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Chris Rosati

Community helps raise over $2,000 in Tom Cutinella's memory

By Bill Landon

Tom Cutinella remains an integral part of the Shoreham-Wading River community.

On May 15, the boys’ lacrosse team held its second annual car wash to honor its fallen friend and teammate, who died following a head-on collision with an opposing player on the football field in 2014.

The event kicked off at the Wading River School — veterans and seniors could get their car cleaned free of charge, and there was a suggested donation of $5.40 in recognition of Cutinella’s retired No. 54 jersey. All proceeds went to the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation, which awards scholarships to Shoreham-Wading River and other Suffolk County seniors who meet the eligibility guidelines, which can be found at www.tom54.org.

Event organizer and Wading River resident Paul Curran, whose son Jason was a teammate of Cutinella’s, said the turnout was a testament to the respect the area has for Cutinella’s legacy, especially with so many kids pitching in to help out.

“With Thomas, veterans and seniors were two groups that were especially close to his heart — he was that way from a very young age,” Paul Curran said. “He was close to his grandmother who lived with him, which had a lot to do with it, and they’re a very close-knit family.”

Shoreham-Wading River senior Jon Constant said his teammates just want to continue to do things in their friend’s memory, and that’s what made the car wash easy to put together.

“We just wanted to help out the community, and the car wash seemed to be the right thing to do,” he said. “Keeping his memory alive is important because he was a great kid and we’ll never forget him.”

Constant said the washing started at 9 a.m., and by noon the kids had been cleaning non-stop.

“Who knows the number of cars we’ve washed, but we want to keep it hot,” he said.

Three hours into the event, Curran said that although seniors and veterans could get their car washed for free, and many came through the line, everyone wanted to contribute $5.40.

According to Curran, in addition to the scholarships given out each year, the foundation also donates to traumatic brain injury research.

Manning the rinse team was Wading River resident Brian Sheehan, a family friend whose son Chris also played with Cutinella. Brian Sheehan said the event is a great way to honor Cutinella’s memory and keep his legacy alive.

“[We do] anything to keep Thomas’ name at the top of everyone’s mind — it’s a privilege to be part of this annual event,” he said. “This is the second year and I plan to participate as long as I live in this community. It’s a great way to keep Thomas in our hearts and to raise money at the same time.”

Curran said last years’ event raised more than $2,500. This year, there was a similar turnout, which he said is a reflection of the community.

“Word of mouth is what drives this — social media and the youth leagues, and once it goes through there, you have hundreds of families,” he said.

This year, the event raised more that $2,000.

“I just think it’s a great way to show support for Tom and it’s a great way for [everyone] to come together and show their support, and we have fun doing it,” said senior Chris Rosati, another teammate of Cutinella’s. “This is definitely very important. It shows our support for him, which has a great impact on the community.”

Kevin Cutinella, Thomas’ younger brother, said that along with keeping the memory of his brother alive, the community outpour inspires his family.

“It means a lot to us that people are doing this without us telling them to do it, to keep Tom’s memory alive,” Kevin Cutinella said. “It means a lot to our family, it brings smiles to our faces and it keeps us there as a family.”

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Senior running back Chris Rosati rushes away with four touchdowns in team's 24th win in two seasons

By Joe Galotti

Most young men who decide to put on a helmet and pads and play high school football never get to experience the joy of winning a class championship or putting together a perfect season. On Friday afternoon, at Hofstra University’s Shuart Stadium, the Shoreham-Wading River football team had the rare opportunity to reach both of those achievements for a second straight season, and did not let it go to waste.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 28-point first-half lead over Locust Valley, helping them come away with a 35-7 victory in the Long Island Class IV Championship game. Senior running back Chris Rosati led the way with four rushing touchdowns, and the team’s eye-popping winning streak was extended to 24 games.

“(Going undefeated twice) is very special,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “It really was something I wanted them to achieve and carry with them, and they did that today.”

After the victory, Rosati admitted that the team felt pressure all season long trying to repeat last fall’s undefeated campaign.

“Every team was looking to beat us,” Rosati said. “We got everyone’s best game, but we just really fought hard against every team we faced.”

If the Wildcats were at all nervous on Friday, they did not show it, as they jumped all over the Falcons early on, putting up two quick scores on the team that had entered the contest allowing the fewest points on Long Island this year.

Rosati got Shoreham-Wading River on the board when he capped off the team’s opening drive by taking a pitch to the right side 26 yards for a touchdown. On the Wildcats next drive, Rosati delivered a two-yard rushing touchdown, which was set up by a 31-yard run by senior wideout Jon Constant.

Early in the second quarter, Rosati drove his way into the end zone once again, this time, on a 1-yard rush.

