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Brian Mark

The Port Jefferson girls' basketball team experiences the thrill of winning the school's first-ever Class C Long Island championship title. File photo by Bill Landon

By Desirée Keegan

A special class of seniors is leaving behind an unprecedented run of success at Port Jefferson High School.

Jackie Brown, Courtney Lewis, Jillian Colucci, Brian Mark and Corinne Scannell are just some of the athletes that have helped put the school back on the map in a variety of sports over their respective high school careers.

Jackie Brown. File photo by Bill Landon

“These seniors would be starting players at larger schools and on larger teams,” Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said. “They’re just great athletic talents in their sports regardless of the size of a school. They’d play anywhere.”

Brown, who played field hockey, softball and basketball at Port Jeff, is committed to play field hockey at Adelphi University. She was All-Conference as a freshman, All-County as a sophomore, and All-State and All-Tournament as well as a captain her junior and senior seasons. She helped lead the Royals to the county finals in 2016, and graduated as Long Island’s all-time leading scorer in field hockey. She was also a four-time New York State Public High School Athletic Association scholar athlete in all three sports.

“Most of us seniors are two-sport or three-sport athletes, which makes us so diverse,” Brown said. “We all use skills from one sport to be successful in another. I, for instance, use my field hockey vision to better see the basketball court. We’re also passionate, and give 100 percent and work hard.”

Lewis reached the 2,000 career point plateau last basketball season, and led the team to Suffolk County and Long Island titles, as well as the program’s first regional win and state finals appearance. She became the 22nd player in Suffolk County girls’ basketball history to reach the career milestone. She will be playing for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute this winter.

Courtney Lewis. File photo by Bill Landon

Colucci was a standout soccer player, and also competed on the basketball team. She led Long Island in goals scored her junior year and propelled the soccer team to the state finals the last three years. The Royals brought home back-to-back Class C state championships in 2015 and 2016. She also holds the record at Port Jefferson for career goals (105) and assists (62). She will be taking her talents to Marist College this fall.

“There is nothing better than finding success in doing something you love,” Colucci said. “The best part is that it was all so unexpected. It felt really special to bring attention to the school, and the community supported us every step of the way.”

She said while she was always humbled by the attention, at times she felt embarrassed, because to her, it was about the team.

“We all experienced success because we’re all talented athletes with the same drive and passion,” she said. “Since Port Jeff is so small, we’re not just teammates, we’re friends.”

Her brothers, parents, aunts and uncles were all Royals, and Colucci said she’s proud to be able to carry on their legacy.

Mark, another three-sport standout — in football, lacrosse and basketball — helped each of his teams reach new heights. Despite the lacrosse program being just three years old, it’s made the playoffs every year, and the football team achieved its best record in the last six years during his senior season.

Jillian Colucci. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“While the program still isn’t on the same level as some of the other top schools, I’m confident that the program is heading in the right direction,” he said, reinforcing the fact that the bond and community support played a big part in the rise. “Our group of seniors — both boys and girls — has always been really ambitious in the goals we’ve set for ourselves athletically.”

Turner saw it, too.

“He was constantly putting himself out there, he was always in the wight room and going above and beyond to do something to improve his game,” she said.

Mark said he hopes he and the other seniors made an impact on the younger generations of athletes.

“I know that a lot of us took pride in representing our school well and providing a good example for the younger kids in our community,” he said. “We know that we were once those kids and remember how we idolized the varsity players so seeing younger kids in the stands watching us always gave us a little extra motivation.”

Brian Mark. File photo by Bill Landon

Scannell, who is headed to Wake Forest University in North Carolina, has not committed to playing a sport. She was a defender for the state championship-winning soccer team and helped the basketball squad to the state finals. Her family was also instrumental in paving the way for the first varsity lacrosse team. After several failed attempts to launch a program at Port Jeff, the team competed for the first time this year, narrowly missing the playoffs by one win.

“My dad was a big proponent — it started in my backyard,” she said of her dad who coached youth lacrosse. “The fact that we can pave the way, it’s nice we can give others the opportunity to play. They can color in the lines we drew this season.”

