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Football

The Ward Melville football team got on the scoreboard first Saturday in a battle on the gridiron against visiting Northport, but the Tigers ultimately spoiled the Patriots’ homecoming celebration, winning 35-21.

Ward Melville (1-2) opened the scoring with an impressive 16-play, 82-yard drive, capped by senior running back Nick Cervone’s 7-yard touchdown run and junior kicker Joe LaRosa’s point after, to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

But Northport responded with a touchdown run of its own to tie it up.

With 1:57 left in the quarter, Ryan Elliot punctuated a nine-play, 65-yard march with a 13-yard touchdown run. With the point-after attempt successful by Ryan Tromblee, the game was tied, 7-7.

On the next possession, Northport intercepted senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea’s pass over the middle. The pass, which was intercepted by Northport safety Dan Preston, was returned 70 yards for the tiebreaking score.

Northport continued to light up the scoreboard, and took advantage of two turnovers, scoring three touchdowns to end the first half leading 35-7.

The Tigers didn’t score after the halftime break, while Ward Melville capitalized on two opportunities in the fourth to close the gap, 35-21.

First, junior wide receiver John Corpac scored on a 15-yard pass from O’Hea, who finished the game going 10-for-16 with 101 yards and two interceptions, and after, senior wide receiver Vincent Negri scored off a 1-yard pass from junior quarterback Wesley Manning.

Ward Melville looks to bounce back from the loss when the Patriots travel to Sachem North Friday, with the hopes of spoiling their opponent’s homecoming festivities. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

The Northport football team briefly enjoyed a two-touchdown lead early in the game, and Sachem North may have came back to take the lead in the second quarter, but the Tigers wouldn’t let their homecoming game go that easily Saturday, and clawed their way back to pull out a come-from-behind victory, 29-22.

Northport hit the scoreboard first four minutes in when senior running back Rob Dosch went the distance for a 20-yard score, and senior wide receiver and kicker Ryan Tromblee split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

“It was a great block — the play was designed to go up the middle,” Dosch said. “It started to the right, I cut back left; it was great blocking up front with a huge hole and just used some speed.”

Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers' 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers’ 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

On a play that was slow to develop, Dosch ran down the sideline and cut back inside to find the end zone, again. This time, it was a 29-yard play at the 3:44 mark. Tromblee nailed the kick, and helped the team edge ahead, 14-0.

After a slow start, Sachem North began to move the chains when senior quarterback David McCarthy, on a keeper, broke it outside for a long gain to the Tigers’ 16-yard line. To open the second quarter, the Flaming Arrows finished it when senior running back Steve Anacreon broke free for six points, and with the extra-point attempt successful, the team closed the gap, 14-7.

Sachem North, on their longest sustained drive of the game, marched down the field and capped it off with another six points, as Anacreon struck again to close within a point, 14-13.

The Flaming Arrows then turned lemons into lemonade on a bad snap on the extra-point attempt, when after the holder picked up the ball, he rolled to his right and found an open receiver in the end zone for the two-point conversion. Fortune smiled on Sachem North as the Flaming Arrows took their first lead of the game, 15-14.

With seven seconds left in the half, the Tigers attempted a field goal from the 28-yard line, only to have it blocked.

With the wind out of the south all afternoon, Sachem North kicked off with the wind on its back to open the second half. The ball almost sailed over the head of Northport’s senior kick returner and running back Enzo D’Angelo, who had to make a leaping, one-handed catch to field the ball at his team’s own 1-yard line.

Northport wide receiver John Tabert makes a diving catch in Northport's 29-22 homecoming win over Sachem North on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport wide receiver John Tabert makes a diving catch in Northport’s 29-22 homecoming win over Sachem North on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

It might have been wiser to let the ball carry into the end zone, but D’Angelo took off. The senior cut inside as he followed several blockers before breaking it to the outside, leaving would-be tacklers behind as he covered 99 yards for the touchdown run that helped the Tigers retake the lead.

“It was really my blockers that did the job for me,” D’Angelo said. “When I caught it I saw the open hole; it was the blockers up front, and I just ran through it.”

With the point after good, Northport edged ahead 21-15.

After a sustained drive, Sachem North marched deep into Tigers territory when Anacreon got the call. Again, he punched it in for the score three yards out to tie the game, 21-21. The Flaming Arrows split the pipes for the extra point and retook the lead, 22-21, to open the final quarter.

With just under six minutes left in the game, the Tigers pounded their way into field goal range. The kick just missed to the left, to leave Northport still down a point.

Northport’s defense made a critical stop with 3:23 left in the game, where the team held Sachem North to a three-and-out, forcing them to punt on fourth and 15. From the punt formation, the Flaming Arrows faked the kick, and the punter took off with the ball, gaining 14 yards — just one yard shy of the first down, but Northport took over on downs, and with excellent field position.

