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Comsewogue

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Behind the relentless play of senior Patrick Billings and sophomore Jaden Martinez, the Comsewogue boys basketball team cruised to an 86-38 nonleague win over cross-town rival Port Jefferson Dec. 11. The Warriors duo shared a game-high 18 points and combined for 22 rebounds in the win.

“It took them a little bit of time to dig in, but once we got going we showed what we’re capable of,” Comsewogue head coach Joel Sutherland said. “We always try to dictate tempo — play at our pace — and I felt in the second quarter we gave up some dribble-drives and some kick-outs and started to fall short of what we wanted to do. We made some adjustments at halftime and came out and played our game.”

Billings scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter alone, as Comsewogue jumped out to a 26-13 advantage after eight minutes. Despite the slow second, the Warriors turned a 37-27 halftime lead into a 68-35 difference at the end of three quarters of play.

“We were passing the ball very well,” Billings said. “We came out of halftime ready to play ball. Defense is our top priority, and this is how we have to play every time. We talked each other up, brought up the energy and trusted each other.”

On the defensive side of the ball, Martinez, senior Dylan Morris Gray and eighth-grader Aaron Talbert disrupted the Royals’ offense, deflecting and stealing several passes. Upon gaining possession, the trio jump-started the Warriors’ fast break offense, knowing when to keep it, or who to dish it off to. Martinez, who finished with five assists and six steals, connected with Billings under the net for a few easy buckets.

“I feel comfortable out there,” said Martinez, who scored 11 points in the monster third quarter and had three 3-pointers in the win. “Our half-court traps, our defense helped us put it all together today.”

Senior Alan Dylan Smith scored 12 points, classmate Tom McGuire tacked on 11 and freshman Liam Gray caught fire in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points in the final three minutes of the game on two threes and a perfect 4-for-4 finish from the free-throw line. Talbert came off the bench to add eight points in the win. Port Jefferson junior Grant Calendrille finished with a team-high 10 points. Comsewogue ended nonleague play at 4-2 while Port Jefferson fell to 2-3.

With Comsewogue moving up a league this year, Sutherland said he doesn’t see it as a problem. He expects his team to compete.

“I know what we’re capable of — it’s a matter of putting it together for a full 32 minutes,” he said. “We’ve had our ups and downs, but as soon as they understand that when they play together there aren’t many teams as talented, we’ll be a dangerous one.”

The Warriors are back in action Dec. 19 hosting Bellport in the first League IV game of the season. Tipoff is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

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Running back Richie LaCalandra scores a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite some tense moments late in the game, a fast start, a huge play on a fourth-and-25, and a key second-half touchdown drive propelled the Comsewogue football team to a victory in its homecoming matchup against Hauppauge Oct. 21. The Warriors move to 3-5 with the 28-21 win, which head coach Sean Tremblay called his team’s most complete performance of the season.

Quarterback Jaden Martinez throws a deep ball. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was the first time we started and finished a game all year,” Tremblay said after the win.

Presumably riding the adrenaline rush that comes with playing in front of a packed out, electric homecoming crowd, the Warriors jumped out ahead of the Eagles (0-6) in the first half.

Junior running back Reno Molina found the end zone in the first quarter to put Comsewogue up 7-0. The Warriors took to the ground early and often, producing more than 300 yards rushing on the afternoon, though one big pass play might have been the key to the win.

On a third-and-17 from the Hauppauge 22-yard line early in the second quarter, running right on an option play, sophomore quarterback Jaden Martinez kept the ball and eluded several Eagles on his way to what he thought was a score to put his team up two touchdowns. A holding penalty backed Comsewogue up and wiped the touchdown off the scoreboard, and on fourth-and-25 from the Hauppauge 30-yard line, the Warriors went to the air.

“I had seen something in coverage and I knew [Richie LaCalandra] was going to be open — we just needed to protect it and we did, and Richie got in,” Tremblay said of the play, which he called a momentum changer. He said he never considered attempting a long field goal or punting on the fourth-down play.