Turner lauded the athletes not only for their skills, but also because “they’re just great kids.”

“They have such good values and I think those values they hold are what make them great athletes,” Turner said. “They come from great families, they’re committed, they put the team first, they’re always willing to sacrifice, they’re dedicated, and that’s in all facets of their life.”

One instance in particular Turner recalled was when the girls’ basketball team was upstate competing for the state championship. She said, although Scannell didn’t want everyone to know about it, if the team had lost in the semifinals, the 2017 class president was going to travel home to compete in a half marathon to raise funds for children with cancer on the day of the finals. She was frequently caught with Brown, the vice president, hosting bake sales or raising money for a charity or school event.

Corinne Scannell. File photo by Andrew Wakefield

The athletic director said Colucci was always in her office asking how she could earn more community service hours. Colucci won the Butch Dellecave award for her dedication to athletics and academics, coupled with completing 160 hours of community service. Mark won the Golden Eleven Award, which is presented to the top 11 academic scholars in Suffolk County, and the LaBue Award, which is presented to the top scholar-athlete is Suffolk County football.

“They put everybody else before themselves, they’re all going to great schools, and they’re mature, great kids,” Turner said. “And most of all, they grew with the kids in their class. They learned from each other and acted as role models to each other. Those values and bonds became stronger, and there’s nothing I would change about them. I feel I got so lucky to step in when I did [as athletic director] even just to know these kids.”

Scannell said she agreed the bond the girls created playing together for so long was crucial to achieving every milestone.

“Playing together at such a young age, especially with soccer, we knew how someone was going to touch the ball, who was going to send a long ball, when someone would pass, and it’s not just knowing the soccer or basketball style, but knowing each other’s personality and how their thinking goes,” she said. “It takes a history to understand. Our relationships made it so strong, but we all also wanted it. As long as you love what you’re doing that’s the most important thing.”

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Hail the homecoming kings.

The Port Jefferson football team outscored Center Moriches 36-20 Oct. 8 to put a wet and wild homecoming victory into the record books.

Port Jefferson wide receiver Brian Mark started the scoring in the opening quarter when he caught a 46-yard pass from quarterback Jack Collins for the early lead. The Royals failed to make the 2-point conversion, and Center Moriches tied the score on a three-yard run after the extra-point kick attempt failed. Port Jefferson running back Joey Evangelisa rushed home a two-yard touchdown to re-extend the lead shortly after. The Royals again failed to make the two-point conversion, leaving the score 12-6 entering the second quarter.

Center Moriches scored first in the second stanza, with a touchdown on a 43-yard pass, but the two-point conversion failed. Again, the two teams were tied, this time 12-12. Wide receiver Thomas Mark, Brian’s brother, caught a 57-yard throw from Collins, and Evangelista’s run for a good two-point conversion put Port Jefferson out front 20-12.

Collins continued his strong showing when he rushed seven yards into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter. He completed another two-point conversion pass to bring the score to 28-12. While the Royals held Center Moriches scoreless in the third quarter, Thomas Mark got back to work, and caught a 10-yard pass for his second touchdown of the day. Evangelista rushed into the end zone to complete his third two-point conversion in the homecoming game.

Center Moriches caught a 57-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, but the Red Devils couldn’t mount a comeback.

Thomas Mark had 67 receiving yards and 24 rushing yards. Evangelista rushed for 201 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Collins was 3-for-7 passing for 113 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 40 yards on seven attempts with a touchdown. Brian Mark made two interceptions.

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Nine players score points in total team win

They may be small and they may be young, but the Royals can score.

Teamwork was the name of the game on Thursday for Port Jefferson: Freshman midfielder Matt Murphy tallied four of his team’s 19 goals on the way to a near shutout of Mercy, 19-1, as senior attack Marco Scarda and junior attack Brian Mark added hat tricks, and six other Royals scored or assisted in the team’s win.