“Chris is amazing,” senior guard Dalten Stalzer said. “Just watching him play every week; it’s crazy. Some of the things he does and the tackles he breaks, it makes us look good.”

With 1:24 remaining before the half, senior quarterback Jason Curran put the game out of reach with a six-yard touchdown pass to Constant.

Shoreham-Wading River was extremely effective on the ground in the game, with Rosati rushing for 110 yards, Curran rushing for 91 yards and Constant rushing for 90 yards. Much of this was made possible by a dominant performance from the team’s offensive line.

“We knew what we needed to do to execute,” Constant said. “But [our success] all starts with our line’s performance.”

The Wildcats’ defense also put up a strong effort, forcing three interceptions and not giving up a score until the fourth quarter. Constant was responsible for two of the picks, while Rosati had the other.

With another perfect season in the books, Shoreham-Wading River is arguably in the midst of one of the best runs in Long Island high school football history. But Millheiser says that the key to the Wildcats’ success has been not getting caught up in any of the streaks or stats.

“We were more concerned about doing our jobs and doing the right thing,” Millheiser said. “When you focus on those things the fun numbers like 24-0 seem to come with it.”

During Shoreham-Wading River’s postgame team photo with its championship trophy, the team once again got the opportunity to honor the memory of their former teammate Tom Cutinella, who died as a result of an on-field collision in a 2014 game. Senior lineman James Puckey held up Cutinella’s No. 54 jersey for the group shot, making it clear that he was still very much a part of the Wildcats team.

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The Shoreham-Wading River football team poses for a group photo in celebration of it's second consecutive Suffolk County championship with a 24-14 win over Elwood-John Glenn on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Since November 2013, all the Shoreham-Wading River football team has known is how to win football games, and although the Wildcats had their hands full with No. 2 Elwood-John Glenn, the team was able to grind out a win, 24-14, for the Suffolk County Division IV title Thursday night at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.

“When you work hard this is what you get — a county championship,” Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella said. “It’s been a battle throughout the season. We’ll watch film and practice late to prepare for the Long Island championship the same way we did for this game.”

Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats' 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats’ 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Amid rain and harsh winds, Elwood-John Glenn lined up in punt formation after a three-and-out, and snapped the ball to the punt protector, who was unable to handle the wet ball, and the Wildcats pounced on it, recovering the fumble at the nine-yard line. Two plays later, Cutinella punched in for the touchdown, and with the extra point good, helped put his team out front 7-0 at the 8:42 mark of the first quarter.

With the Knights unable to answer, the Wildcats were on the move again. On the first play from scrimmage, senior running back Chris Rosati drove the ball down to the nine-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the stanza. Two plays later, Rosati pounded his way into the end zone for the score, and with senior kicker Daniel Mahoney’s extra-point attempt successful, the Wildcats edged ahead 14-0.

On Elwood-John Glenn’s ensuing possession, Chris Forsberg almost went the distance as he broke free of tacklers and covered 81 yards. Shihan Rudyk finished it as he punched it in from three yards out to put the Knights on the scoreboard. With the point-after attempt good, Elwood-John Glenn trailed 14-7 with 7:37 left in the half.

The Knights struck again soon after, when quarterback Wayne White found Kyle Tiernan for a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 heading into the break.

The rain intensified and the wind picked up in the second half, leaving both teams struggling for traction in the third quarter.

After an injury timeout, Shoreham-Wading River senior Jason Curran took over under center, but it was Mahoney who helped his team score next, as he attempted a 33-yard field goal attempt in the fourth. The senior made it look easy, as he split the uprights to put his team out front, 17-14. According to the kicker, it wasn’t as easy at it looked.

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River's 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River’s 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was like kicking a rock,” he said, adding that he was exhilarated to see the ball go between the posts. “It felt like my leg was 10 pounds heavier and the ball was 10 pounds heavier.”

With five minutes left on the clock, the Wildcats added insurance points when Curran handed off to Rosati, who did what he’s done all season, grinding up the middle for the touchdown. With Mahoney perfect on the evening, Shoreham-Wading River put the game away 24-14.

“We put in the right kids in the right spots,” Shoreham-Wading River assistant coach Hans Wiederkehr said. “We were able to make plays at the right time.”

The Wildcats advance to the Long Island Championship, where the team will take on Locust Valley on Friday at Hofstra University. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

“We’ve got a lot of homework to do because we’ve never seen them before,” Wiederkehr said. “But we’re going to get right back to what got us here — practicing hard watching film.”

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Shoreham-Wading River junior wide receiver Joe Miller dives for yardage in the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River senior wide receiver Jon Constant drags tacklers up the field in the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior wide receiver Jon Constant drags tacklers up the field in the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River hasn’t lost a football game since November 2013.

It was a second-round playoff game against Babylon, a team that had always derailed the Wildcats. But since last season, Shoreham’s new winning culture permeates every player who wears the blue and gold.