Richie LaCalandra celebrates after a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Martinez took the shotgun snap and rolled to his left, uncorking a perfect pass to the wide open senior LaCalandra running a corner route, who made the catch and skipped into the end zone to put the Warriors up 14-0. The play accounted for all of Martinez’s yardage through the air for the game.

“Richie’s just a great athlete,” the quarterback said of his running back. “He got himself open and I rolled out of the pocket, and he was just wide open.”

LaCalandra had 90 yards rushing and a touchdown to go along with two catches for 30 yards and the fourth-down score through the air. His rushing touchdown came on a reverse handoff from the Eagles’ 21-yard line in the final minute of the second quarter, as LaCalandra made a few Eagles’ defenders miss on his way to the goal line, where he lunged in despite having his helmet ripped off.

“We came out and worked hard in practice this week, and it all paid off when it came to the game,” he said.

Reno Molina celebrates in the background as Richie LaCalandra scampers into the end zone. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors took a 21-0 lead into halftime, but a strong third quarter from the Hauppauge offense and two Warriors’ fumbles left the door open for a comeback.

“Defensively they were throwing the ball underneath our coverage,” Tremblay said of Hauppauge’s effective third quarter on offense. “We were so worried about them throwing the ball vertically that at times we were bailing just a little bit too much.”

With less than a minute remaining in the third, Comsewogue got the ball back up 21-14, and with junior quarterback Tom Tommaso under center, the Warriors engineered a drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Mike McGuire to put his team up 28-14.

“After we scored and made it 28, that kind of regenerated our fight,” Tremblay said of the key second-half drive. Molina intercepted a pass with seven minutes remaining in the fourth in Comsewogue territory to ice the game for the Warriors.

Comsewogue’s two turnovers were the fewest the team has had in any game this season, according to the head coach. He said it shouldn’t be a surprise that it led to a win.

The Warriors will be back in action Oct. 27 at East Islip for the final game of the season. Opening kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue senior Hannah Dorney recalled the first time her field hockey team played Bay Shore, losing a close 2-1 game back on Sept. 13.

“We went into the game today thinking about last time, and just how devastating that loss was,” Dorney said. “It was a long bus ride home, and [the whole time] you’re thinking, ‘What could we have done better?’”

This time, the No. 9-seeded Warriors had the offense to support a solid defense, to pull away with a 3-2 win over No. 8 Bay Shore in the first round of the Class A playoffs Oct. 17.

Sophomore Kayleigh Mimnaugh had two goals in the win, scoring first on a flick pass from junior Sophia Azzara and the game-winner on a player-down opportunity and a feed from senior Gabriella Ventura.

With the teams tied 1-1 heading into halftime after her first tally, she said a pep talk from head coach Jacqueline Wilkom got her juices flowing.

“Our halftime speech from the coach really pumped us up, and I think that we just worked harder overall in that second half,” Mimnaugh said. “We played well defensively.”

Dorney took working harder to heart, and opened the second half with a takeaway, outrunning defenders behind her as she carried the ball from the 35-yard line to the front of the cage for a solo shot and a 2-1 advantage.

Comsewogue had trouble capitalizing on its opportunities though, as Bay Shore committed six fouls in the striking circle, leading to six consecutive penalty corner shots from which the Warriors came away empty.

Being a player down for a majority of the second half — 20 minutes — defense was the name of the game for Comsewogue, but Bay Shore finally broke through, retying the game with 15:38 left to play.

Azzara said she was somewhat surprised with how her team weathered the storm in the second half.

“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d come out here and do this well against them,” she said. “But I knew we had it in us — we work really well together and we’re very close, so I think that helped us.”

Comsewogue, on a five-game winning streak, improves to 12-3 and advances to face No. 1 undefeated Ward Melville on the road Friday, Oct. 20 at 2:30 p.m.