“They work hard together,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “The more offensive threats you have in any game, the more it’s going to help your team out. A lot of these guys don’t necessarily get a lot of game time, so it’s good that they can come out here and be offensive presences and compete.”

Senior midfielder Max Scandale started the scoring off just over a minute into the first quarter after he swiveled around defenders and shot through traffic for a 1-0 lead. Seconds later, freshman attack Nick Koban scooped up a turnover off the draw and passed to senior midfielder Shane Bruno in front, who found the back of the cage. Scarda scored unassisted next, and then sophomore midfielder Thomas Mark looped around the cage and faked a pass outside to confuse the defense, instead feeding the ball to junior midfielder Chandler Sciara, who scored to give the team a 4-0 advantage.

Next was where Murphy stepped in, taking the ball to goal off a turnover at midfield, and with the goalkeeper hugging the left post, raced past while shooting the ball toward the far open corner.

“The teamwork was there, there was good passing and it wasn’t any singular guy,” he said of the team’s total effort. “We worked together.”

Murphy shot again seconds later and it was deflected in by Brian Mark, ending the first quarter with the Royals leading 6-0. Port Jefferson dominated the time of possession despite struggling at faceoff, as the team’s midfield and defense was able to force multiple turnovers all evening. Mercy held the ball in the final minute, racing into the Royals’ zone to try to get on the board, but Murphy stayed on a Mercy midfielder’s back, knocking the ball out of his stick and out of bounds for a turnover.

“The guys played hard,” Forstell said. “They came out from the first whistle, and to the last whistle they played hard. They stayed true to the game plan.”

The elder Mark scored unassisted to start off the second, and capped off the quarter with his hat trick goal. Murphy also added his second and third goals of the game in the second, as did Scarda.

“We put in a new offense the other day so that’s been helping get the ball around and get it to everybody so that we don’t have to rely on one or two people to carry the team,” Mark said. “Getting everyone else involved makes it more even and makes it harder for other teams to defend against us.”

By the end of the first half, Port Jefferson had a 15-0 lead on Mercy, which scored its first and only goal at the 10:48 mark of the third stanza.

“We did a good job of possessing the ball on offense, keeping it in our end, keeping it away from them so they couldn’t score — and then when it did go over there our defense did a good job of turning it over and getting it back to us,” Mark said. “It was a good job of keeping it on the offensive side and keeping it out of their hands.”

Mark said that despite the team not getting off to a strong offensive start in the beginning of the season, the team has began to click in the last couple of games. Although his Royals (3-6 overall, 3-3 in Division III) had four straight losses prior to their current three-game winning streak, the matchups were close battles, with two of the four being two-goal games.

Port Jefferson is looking to maintain a .500 league record to be in a good position for the playoffs. The Royals have five games left this season, with the next three matchups being against the top three teams in the division. Port Jefferson made it to the first round last year, despite still being a new program, and lost to Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, 16-8, in the Class C semifinals. The Mattituck team is currently at 5-1, while Babylon remains undefeated at 5-0.

“Last year it didn’t feel too good losing in the first round, so we’re looking to get to the county championship,” Mark said. “Once you get there, you never know what could happen.”

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By Bill Landon

Although Mother Nature smiled on Port Jefferson Saturday morning during the school’s homecoming day parade, the same could not be said for the football game that followed two hours later. Despite the cold and drizzling rain as gusts of wind spoiled the kicking game for both teams, the Royals (2-2) were able to still show Wyandanch what they’re made of, reigning over the visiting team, 34-8, for a sweet homecoming victory.

Port Jefferson struck first in the Division IV matchup when senior fullback Garret Hiz punched into the end zone for a touchdown eight minutes into the game. Although the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, the Royals found themselves with an early lead.

“We came out and gave it everything,” Hiz said. “It was rainy, cold and the field was a mess. It was hard to run out there, but we held our own and we got the win.”

In a game riddled with turnovers, Port Jefferson was on the move again thanks to a fumble recovery by junior outside linebacker John Knapp, which set up the next score. After a long run by Hiz to the 3-yard line, senior quarterback Nick Caltagirone finished the drive. The quarterback also helped score on the 2-point conversion attempt, to help the Royals extend their lead to 14-0 with five minutes left in the half.

