and it's the championship game in the CHSFL.
Chalk has been the rule throughout the playoffs, as the lowest seeded team still playing is No. 4 Bellport in Suffolk Division II. But the Clippers are one of the hottest teams around, having won five straight.
In all nine contests, the teams already have played each other earlier in the season. Is it harder to beat a team for a second time? We'll find out beginning with two games Thursday night, one in each county...
East Islip (9-1) vs. Bellport (7-3), at Stony Brook Univ., noon: East Islip won, 10-7, in Week 2, but No. 4 Bellport isn't the same team. RB Travis Houpe and QB Justin Honce have matured along with some hard hitters on defense. The No. 1 Redmen feature versatile QB Kevin Hutchinson, a true triple threat. He runs, passes and kicks field goals.
Johnson keys Bellport's shutout of Newfield
Originally published: October 30, 2010 9:54 PM Updated: October 30, 2010 10:22 PM By GREGG SARRA. MSG Varsity
Defensive end Dante Johnson blocked a punt on Newfield's first possession to set up the first of three Travis Houpe touchdowns as Bellport rolled to a 24-0 victory.
Road warriors beware - winning streaks come to die in Bellport.
Entering yesterday's game, Newfield had the highest scoring offense in Suffolk's Division II and the stingiest defense. But this was Bellport, winners of five Long Island championships and 10 county titles. This was Bellport, a program that has won more playoff games than any team in county history. This was Bellport, a place Newfield had never found glory, a place steeped in winning tradition like it's the 12th man.
And thus the story of Newfield's fantastic season and unexpected run to the top of the standings was blown up by a swarming Bellport defense. History does have a way of repeating itself.
Defensive end Dante Johnson blocked a punt on Newfield's first possession to set up the first of three Travis Houpe touchdowns as Bellport rolled to a 24-0 victory before a crowd of more than 1,600.
The usually even-keeled Johnson was a bit worked up after Newfield's pre-game staredown at the middle of Bellport's Joe Cipp Field. The Wolverines, jacked up over a 7-0 start, the best in school history, came to Bellport with visions of an undefeated regular season and championship glory.
Johnson's block gave Bellport the ball at Newfield's 9-yard line, setting up a 4-yard scoring run by Houpe with 9 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first quarter. And Johnson's fumble recovery at the Newfield 3 set up Houpe's 3-yard scoring run with 2:49 left in the quarter.
"You can't come in here, stand on our field and scream at us and try to intimidate us," Johnson said. "We're not having it - we do our talking on the field."
Johnson had an immediate impact on yesterday's outcome. On the fumble, the speedy defensive end shed his blocker and wreaked havoc in the Newfield backfield.
"They tried to get a chip on me from the tackle but I'm too quick," Johnson said. "And [Ryan] Sloan forced the fumble and I was right there. Their defense is real good but we play great 'D' too."
Bellport (5-3) earned the fourth seed and a home game next week against Smithtown West on Saturday at 2 p.m. Newfield hosts Comsewogue, also at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Clippers did it with a defense that shut down the hard running of halfback Shervon Barthelmy, who ran for a school record 303 yards last week. Barthelmy was held to 18 yards on seven carries in the first half.
"We didn't take care of the ball and made too many mistakes early on and never recovered," Newfield coach Joe Piccininni said. "We haven't turned it over like that all season."
Johnson wasn't done. His sack of quarterback Mike Silva ended another drive.
"He's very athletic," Bellport coach Joe Cipp Jr. said. "He was getting tremendous penetration."
This was unfamiliar territory for the Wolverines. They hadn't trailed in a game all season. And now they were down by two scores. "We didn't quit," Newfield linebacker Tom Diubaldo said. "We turned it over in our own end. We'll rebound."
After Bellport's first two scores, Newfield (7-1) responded with a 12-play, 64-yard drive to inside the Bellport 10. But the drive stalled when Eddie Carson came on a corner blitz and sacked Silva on third-and-8. On fourth down, Diubaldo took a screen pass for 14 yards to the 10, 3 yards short of the first down.
The inability to cut the lead in half seemed to deflate Newfield. To that point Bellport had gained only 39 yards on 18 offensive plays, but the Clippers responded by marching 90 yards, capped by Houpe's 20-yard touchdown run through the teeth of the defense. Quarterback Justin Honce keyed the march with a 40-yard strike to Armand Correa to the Wolverines' 25.