“We have a talented group of girls — they’re fantastic athletes, and it’s just a matter of them coming out and giving it all that they have,” Wilkom said. “And so long as we play our game, I don’t think that there’s any team we can’t beat.”

For the Warriors, this bus ride home will be different.

Much of the Port Jefferson Station community, and all of the Comsewogue Public Library’s past director’s were on hand Saturday for a day of celebration to commemorate the facility’s golden anniversary.

As part of the event, the library’s community room was dedicated to its first director, Richard Lusak, who served in that position from 1966 to 2002. In its 50-year history, the Comsewogue Public Library has had just three directors. The 50th anniversary celebration Oct. 14 also featured games, a bounce house, farm animals, crafts, giveaways, snacks, face-painting, balloon animals, music, a historical society photo gallery and tour and a new gallery exhibit.

“The program says ‘celebrating our past, present and future,’ so that’s what we’re doing all in one day, with the community,” the third, and current Director Debra Engelhardt said during the event. “We thought of it as a community thank you for the ongoing support that we’ve had since day one, across all three administrations.”

Engelhardt’s predecessor, Brandon Pantorno, who served at the helm of the library from 2003 through 2012 and is a Port Jefferson Station native, is a lifetime member of what they each referred to as the library family, as they all worked in several different capacities in the library’s hierarchy before becoming director.

“I remember when Blockbuster video came into the neighborhood right on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station and people would say ‘videos, they’re going to be the end to libraries,’” he said. “Well, libraries started circulating videos in addition to books, in addition to library coordinated programs, and guess what? Blockbuster video is no longer here, but Comsewogue library and other libraries — the library world — is still stronger than ever. We have evolved; we have very cleverly metamorphosed into different things for so many people.”

Lusak was brought on to lead the library in its infancy in 1966 by its board of trustees at the time. During the summer of 1966, the Comsewogue School District board of education petitioned the community in 1966 to schedule a vote, in which five trustees would be elected and establish a budget of about $68,000. In November 1966, Lusak was hired, and the library’s original grounds were established in a portable classroom at the southern end of Terryville Road, which still exists today. By November 1967, the community overwhelmingly voted in support of funding the building of a 16,000-square-foot facility at 170 Terryville Road, where the library remains today, though it has grown exponentially over the years.

Lusak said he was honored and humbled to have the community meeting room dedicated in his honor.

“I think the community decides whether or not we did a good job,” he said. “I can say this: the community has always been supportive of the library. The board of trustees here has always been dedicated to this institution — totally dedicated.”

The library’s first director tried to sum up what his time at the community institution meant to him.

“The people just love this library for the community, and I take a tremendous amount of pride in being associated with that,” said Lusak, who is still a resident of Port Jefferson. “It made my life a pleasure.”

Lusak’s wife Rosalie also attended the ceremony to celebrate her husband’s lifelong work.

“It was never a job to him, it was just his passion,” she said. “It’s very, very moving that something would be dedicated to him and I’m glad he got to see it.”

The Cumsewogue Historical Society was on hand during the event to share stories of the library’s history. Historical society Vice President Joan Nickeson said the very first library card issued in 1967 was to Thomas E. Terry, the grandson of Edward Terry, who was one of the Terry brothers who founded Terryville.

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Mairead Micheline moves the ball into the circle amid a pack of defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

For Paloma Blatter, confirmation counts.

Paloma Blatter dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Desirée Keegan

With seven minutes remaining in a 0-0 game against Patchogue-Medford, the Comsewogue field hockey sophomore scored on a scrum in front of the cage to win it, in an away game for the Warriors Sept. 26.

“It felt great personally to know you won it for your team, but getting the pats on the back from your teammates is the best approval you could ever get,” the midfielder said. “There’s nothing more important than putting it all on the line for your team.”

