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Hills East Takes Opener From Copiague

Winless a year ago, Thunderbirds prevail 35-8 in Division II action.

That's one for Half Hollow Hills High School East football, and it's a big one, since it's one more then they had all last year.

The Thunderbirds showed they intend to put 2010 in the rear view mirror and drive head on into 2011, as they pounded Copiague 35-8 in the Division II season opener Friday night.

It was the first win for many players, who suffered through the winless season a year ago. It's a perfect one for one so far for new head coach Michael Patrovich.

"We've got a lot of great kids that work hard and we put a lot of time into football, the kids believe in themselves, I think we've proven that we can compete," Patrovich said.

The Thunderbirds competed right from the outset, as Jack Tesoriero intercepted a Tim Cunningham pass on the Eagles first drive. It didn't take long for East to capitalize, as Jake Gnieser broke free for a 38-yard TD run, and an early 6-0 lead.

Later in the first, Cunningham was picked off again, this time by Rasheed Williams at the two. Williams wasn't just content to hand the ball over to the offense, as he raced 98 yards the other way for the score. A Brandon Brightman catch for the two made it 14-0.

"I dropped back, had help from Brandon, intercepted the ball, and went all the way," Williams said. He would be heard from again.

A 40 yard pass from R.J. Nitti to Williams at the end of the first set up a Gnieser five-yard TD plunge on fourth down to make it 20-0. Later in the quarter, a Gnieser fumble deep in Copiague territory stalled one drive, but the defense picked him up, falling on Cunningham for a safety moments later.

With seconds to go in the half, the Thunderbirds received the ball on the free kick. Enter Rasheed Williams once more, as he took it 60 yards down the sideline for the score, right in front of a stunned Copiague bench. It was 29-0 East at the half.

"I was looking at which side I could go to, I went right, and broke it all the way," Williams said.

In the second half it was the Thunderbirds defense's time to shine, as a long Copiague drive resulted in nothing as East made the 4th down stop on Cunningham as he ran toward the goal line. Jessy Garcia hauled in a 35-yard pass from Nitti, setting up Gnieser's third score of the game to put East up 35-0.

Copiague finally scored as Kaheim Baptiste ran it in, but it was all Hills East on this night, the first victorious one for the program in nearly two years.

"It feels great," Gnieser said. "We're going to keep working hard, we've got Centereach next week and we're going to make it two [wins]."

A 2-0 start would be just fine for Coach Patrovich, as the Thunderbirds take it one week at a time.

"We're going to keep doing what we're doing, working hard selling the kids on the fact we can compete," he said. "We're going into next week excited and ready to go."

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