"Newfield plays great defense and we finally moved the ball," Honce said.
Houpe's two-point conversion run made it 21-0 with 1:10 left in the half. but the defense wasn't finished. On the ensuing possession, Sloan recovered a fumble at the Newfield 29 and Honce drilled a 31-yard field goal with 21 seconds left for the 24-0 halftime lead.
"You can't argue with our winning tradition," Johnson said. "That is how you earn respect. You win - all the time."
Scoring: B � Houpe 4 run (Honce kick) B � Houpe 3 run (kick failed) B � Houpe 20 run (Houpe run) B � FG Honce 31
Highlights: Bellport 24, Newfield 0: Dante Johnson blocked a first quarter punt to set up a short Travis Houpe touchdown run and Bellport shut out previously unbeaten Newfield, 24-0. Houpe scored all three Bellport touchdowns and rushed for 73 yards on 19 carries.
Scoring: R: Aarp FG 32 R: Rollins 90 pass from McKillop (Aarp kick) R: Rollins 8 pass from McKillop (Aarp kick) B: A. Correa 47 run (Honce kick) B: Morales 49 pass from Honce (Honce kick) B: Morales 17 pass from Honce (Honce kick)
Highlights: Bellport 20, Riverhead 17: Justin Honce threw a 17-yard touchdown to Alejandro Morales with 2:30 left to win it for Bellport (2-2) in Division II. Morales faked a bubble screen and took off on a go, and Honce eluded pressure from the blind side, stepped up in the pocket, and delivered the throw. The drive had been set up by Ryan Sloan's interception of an attempted screen pass and 32-yard return to the 23 with four minutes left. The defensive tackle cut in front of the running back, tipped the pass up and caught his own deflection against his thigh. Rodney Rollins' 8-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter had given Riverhead a 17-0 lead before the Clippers rallied for 20 unanswered points. Armand Correa ran for 146 yards and a touchdown, linebacker Mike Burton made a team-high six tackles and Sloan had four stops. Riverhead is 1-3.
Passing Bellport Justin Honce 3/8 for 80 yards, 2 TDs, 0 PAT, 0 Int
Receiving Bellport Alejandro Morales 3 receptions for 80 yards, 2 TDs, 0 PAT
Rushing Bellport Armand Correa 20 attempts for 146 yards, 1 TDs, 0 PAT
Originally published: October 2, 2010 8:56 PM Newsday.com
Justin Honce threw a 17-yard touchdown to Alejandro Morales with 2:30 left to give Bellport a 20-17 win over Riverhead Saturday in Suffolk Division II football. The drive was set up by Ryan Sloan's 32-yard interception return to the Riverhead 23 with four minutes left. Rodney Rollins' 8-yard TD reception in the second quarter gave Riverhead (1-3) a 17-0 lead. Armand Correa rushed for 146 yards and a TD for Bellport (2-2).
Bellport's Sloan heading to Syracuse
Originally published: October 1, 2010 6:51 PM Newsday.com Updated: October 1, 2010 6:54 PM
Bellport senior two-way tackle Ryan Sloan, a first-team Newsday All-Long Island football selection as a junior, verbally has accepted a full athletic scholarship to Syracuse University. The 6-3, 320-pound Sloan is the lead blocker on most of the Clippers' running plays and a force on defense against the run who also can get to the quarterback. Veteran Bellport coach Joe Cipp last year called Sloan "the best big man I've ever coached." Sloan made his verbal commitment on Thursday night, the Bellport school district announced. In a recent article, Newsday revealed that Sloan has been blind in his left eye since age 3, but overcame that adversity to make himself one of the best football players in the tri-state area.
He was No. 8 in MSG Varsity's preseason rating of the Top 100 players on Long Island.