Comsewogue had some chances in the first half, but the team came up empty on several corner attempts. Sophomore defender Olivia Fantigrossi said the team is working on that aspect of its game but is still struggling with communication and obstruction calls. She said she was impressed though with her team’s grit.

“Going into the circle we have hard hits and good accuracy,” she said. “I think we were also successful blocking hits and sending them off the sideline to prevent the other team from getting a goal.”

Comsewogue head coach Jacqueline Wilkom said Fantigrossi flies all over the field when needed.

“She was out on every ball,” she said.

Her captain, senior midfielder Hannah Dorney, also wowed the coach.

Hannah Dorney battles for the ball at midfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Hannah Dorney is a great athlete and really helped with leading the field,” Wilkom said. “She led the pep talk at halftime and they came out with a lot more intensity and they wanted to play.”

After losing nine seniors and the entire defensive unit to graduation after last season, Dorney said she too likes what she’s seeing from the young squad.

“We passed a lot better than we usually do,” she said. “We tend to get caught dribbling from one end of the field to the other, but today we worked the ball around more and from one side of the field to the other. We talked more in the second half, looked up, saw the options and we had the opportunities, we just weren’t finishing. We can’t let the ball slip past us as much.”

Wilkom said the team works hard and puts in the effort to improve. She said the girls are frequently seen dancing around the locker room before games, but she just hopes that energy can carry onto the field.

Olivia Fantigrossi gets in front to steal a Patchogue-Medford pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They pump each other up and they want to play,” she said. “And I think that’s important. They want to be a team to be reckoned with and our motto ‘surrender the me for the we’ will help us do that. We need all 11 players working together as a unit to get that win.”

Blatter said she agreed that motivation needs to be there from whistle to whistle.

“We always find a way to come together as a team, even in our losses,” she said. “We’re always together and lifting each other up, especially this season, but we need to work on stepping onto the field and putting everything in it from the minute the timer starts to the minute it ends. If we can come out like we know we can in the beginning we’ll be a tough team to beat this year.”

Wilkom said the rise in the standings has added extra incentive — especially after going from a 3-11 team last year, to now currently boasting a 7-2 Division I record.

“We went from being in the 20s to fifth in the standings,” she said. “That’s a big deal for us — to be a team that people want to come out and beat.”

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Port Jefferson's Devin Rotunno volleys in her first singles set against Comsewogue. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Precision protected Port Jefferson girls tennis’ undefeated League VI streak.

Junior Devin Rotunno’s accuracy was a much different style than that of her junior opponent, Comsewogue’s Nikita Katukota, whose hard-hitting forehand forced Rotunno to cover every inch of the court. One point between the two players spanned 40 hits in the volley, and in the end, Rotunno prevailed, winning 7-6, 7-5 to lead the Royals to a 6-1 outscoring of host Comsewogue Sept. 18.

Comsewgoue’s Nikita Katukota slams the ball back over the net against Port Jefferson’s Devin Rotunno. Photo by Bill Landon

“I haven’t [seen] her before, but my coach told me she’s good, she hits hard, so I came in knowing it was going to be a tough battle,” Rotunno said. “I felt that I had consistency and I really think that gave me an advantage today.”

Katukota said she looked forward to facing the Port Jefferson lineup because she wanted to test herself against a formidable opponent.

“She’s a really good player — she hits the ball really hard, which I really like because I want to challenge myself against players who hit the ball with pace,” she said of Rotunno. “She has a lot of top spin, she moves her feet around the court so I just had a great time playing her.”

In second singles, Jillian Lawler also won her match in two sets, topping Comsewogue’s Kaitlyn Musmachev 6-2, 6-4, but the third singles matchup took three sets to decide.

Port Jefferson seventh-grader Nicolina Giannola battled Comsewogue’s Ankita Katukota, Nikita’s twin sister, and hung on after dropping the second set to win the decisive third, for a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 edging.

The bright spot for the Warriors came in fourth singles play. Trisha Sandhala recovered from a 1-6 loss to take the next two sets 6-4, 6-4 snatching Comsewogue’s lone singles victory.

