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Newsday Article - East Islip Game

Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 by Ray Nelson

Melhado helps West Babylon top East Islip

West Babylon quarterback Clifton Melhado (5) readies a

Photo credit: Joseph D. Sullivan | West Babylon quarterback Clifton Melhado (5) readies a pass in the first half. (Sept. 17, 2011)

When the West Babylon players huddled around their coaches between the end of regulation and the start of overtime Saturday, Eagles quarterback Clifton Melhado stood alone. "Personally, I don't feel any pressure. I just like to go off by myself and zone out," the junior quarterback said.

Moments later, Melhado found himself in another zone -- the end zone. He darted through an opening up the middle after a ball fake to Reggie Robinson and scored on a 6-yard run to give West Babylon a spirited 16-10 victory over host East Islip in Suffolk II. It was the first time in school history that West Babylon had won at East Islip, a streak of 14 straight losses dating back to 1956.

"I imagined us winning," Melhado said of his private moment. Then he added with a huge smile, "But I did not imagine myself scoring the winning touchdown. I've never done that in my life."

The Eagles (2-0) began the extra period by stopping the Redmen (0-2) on four downs from the 20 and East Islip was short on a 37-yard field goal attempt. West Babylon then made its intentions in overtime very clear. They were going to ride their 6-1, 245-pound fullback, Reggie Robinson.

The sequence was simple: Robinson up the middle for 1; Robinson on a pitch right for 7; Robinson drags tacklers for 4; Robinson lunges for 2. Then on second-and-goal from the 6, the Eagles switched rides. "They were keying on Reggie so we called for a play fake," West Babylon coach Al Ritacco said. "The line play was great and there was a huge hole. This was a long time coming. It was a tremendous win for West Babylon."

Melhado burst through the middle and fell into the end zone, prompting a huge celebration by the visitors. "It was like an adrenaline rush," Robinson said. "I couldn't wait for us to finally beat this team. This was a case of intensity and, most importantly it was a case of heart."

Robinson, who needed 20 carries to gain 74 yards against the gritty Redmen and was a force all afternoon at linebacker, was confident the final play call was a winner. "When I heard the call, I said, 'Yes!' I knew they would bite on the fake," Robinson said. "They bit real hard. I remember when I was on the varsity in ninth grade and I was scared to death of 'Big E.I.' This was a huge win for us."

It didn't come easy. The Redmen tied it at 10 with 2:15 left on a 12-play, 68-yard drive that consumed 6:07. Quarterback Pete Hanabergh completed passes five of six passes, including gains of 15 and 21 yards. On fourth down, he hit Paul Dondero in the end zone. The PAT tied the game.

West Babylon won the coin toss and elected to be on defense first. "When we got it close, I knew they would come after Reggie," Melhado said. "I faked it and just took off straight up the middle."

West Babylon nearly won it in regulation. The Eagles turned it over on downs to East Islip, but Michael Richardson intercepted and returned it 18 yards to the Redmen 43. Melhado hit Richardson with a 13-yard pass and the Eagles got to the 22. But a sack of Melhado by Todd Collins pushed them back five yards and a 43-yard field goal was short, forcing overtime.

Melhado was alone, again, but only for a moment. Soon he was buried under an avalanche of jubilant teammates.

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