September 25, 2010
Scoring: C: Masone 42 run (Cossidente kick) B: Johnson 6 pass from Honce (kick blocked) B: Burton 75 pass from Honce (pass fail) B: Burton 29 pass from Honce (Honce run) C: Scalera 90 kickoff return (Cossidente kick) C: Masone 2 run (Cossidente kick)
Passing Comsewogue Matt Scalera 2/5 for 22 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT, 0 Int
Receiving Comsewogue Ryan Brunet 1 receptions for 8 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Kenny Scotland 1 receptions for 14 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT
Rushing Comsewogue Vincenzo Masone 21 attempts for 117 yards, 2 TDs, 0 PAT Matt Scalera 19 attempts for 63 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Michael Krisa 3 attempts for 25 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Ryan Brunet 4 attempts for 8 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT
Kicking Comsewogue Matt Cossidente , FGs: 0/0, PAT: 3/3, Punts: 0 for 0
Scoring: EI - Hutchinson 31 field goal EI - Ancona 4 from Hutchinson (Hutchinson kick) B - Houpe 3 run (Honce kick)
Highlights: East Islip 10, Bellport 7: Kevin Hutchinson passed for a touchdown, rushed 19 times for 117 yards, kicked a field goal and extra point and recorded an interception for East Islip (2-0 Division II).
Passing East Islip Kevin Hutchinson (WR/DB) 3/6 for 27 yards, 1 TDs, 0 PAT, 0 Int
Receiving East Islip Pete Hanabergh 1 receptions for 15 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Kyle Moller 1 receptions for 8 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Nick Ancona 1 receptions for 4 yards, 1 TDs, 0 PAT
Rushing East Islip Kevin Hutchinson (WR/DB) 19 attempts for 117 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Frank Artura (RB/DB) 12 attempts for 56 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Mike Higgins (RB/LB) 1 attempt for 3 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT Tyler Rigo 3 attempts for 2 yards, 0 TDs, 0 PAT
Kicking East Islip Kevin Hutchinson (WR/DB), FGs: 1/1, PAT: 1/1, Punts: 0 for 0
Photo credit: George A. Faella | Bellport Clippers Mike Burton #38, turns upfiled after making the catch. (Sept. 11, 2010
Burton's INT return helps Bellport rally
Originally published: September 11, 2010 8:36 PM Updated: September 11, 2010 9:29 PM By BOB HERZOGbob.email@example.com
The message to Bellport defensive back Mike Burton was simple: "Lock down number four."
West Babylon wide receiver Michael Richardson, who wears uniform No. 4, had already caught two touchdowns to help his team take a 12-point lead as the clock ticked down to halftime. But with the ball on the Clippers' 37, West Babylon was looking for one more score. The Eagles are still looking.
Burton blanketed Richardson, forcing quarterback Alex Hennessy (119 yards rushing, 120 passing) to look elsewhere. Under duress, Hennessy's pass was tipped - right into the hands of Burton, who took the interception down the sidelines for an 80-yard touchdown with 0:07 left in the half.
That play killed us," West Babylon coach Al Ritacco said.
It was one of three returns for touchdowns that allowed the host Clippers to win yesterday's Division II opener, 36-19, before an overflow crowd of more than 1,000.
"Coach always wants us to score on defense," Burton said. "I felt relieved that the gap wasn't bigger at halftime."
The gap got a lot bigger in the second half, again thanks to a nice return on an investment. West Babylon still led 19-14 early in the fourth quarter when Bellport coach Joe Cipp played a hunch and inserted Armand Correa to return a punt.
"I just had a feeling," said Cipp, who won his 203rd game to move within six of Tom Cassese's Suffolk career record of 209.
Correa had a feeling, too. "I was thinking about catching it on a fly," the junior speedster said. Fortunately, he changed his mind as the punt sailed. "I decided to back up and let it bounce," Correa said. "I started up the middle, got some good blocks and cut outside."
The 70-yard touchdown ignited a 22-point fourth quarter for Bellport, which forced six turnovers while committing five.
"Wow! It feels great to turn around a game like that," Correa said. "This is the first punt return in my career. It feels wonderful."
Bellport's Rob Schwicke experienced the same elation. The linebacker, who led a defense that limited West Babylon to one first down in the second half, scored Bellport's first touchdown. Schwicke scooped up a fumbled pitchout and rumbled 68 yards to tie the game at 7.
"That's a lot of running for me," Schwicke said with a smile. "Mike [Burton] had a good block that helped."
Bellport's offense didn't get going until the fourth quarter when Travis Houpe (83 yards) and Correa ran the ball effectively on the Clippers' final two scoring drives.