“I think they’re better than I thought they’d be,” Comsewogue head coach Michael Taheny said of Port Jefferson. “I liked our fight. My singles players are good, but [Port Jefferson is] hands down better than every other team we’ve played so far. It was a little shock to our system in that ‘wow, these [Port Jefferson] girls are really good.’”

Port Jefferson’s Jillian Lawler reaches for the ball in her second singles match. Photo by Bill Landon

The Royals also dominated doubles play, taking all three matches in two sets each. Although Taheny noted his team’s young new doubles squad is going through an adjustment period, Port Jefferson head coach Keith Houghtaling also noted an adjustment to be made in relying on depth, especially when the Royals next face Middle Country. With the win over Comsewogue, Port Jefferson’s fifth straight to put the team at 5-2 overall, it puts a target on the team’s back, but things could change the second time around against some of the teams.

“[Middle Country is] a tough team with a deep lineup — we beat them 5-2, but all three doubles went three sets, and one of the singles went three sets, so we could’ve just as easily lost that 4-3,” Houghtaling said of the Royals’ Sept. 8 win over the Mad Dogs. “We beat Mount Sinai 5-2 [Sept. 13], but one of their singles was out, so again that could be tough [when they’re back to full strength].”

Houghtaling said the pressure of being the No. 1 team in the league isn’t going to stop his Royals.

“We may have been able to sneak up on some teams earlier in the year based on last year’s record, but now that we are in first place, I fully expect each opponent will bring their very best lineup and effort against us,” he said. “I can assure you that our girls are fully aware of this, and they are up for the challenge.”

Members of the community gather at Jackson Edwards’ Terryville home July 31 to welcome him home from a lengthy hospital stay in Maryland to battle leukemia. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

After more than four months of treatment battling acute myeloid leukemia, a blood and bone marrow cancer, 11-year-old Jackson Edwards returned home Monday from Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland to the sound of a Terryville fire truck honking and the cheers of friends and family.

“I don’t know how to put it — it’s such a wave of emotions,” Jackson’s mother Danielle Edwards said. “We’re happy, finally. Jackson’s a little nervous because he’s so far away from the hospital and he’s thin from the treatment, but he’s happy to be with his people.”

Jackson waives to the crowd assembled at his home. Photo by Kyle Barr

Tired from the long trip and overwhelmed by the number of people who had shown up for the surprise homecoming, Jackson only stood outside for a few minutes July 31, waving to his friends and family before heading back inside. They had taken a 6-hour drive to get back to Terryville from Johns Hopkins.

“[Jackson and his mom] had no idea what was here,” Jackson’s aunt DeeDee Edwards said. She had helped plan the surprise homecoming, and was in charge of keeping the mother and son in the dark. “Jackson was counting the stoplights until we got here, and he was so overwhelmed by all the people who came to support him.”

Though the drive home was long, the real difficulty for Jackson and his family was the more than 100 days he spent in Baltimore fighting the rare form of cancer.. Jackson has always been a charismatic young man, according to his family. He’s a typical 11-year-old — he loves wrestling and football. His favorite comic book and show characters are Captain America and Optimus Prime. In December 2013 Jackson was diagnosed with AML. It was the start of an arduous treatment process that saw Jackson go into remission in May 2014.

Around Christmas 2016, Jackson started to feel sick again, and after taking him to Stony Brook University Hospital, the family learned that the his disease had returned and he had relapsed. In April he was transferred to Johns Hopkins in Maryland where he underwent a long and painful process of chemotherapy in preparation for a later bone marrow transplant. Meanwhile, friends and family worked hard to fund raise and help Jackson’s mother in finding options for his treatment.

