East Islip took the air out of Smithtown West's tires Saturday. Five interceptions certainly were deflating for the visitors.
"Our secondary is airtight," said East Islip cornerback Mike Lee, who made two of the interceptions as the Redmen scored 17 fourth-quarter points en route to a 23-0 victory over the Bulls in a Suffolk II football quarterfinal. "When the ball goes up in the air, you look for it, go to the highest point and make a play. We talked about needing turnovers."
Every East Islip point came after an interception as the third-seeded Redmen improved to 8-1. They visit No. 2 Riverhead at 1 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal matchup.
In the second quarter, after Casey Stengel sacked Austin Kern for a 12-yard loss forcing a third-and-long, Matt Drywa returned a pick 17 yards to Smithtown West's 27-yard line.
Five plays later, Paul Dondero caught an 11-yard strike from Casey Nolan for a 6-0 lead that was the only score for the first 38 minutes. "I saw the outside linebacker go inside and I went outside and I knew I'd be open," said Dondero, who had four receptions and one of the interceptions.
Nick Osburn, who had East Islip's other swipe, made a tumbling interception of Kern's long slant midway through the third quarter, setting up Matt Walter's 29-yard field goal early in the fourth.
On the next series, Lee -- who missed the last two seasons of football because of osteoporosis and wasn't cleared to play again until this summer -- returned his second interception 25 yards to the 5-yard line and Andre Deegan ran it in on the next play for a 16-0 lead.
Smithtown West (4-5) resorted to trickery to try to get back in the game, but a double-reverse, halfback option pass by Kyle Mathie was underthrown and intercepted by Dondero near midfield. Walter's 38-yard run set up Drywa for a 1-yard touchdown.
"We controlled the line of scrimmage," East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi said. "We put pressure on the quarterback and forced them into situations where they had to throw. That creates interceptions."
One of those applying that pressure was Stengel, a 220-pound defensive end who didn't forget the previous meeting between the teams, a 13-10 victory by Smithtown West in Week 6. "They destroyed us last time because we didn't have a good pass rush," Stengel said. "This time when they passed the ball, we put pressure on the quarterback and our defensive backs played a great game."
The secondary turned the air over Sal Ciampi Field at Boomer Esiason Stadium into a no-fly zone for the visitors. "Our D-line had the quarterback under massive amounts of pressure and when he threw the ball up there, we got it," Dondero said. "We have a bunch of athletic defensive backs. I think we can stop anybody."