By then, the Eagles were spent. "You've got to play all four quarters," Ritacco said.
Scoring: WB - Richardson 18 pass from Hennessy (Scelfo kick) BP - R. Schwicke 66 fumble return (Honce kick) WB - Richardson 32 pass from Hennessy (pass failed) WB - Robinson 3 run (pass failed) BP - Burton 80 interception return (Honce kick) BP - A. Correa 70 punt return (A. Correa run) BP - Houpe 8 run (Honce kick) BP - A. Correa 4 run (Honce kick)
Highlights: Bellport 36, West Babylon 19. Bellport had three long returns for touchdown and the Clippers� defense shut own the Eagles in the second half in the Division II opener for both teams. Rob Schwicke returned a fumble 66 yards, Mike Burton returned an interception 80 yards and Armand Correa returned a punt 70 yards as Bellport erased a 19-7 second-quarter deficit.
Blind in one eye since age 3, Bellport's Sloan now a tough tackle
Originally published: September 11, 2010 2:27 AM Updated: September 11, 2010 7:05 PM By GREGG SARRA. MSG Varsity
It was his third birthday, and Ryan Sloan couldn't wait to celebrate his big day with family and friends. When his mom called for him to come inside, he rushed toward the house. And then it happened. He ran right smack into the corner of an open car door. He doesn't exactly remember the pain, but he is reminded of that accident every day. Sloan, who was rushed to the hospital, was left blind in his right eye.
"Some birthday, huh?" said Sloan, now a senior captain for the Bellport football team. "Accidents happen to little kids sometimes. I was so excited to get inside, I ran right into the car."
It is his earliest memory, one that caused him so much pain through elementary and middle school. Only his 6-3, 325-pound frame and aggressive nature have quieted the teasing of ignorant classmates and opponents. "It was hard in the beginning because I didn't want to get a glass eye," he said. "Kids were so mean in school and on the street. They'd call me Cyclops and other horrible names. I'd ignore them most of the time, but it definitely hurt."
Sloan used his misfortune as motivation, and he has become one of Long Island's most feared two-way tackles. He is a three-year starter for Bellport and was a Newsday All-Long Island first-team selection as a junior.
Sloan said his preference is to play defense: "I'd rather be the hammer than the nail.''
"Recruiters had some concerns because of his handicap," Bellport coach Joe Cipp Jr. said. "But after they watched his films, they were all over him. He's very athletic and runs well for a big man."
Cipp said Sloan is being pursued by Syracuse, Rutgers, Stony Brook and Central Florida. "They see a versatile kid who can play both sides of the ball," he said. "He can get to the perimeter and he pursues very well."
Cipp said Sloan has adapted well. "I don't get blindsided because I know where I am on the field and I'm aware of the guys around me and where my teammates are supposed to be," Sloan said. "Having a solid knowledge of the play and the game helps me understand where the opponents should be at all times. That doesn't mean someone won't take a shot at me from the right side. But that's OK; it's all part of the game."
Sloan has taken precautions to ensure that his good eye stays healthy. "I wear a protective visor to cover my eye," he said. "I don't even think about getting hurt. I just go out and play."
Players with certain heart conditions, brain disorders, liver and/or kidney issues cannot participate in interscholastic contact sports. "It's not an issue medically," Cipp said. "He can see clearly and his nose complements his face well so it doesn't block any part of his vision."
For Sloan, being taunted and having to defend himself has always lent itself to a primal need to survive. He has grown accustomed to adversity. His mother died of heart failure in 2003 and he's never known his father.
"He's had some rough years and difficult circumstances," Cipp said. "His aunt's family has really supported him."
He has lived with his aunt - Annette Brown, his mother's sister - for the past seven years. Sloan credits her and his cousin, Tyrone Brown, for taking care of him and being excellent role models. "Who knows where I'd be without them?" Sloan said. "That's why I have to succeed in school and on the field so I can get into a good college."
Sloan has taken on life with the same zest with which he plays football. He has a vision of playing college football and getting an education. "There's going to be twists and turns in life, and you really never know what's going to happen," he said. "Look at what happened to me. There are people in the world with worse problems than me. It's no big deal. I'll make the most of what God has given me."