Deirdre Cardarelli, a friend of the family, worked hard to help throw the surprise welcome for the Edwards’. For months Cardarelli was co-running the StayStrongJackson Facebook page alongside Jackson’s mom, and she was instrumental in forming a T-shirt drive and an Easter egg hunt to support the family’s travel and medical funds. The Facebook page and all the other social media efforts helped galvanize the local community in its support of Jackson, even those who were not necessarily close to the Edwards’..

Onlookers for the surprise homecoming brought signs of support to hold. Photo by Kyle Barr

“I don’t know the family personally, but our oldest, Michael, is in the same school with Jackson,” said community member Yoon Perrone. “We bought the shirts to support the family and we wanted to be here. I can’t imagine one of our own children having the disease.”

For the bone marrow transplant the family had to find a donor that was as close of a match as possible. Rocco Del Greco, a friend of the family, said he felt a deep need to help the young man and his family once he learned of the cancer’s relapse.

“Since I was not so emotionally connected to their son I was able to channel my anger for what happened to the young man,” Del Greco said. He helped to jump-start a YouCaring page to crowd fund for Jackson, which managed to raise more than $8,000. Del Greco  also managed several bone marrow drives during the search for a suitable donor. From January to early April, Del Greco helped facilitate for almost 1,800 people to test their DNA for matches to Jackson.

Finding a sufficient match was not easy for the Edwards’. Jackson’s mother had a 50 percent match from her own marrow. She served as the donor, and the transplant was successful. After about a month-long recovery, the doctors said he was safe to continue treatment from home.

The process kept Jackson away from school and friends and forced him to endure weeks of treatment, including chemotherapy. Jackson was not able to attend his fifth-grade graduation ceremony from elementary school in the Comsewogue School District, but his older brother Cortez James “C.J” Edwards walked up on stage in his place. Jackson’s mother said that while the treatment process and lengthy hospital stay did get tough, her son powered through it by making new friends.

Members of the community gather at Jackson Edwards’ Terryville home July 31 to welcome him home from a lengthy hospital stay in Maryland to battle leukemia. Photo by Kyle Barr

“He met a whole bunch of new people, because he’s very charismatic, and he stole a bunch of other people’s hearts,” she said.

The transplant has left his immune system weak, and for another eight months Jackson is restricted from coming too close in contact with other people while he heals. This will prohibit him from attending school for several months, but his mother said they plan on continuing his education with tutoring.

Though he said he is excited to eventually go back to school, for now Jackson celebrated a Christmas in July, including a tree and presents surrounding it. He was unable to celebrate Christmas with his family when his cancer relapsed back in December.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 47,000 people were diagnosed with leukemia in 2014, the most recent year on record with data on leukemia.

Receives innaugural USA Fencing National High School Coach of the Year honor

Fencing coach Jeff Salmon receives the first USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award from former Penn State University head coach Emmanuil Kaidanov. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Jeff Salmon is an accomplished fencer in his own right, but he now he has proof that his prodigies are receiving coaching that is second to none in the United States.

The acclaimed fencer and head coach of the boys team at Ward Melville High School was named the inaugural winner of the USA Fencing High School Coach of the Year award.

“The word honor doesn’t even come close,” said Salmon, a Mount Sinai resident and owner of Mission Fencing Center in Rocky Point. “It’s a cool award, it’s an amazing honor and it makes you reflect on a lifetime of work.”

Jeff Salmon teaches his daughter Olivia out on the strip. Photo from Jennie Salmon

Eighteen individuals from high schools in six different states were nominated for the prestigious award.

Under Salmon’s leadership, Ward Melville’s teams have continued a winning tradition, including capturing the 2016-17 Long Island championship. The program has maintained a 158-match winning streak that ranks among the most impressive in interscholastic athletics nationwide.

“Jeff’s done so much for the kids here, but promoted the sport throughout Suffolk County, the state and the nation,” Ward Melville athletic director Peter Melore said. “Jeff’s a fantastic coach and he’s been honored in so many ways on local levels, it was time for him to be recognized at the national level.”