Caltagirone and sophomore Jack Collins shared the quarterback duties all afternoon, and like Hiz, Collins was also happy with his team’s performance.

“I thought we played well — our backs just powered through their defense,” Collins said. “The ball was tough to handle, there’s a lot of mud out there and the grass is a lot slipperier than turf.”

Wyandanch coughed the ball up again, and this time, it was the junior linebacker Brian Mark on the recovery as the wind gusted and the rain intensified.

The possession did not lead to another score, but Royals opened the second half looking to put the game away.

Caltagirone got the call on the opening drive, and capped it off by diving into the end zone to make it a three-score game. With a failed conversion attempt, Port Jefferson settled for a 20-0 lead.

The senior quarterback said his team had several miscues, but grew stronger as the game wore on.

“Honestly, I thought we played a little bit sloppy, but overall we kicked it in, especially in the second half,” Caltagirone said. “The conditions were rough, it was a dogfight, it was slick — everybody’s slipping all over the place — but other than that, it was a good game.”

Wyandanch couldn’t get any traction, and turned the ball over yet again. This time, junior linebacker Eddie Park recovered the ball to set up the Royals’ next score.

In the closing minute of the third, with the ball at midfield, Port Jefferson senior running back Michael DiCalogero went to work. When the handoff up the middle went nowhere, DiCalogero bounced it outside and went the distance down the right sideline as he scampered into the end zone. The Royals lost traction, and again failed to convert on the two-point play, as they surged ahead 26-0.

“We wanted to play a clean game — as clean of a game with the elements you have here — but the conditions are definitely more suited for our style of play,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “We came out in the second half looking to finish the game, so I was proud of the guys for playing hard the whole game and not letting up.”

Two minutes into the final quarter, the Warriors scored when Christian Flowers bulled his way up the middle, broke free from tacklers and found the end zone. Flowers finished it with two more points, as his team trailed 26-8.

With five minutes left, Caltagirone found the end zone for his third touchdown of the afternoon.

Cosci said it has been a frustrating start to the season, after opening with a win to drop two big losses, 23-8 and 34-6, and he looked for Caltagirone to have the kind of game he did.

“This is the first time we’ve seen him play the way he’s capable of playing, and he can carry a team when he plays like that,” Cosci said.

DiCalogero put the icing on the homecoming cake with the two-point conversion, to put the 34-8 victory into the record books.

The Royals will have their hands full on Saturday when they host undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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Max Scandale maintains possession with an opponent on his hip in a game this season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Port Jefferson boys’ lacrosse team capped off its inaugural season with some prestigious individual and team honors.

Three players, Max Scandale, Brian Mark and Connor Fitterer, were selected as members to the League IV All-League team.

Scandale also made the All-County team, and Mark was selected as the League IV “Rookie of the Year.”

As a team, the Royals were the recipient of the “Crosse Award,” for which a team is nominated by the Suffolk County Lacrosse Coaches Association as being the most improved squad from the beginning to the end of the season.

“I really could not be more proud of what this team accomplished this past season,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “Being a first-year varsity lacrosse program in Suffolk County is hard enough. To make it to the playoffs in our first season is a true testament of this program’s growth and progression.”

Senior Jake Myhre was also recognized by the Port Jefferson Village Lacrosse Association as being the first recipient of the “Stick With A Goal” scholarship at the annual Booster Club Dinner.

This scholarship, a $1,000 prize, recognizes a college-bound senior for their hard work, dedication and commitment to their team.

“When approached about this scholarship, I knew right away we had a perfect match,” Forstell. “Jake is a three-sport athlete that commits countless hours to improving his craft in all three sports. It has been an honor to coach him the past three years and we all wish him the best of luck next year at the University of Pittsburgh.”

Looking ahead, Forstell is excited for the next season with his athletes.

“Our journey has just begun,” he said. “We look forward to continued success in the coming years through hard work and commitment to the lacrosse family.”

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