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Hills East Football Run Over by Bulldogs

Thunderbirds suffer first loss of season, 47-21 to North Babylon, and lose Jake Gnieser to injury.

There's nothing fancy about what North Babylon does on offense. They run, and run well. That's all they do in fact. Even though Hills East knew it was coming, they were powerless to stop it.

The Bulldogs ran on every play (yes, every play) en route to a 47-21 win over the visiting Thunderbirds in Division II action. Both teams are now 2-1.

On the Bulldogs' first play from scrimmage, RB T.Q. Grant ran 64 yards for a touchdown in a sign of things to come. To their credit, Hills East responded right away, as QB R.J. Nitti took matters into his own hands, or feet, with a 20-yard scamper, and an eventual one yard plunge to tie the game at 7.

The T.Q. Grant show kicked into another gear in the second, however. The senior ran 29 yards for a score, and after sophomore Marcell Nesbitt scored from 13 yards out on his first varsity carry, Grant took over once more with another 64 yard TD run, making it 27-7 at the half.

"They're very tough, very resilient, they stick to their game plan," said East coach Mike Patrovich of the N. Babylon rushing attack. "They block the right people and they walk out on the field thinking they're going to win every time."

Needing every possession they can get, the Thunderbirds opened the second half with an onside kick, and they recovered on their own 45. East drove down the field, and RB Jake Gnieser scored from 14 yards out to put his team back in the game at 27-14.

Time for another onside, but this time the Bulldogs hung on, and Spencer Davidson got in on the action with a 16-yard TD run to make it 33-14.

Then came the turning point, not necessarily in the game, but possibly the season, for East. Gnieser hurt his right leg on a late third quarter carry, and had to eventually be taken to an area hospital. Patrovich said there was no immediate word on the severity of the injury.

"He's such an emotional leader, it's such a huge loss for the offense and defense," East LB Ryan Coyle said of Gnieser.

The drive had to continue, and Nitti hit Elijah Brown for a huge catch and run to the 8. Nitti took it from 5 yards out to make it 33-21.

On the first play of the fourth, Grant capped off his huge day with another TD run, from 26 yards out. Grant ran 20 times for a whopping 368 yards and four scores.

The Thunderbirds defense finally got North Babylon to turn it over on downs, but Nitti ended up being picked off by Basiru Jobe deep in his own territory, and Nesbitt finished the day's scoring with a three-yard run.

"The real problem is the deception," Coyle said of the dominating Bulldog run game. "You don't know where it's going when it's going because there's so many options they have."

The Thunderbird's only option: shake off the loss, the potential loss of Gnieser, and get ready for Riverhead next week.

"We're on the brink of being a great program and we need to continue doing what we're doing," Patrovich said, "stay the course and make sure that this [loss] doesn't derail our whole season."

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