The Comsewogue High School graduate who originally competed in foil made the switch to sabre at Penn State University. Although he was a Suffolk County champion and Empire State Games gold medalist while he was a Warrior, the switch proved to work in Salmon’s favor.

“The Penn State team had strong foilers and could use a sabre fencer,” he said. “I was a little disappointed with my achievements in foil, so I was willing to accept the new challenge. It benefited me to switch and I adapted quite well.”

During his years as a Nittany Lion, he trained under Emmanuil Kaidanov, a five-time U.S. national team coach and Wes Glon, an Olympic and World Championship coach. Salmon placed in the top 12 as an individual in the NCAA championships and was one of two sabre fencers chosen for NCAA training at the German Olympic Center in 1987. He was an assistant coach for the Penn State fencing team during two national championship seasons before he brought his expertise to Ward Melville by starting a fencing club in 1995. In 1999, by popular demand, the club became a varsity team.

His athletes are consistently among the top on Long Island, and his team has won 13 league, county and Long Island titles. Salmon has won Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors seven times and USA Fencing Long Island High School Coach of the Year three times, but this is his first national achievement, one that many said they thought was long overdue.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

— Danny Solomon

“I know he is one of the best coaches in the country, so it is a no-brainer to choose him,” rising Ward Melville senior Danny Solomon said. “I wasn’t surprised because I know never to be surprised by what he does. His vast pool of knowledge and understanding of the sport and his nature of innovation is everything you need in a coach.”

Solomon, who is a county champion, has also won four national championships, including at this year’s Junior Olympics, one international competition and many national and international medals. He is a two-time USA Fencing cadet team member and has gone to the cadet world championships twice.

He credits all of his success to his, at times, intimidating coach.

“I was terrified of him,” he joked. “Imagine being a seventh-grader seeing this huge, scary, bald guy flailing swords around. It would scare anyone.”

But the sabre competitor said things drastically changed over time.

“He is the reason I am the fencer I am today,” Solomon said. “He has definitely pushed me everyday. He can be both serious and friendly, but is always trying to get the best out of you.”

Soon-to-be University of Notre Dame freshman Jack Rohan agreed.

“He always tries his best to relate to his fencers to the point where he is not a coach but a friend,” he said. “He has been a huge contributor to my improvement in fencing and definitely deserves such an award.”

The sabre fencer, who joined the Patriots in eighth grade, was named All-Long Island last year after finishing with the best record in the county (35-3). He also won gold in sabre at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Tournament.

His older sister Alexa played for Salmon, so Rohan was familiar with his longtime coach, and said he decided to give up focusing on his primary sport, lacrosse, to fence.

“On the Ward Melville team we commonly refer to him as ‘the magic’ since talented fencers may graduate, but he is always able to put together a championship-caliber team,” Jack Rohan said of the decorated coach.

Jeff Salmon with acclaimed protégé Danny Solomon after he won the Konin Cadet World Cup in Poland last year. File photo from Ward Melville school district

Melore, who stepped in as athletic director a couple of years ago, is proud to have Salmon as part of the program.

“He’s poised, professional, smart, passionate about the sport and really good with the kids,” he said. “He’s a great teacher of the sport. A lot is done in preparation, before and during matches, and he knows just when to give support and strategy to our athletes. It’s reassuring to have a veteran, and rapport is everything. We’re very proud he have this great program and tradition that Jeff built and I feel confident that our kids are getting taught the right way.”

Salmon said the joy he gets in seeing his students achieve their goals means more to him than any award or achievement.

“As the years went on, I found that I had a lot more satisfaction just changing the kids lives and building the confidence in them and having them grow as human beings,” he said. “Certainly the tool is fencing, but I find that that’s been the real joy in the journey.”

He reflected on similar ideas when he gave his acceptance speech, after receiving the award from his former coach Kaidanov.

