By Bill Landon
The Centereach boys’ fencing team notched its first win of the season, 18-9 after hitting the road to take on Brentwood Jan. 7, before the snow began to fall.
Saberist Dante DeBonis struck first for the Cougars. The senior blanked his opponent 5-0, and sophomore Aiden Donnelly followed with a close 5-4 win over Brentwood’s Emanuel Santiago for a 2-0 lead.
Although dropping the final saber match, Ray Rahman started off foil with a win, as the senior edged his challenger 5-3, and was followed by junior David Hatami, who outscored Brentwood’s Shaib Ali, 5-3.
Centereach head coach Glenn Schnabel said Rahman has quickly risen in the ranks to become Centereach’s top fencer.
“He’s our No. 1 foil guy — he went 3-0 today, but early in the season he was sort of one-dimensional, he was relying on one or two moves,” Schnabel said of Rahman. “We talked about what it takes to be an elite fencer. You’ve got to use three or four moves, you have to change it up and he used a lot of different moves today.”
Completing the sweep in foil for Round 1 was sophomore foilist Jarod Chang, who defeated his challenger 5-3.
Centereach was solid throughout the rest of the round, as two of the final three bouts, all epée, were won by large margins. Junior James Moore narrowly defeated his opponent, 4-3, before sophomores Abir Das and Jayden Garcia won their respective bouts, 5-1, to put the Cougars out front 8-1.
“I did a good job getting [my opponent] close to me,” Das said. “I took big steps forward and small steps back. I’m going to focus on making each move better, and you can only do that by doing it over and over again — making small improvements and then making them faster.”
Schnabel said he liked what he saw out on the strip.
“I like the fact that they’re committing to their moves, because earlier in the season, they were timid — maybe afraid — so now I see confidence in their moves,” the head coach said. “Now it’s easier, because they’re more comfortable; we can work on [technique], we can fix the moves and they can [hone] them, making them better for the next match.”
DeBonis, Rahman, Chang, Garcia and Das all won their second bouts in Round 2, to put Centereach ahead 13-5 going into Round 3.
DeBonis, a co-captain who was named first All-County and All-Long Island last season, and finished third in this year’s Brentwood holiday tournament, made short work of Brentwood’s Allen Bettencourt, winning his third bout of the day, 5-1.
“I think I did well defensively, which is what I like to do,’ he said. “I try to make them react [to me] and not react to them. The biggest thing I did wrong today is I looked at the blade a couple of times, and you don’t want to do that because then you lose the action.”
Rahman, also a co-captain, who was named second team All-County last year, also capped his day with a third win, by a 5-2 margin.
“I thought I did well adapting to their style, but they’re great fencers,” Rahman said of his Brentwood opponents. “They figured me out in some situations, and controlling the tempo of the match is something I need to work on.”
Das also scored a win in the final round to sweep on the day, besting his foe 5-3.
“Abir has really come a long way, especially today with his strategy,” Schnabel said of the No. 2 epéeist, “He’s picking the right moves to use at the right time.”
Centereach, now 1-4, will host Walt Whitman, 6-1, on Jan. 10 at 5:30 p.m.