In eight games, Shoreham-Wading River has outscored its opponents 291-47. Saturday was no different, as the Wildcats defeated visiting Center Moriches, 42-13, for another perfect season and to win the League IV title for the second consecutive year.

Senior running back Chris Rosati has been the Wildcats’ powerhouse running back all season. He scored three touchdowns on the afternoon, but it might have been more if he had played the entire game.

Rosati’s first score came on the second play from scrimmage where he cut to the outside, turned up the field and went 59 yards into the end zone in a game that wasn’t even a minute old. Senior kicker Daniel Mahoney followed by doing what he’d done all season, splitting the uprights to give the Wildcats the early 7-0 lead.

Shoreham-Wading River found the end zone again six minutes later, when junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella threw to classmate Daniel Cassidy, a tight end, for six more points.

Shoreham-Wading River senior cornerback Kyle Fehmel leaps up for the interception of Center Moriches’ Hail Mary pass during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior cornerback Kyle Fehmel leaps up for the interception of Center Moriches’ Hail Mary pass during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon

“We prepare for every game like it’s the last game — we play with heavy hearts and we play as hard as we can for [Tom Cutinella],” Cassidy said, referring to his teammate who died last year after taking a hit in a game against Elwood. “And we don’t take any team lightly.”

With Mahoney’s kick, the Wildcats took a 14-0 lead with 4:07 left to play in the first quarter.

The Red Devils were unable to run the ball, but moved the chains on two consecutive pass plays. It was not enough — after the team failed to make a fourth-down conversion, the Wildcats took over in their own end.

Rosati answered the call again. After seeing that the running lanes inside were closed, he bounced it outside and raced by two defenders with alarming speed. He covered 71 yards and again entered the end zone untouched.

“We’ve kept the momentum from last year,” Rosati said. “We work at it in practice and we work on both sides of the ball. On offense, we try to grind it out on every play and our linemen work so hard and they open the holes. On defense, we just fly around. We try to hold them to as few yards as possible.”

With Mahoney perfect on the day, the Wildcats broke out to a 21-0 advantage to open the second quarter.

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati pushes for more yards as he’s tackled by a Center Moriches player during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati pushes for more yards as he’s tackled by a Center Moriches player during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon

Unable to move the chains, the Red Devils were forced to punt. With a long kick well down field, the Wildcats committed a rare miscue — after choosing not to field the kick, the ball bounced into a Shoreham-Wading River player and Center Moriches pounced on the live ball to recover its own punt.

Center Moriches senior quarterback Joe Martins connected with classmate Kyrin Taylor, a wide receiver, who made it to the 1-yard line for a first and goal. Senior running back Chris Iannelli finished it, but the extra-point attempt struck the left goal post, halting the score at 21-6.

On the Wildcats’ ensuing possession, Rosati struck again. This time the running back swept to his left, outran defenders and sped down the left sideline for his third touchdown of the afternoon. Again, Mahoney was money, and Shoreham-Wading River broke out to a 28-6 lead.

“Our goal is to shut out every team we play,” Rosati said.

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Justin Squires makes a move during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Justin Squires makes a move during the Wildcats’ 42-13 win over Center Moriches to earn their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon

The Red Devils had little success moving the ball again, and the Wildcats took over.

Senior wide receiver Jon Constant scored next on a reverse play, covering 40 yards for the score.

“The coach told us before the game to perform on each side of the ball,” he said. “Just shut out the [defense] and fly to the ball.”

With Mahoney’s foot, Shoreham-Wading River surged ahead, 35-6.

On their final possession of the first half, the Red Devils let the clock bleed off and called a timeout with two seconds left. Desperate for a score, Center Moriches dropped back and threw the Hail Mary deep down field, but Shoreham-Wading River senior cornerback Kyle Fehmel leapt up and grabbed the ball to end the half.

With both teams scoreless in the third quarter, senior running back Justin Squires lit up the scoreboard with 4:07 left in the game. On a handoff up the middle, Squires broke outside, found an open running lane and went 70 yards for the touchdown. With Mahoney’s chip shot, the Wildcats were out in front 42-6.

Center Moriches managed one more score with just under a minute left to close out the game, and with the extra-point good, it brought the final score to 42-13.

“I told the kids to just go out and finish — finish every play and let’s finish this season 8-0,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “And then we can get ready for the second season.”

The top-seeded Wildcats will face No. 8 McGann Mercy on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Miller Place High School, as the home team, as construction of the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field at Shoreham-Wading River nears completion.

The seniors of the Shoreham-Wading River football team pose for a photo after their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon
The seniors of the Shoreham-Wading River football team pose for a photo after their second consecutive undefeated season. Photo by Bill Landon