“Not everyone is going to be an All-American, not everyone is going to be an Olympian, but what we do as high school coaches is take kids that have their hat over their head, their hands in their pockets, and we have them stand up straight and be confident in themselves,” he said. “This sport is hard — really, really hard. Parents really need to understand how hard this is mentally, physically. And that little success that they had makes them the men and women that they become. It gives them the confidence to go on in life — whether they achieve great things in fencing or just get that ‘E’ [lowest fencer rating] that they’ve been wanting so badly. It’s so important.”

Vice President of the North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce Donna Boeckel, on left, and Councilwoman Valerie Cartwright, on right, with the scholarship recipients. Photo by Kevin Redding

The North Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce last week awarded $1,000 scholarships to local high school graduates heading to college to pursue their dreams this fall.

Each of the seven students, Benjamin May, Kira Gresser and Mathew Yonks from Mount Sinai; Alexa Tammone from Comsewogue; Angela Bonafede from Rocky Point; Emma Dell’Aquilla from Miller Place; and John McCarrick from Shoreham-Wading River were winners of the chamber’s highly competitive, districts-wide essay contest. Each was recognized for his or her academic achievements and community service.

“I think sometimes we as a community — the parents and the chambers — need to sit down and stop for a moment to let each and every one of you know that you’re doing a great job,” Brookhaven Councilwoman Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station) said during an awards ceremony at Don Quijote restaurant in Miller Place June 19. “While you’re in college, know that you have the entire community supporting you as you move forward. You guys soared — you’re shining stars and we look forward to having you as a continued part of the Town of Brookhaven.”

May, who will be attending the University of Pennsylvania to study economics and international relations, wrote in his essay about his experience as an environmental advocate at Mount Sinai High School — where he founded the Environmental Outreach Club. He said he was thrilled to accept the scholarship.

“I knew the competition was really strong for this one, so when I heard back about it, I was very humbled and honored,” May said. “I know the money is going to help me get a college education, so I’m very happy.”

Tammone, who has led several variety shows and programs at Comsewogue to benefit charities, will pursue a degree in music education at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

“[Music] is something I’m very passionate about and I want to share my passion with others — I’m very honored to be recognized,” she said.

Rocky Point’s Bonafede, who will be studying baking and pastry arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island after years in the BOCES culinary arts program, said it was a big relief to hear she’d been chosen.

“Everything I’ve been working toward is finally paying off,” she said. “I’ve done a lot of community service events, like giving food to people in need, car washes, fundraising — I’m excited to be making my big dream come true.”

Dell’Aquilla, a volunteer at Mather Hospital, said, in her essay, taking care of her epileptic brother growing up helped her realize she wanted to study nursing at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.

McCarrick, an honors student, athlete, Eagle Scout member, and junior firefighter in the Shoreham-Wading River district, said he will be using his scholarship money to pay for school supplies at SUNY New Paltz, where he will major in mechanical engineering.

While a senior at Mount Sinai, Gresser, who will study human-based law at Villanova University in Pennsylvania, held several fundraisers to help build a water well in Africa for the organization Strides for Africa.

“It’s really nice that there’s something like this because a lot of people do a lot of good and hard work and don’t really get much for it,” Gresser said of the scholarship.

Yonks, who plans to pursue nursing at the University of Buffalo, has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America and the Eagle Scouts. As a senior, he built garden boxes and planted vegetables that were donated to needy families in local areas.

“I’m just proud to be a member of the community, and I always like to help whenever and wherever needed,” he said.

Donna Boeckel, vice president of the chamber, along with chamber corresponding secretary Carol Genua, sifted through the dozens of essays that poured in from each district. Boeckel said the chamber has spearheaded this contest every year for the last 20 years and raises the money through town fundraisers.

“These recipients had submissions that outshined all the others,” Boeckel said. “We’re very proud of them — they really took it to the next level.”

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By Bill Landon

Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.

It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.

Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.

Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.

Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.

Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.

“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”

Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.

Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.

Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.

“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.

“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”

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