Northport quarterback Andrew Smith throws the ball over the middle in Northport's 29-22 homecoming win over Sachem North on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport quarterback Andrew Smith throws the ball over the middle in Northport’s 29-22 homecoming win over Sachem North on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith said his team got off to a slow start, but came on strong in the second half for the homecoming win.

“We really ran the ball well in the second half and everyone pushed today,” Smith said.

From the 29-yard line, Dosch went to work as he bowled his way up the middle to move the chains to the 14-yard line. Dosch got the call again as he punched through a hole up front and made his way into the end zone untouched for his third touchdown of the afternoon.

“The defense slanted to the hole that we were supposed to go to and my running back Dan Preston was my lead blocker,” Dosch said. “[Dan] recognized where they were, and there was one man [to beat] on the outside, and I just ran off his block.”

To make it a seven-point lead Northport, Smith went for two as he dropped back and rolled to his left. In a play that was slow to develop, senior tight end Kristian Gerken crossed to the left side of the end zone, and Smith spotted Gerken after checking for his primary receivers, as the two connected for the successful attempt.

“Our line held so I had plenty of time to throw,” Smith said.

Dosch said Smith threw a good ball, and pointed to Gerken as a strong receiver.

“Kristian Gerken is a big kid — kind of a Rob Gronkowski type — who just used his body, went up, made the catch,” he said. “[He’s got] great hands and that sealed it.”

Northport stretched their lead, 29-22, with 2:24 left.

With time running out, Sachem North, on its final offensive drive, did not go quietly. On a fourth and 20, the Flaming Arrows completed a pass over the middle, as the receiver turned upfield. The Tigers made the stop again, one yard short of the marker, and Northport took over on downs with 1:12 left in the game.

“Our kids just never give up — persevering, never feeling like we couldn’t do it, and we stayed right in there,” Northport head coach Kip Lukralle said. “We have confidence in each other and confidence in what we do, and that paid off today.”

Smith took three knees to run out the clock for a very sweet homecoming victory.

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Last year, tragedy struck after 16-year-old Thomas Cutinella, a former Shoreham-Wading River High School football player, suffered a fatal head injury after colliding with another player during a football game on Oct. 1. Cutinella died later that day.

To honor his memory, community members from Shoreham-Wading River gathered on Sunday at Wildwood State Park in Wading River for the first Patriot Run. The event was sponsored by the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcat Athletic Club.

John Regazzi, a physical education teacher at Wading River Elementary School, created and organized the event to honor Cutinella. Alice Steinbrecher, a second grade elementary school teacher at Miller Avenue Elementary School also helped, and said the two decided to call the event the Patriot Run to honor Cutinella’s own patriotism.

“One of [Tom’s] biggest loves was his country, besides his family,” Steinbrecher said. “He cared so much about the men and women fighting for our country.”

According to Steinbrecher, more than 300 people attend the event to either show their support or run the race. Cutinella’s former football number, 54, was also considered when they determined the length of the race. The number was included as the race was made a 2.54 mile run.

Those who wanted to participate had to register to enter the race. The fee was $20 for adults and $15 for children if residents register before or by Sept. 4. Those who registered the day of the event paid an additional $5. Although everyone who registered for the event received a ticket for the barbecue that followed the race, only those who pre-registered received a T-Shirt in support of the event.

According to a friend of Cutinella who wanted to remain unidentified, the money is going toward the Tom Cutinella Scholarship fund.

“I knew him for a while… and he just, he’s the kind of kid you’d see in the hallway and no matter who you are… he’d say hi,” the friend said. “He didn’t see social barriers. He [was] just a friend to everybody. I think that’s why the whole community was united [after his death].”

A total of $70,545 has been raised for the scholarship before the event, but it is still unclear when Regazzi will know how much money they raised at the Patriot Run. The Cutinella family didn’t speak regarding the event or the loss of their son as the media was asked to respect the family’s privacy.

Jim Madden of Wading River is a parent of a student who went to school with Cutinella. Madden says the incident reminds people that unexpected events can happen.

“He was hurt on the football field and many of us have children that participate in sports whether it’s football, lacrosse, baseball,” he said. “It’s a parent’s worst nightmare when something like that happens. It’s chilling to all the other spectators and the other parents and it’s a reminder to everyone that things like this can happen. Life really is very fragile you have to cherish every day.”

The event is one of several scheduled for this year. The Thomas Cutinella Memorial foundation is also support Cutinella in the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Tower Run in New York City on Sunday Sept. 27 and the first golf tournament fundraiser in his name on Monday Oct. 12 at the Baiting Hollow Country Club in Baiting Hollow.

The hope is that these events, including the Patriot Run, will help those Cutinella cared about while keeping his memory alive.

“He was a great kid,” Steinbrecher said. “Last fall was a big tragedy for our community so this year we wanted a chance for the community to come together in a positive way. The Cutinella family [is] asking people to go out and do acts of kindness in his honor and so this was our way of getting the community together.”

 

Editor’s note: This online story was updated to name the correct title for John Regazzi.

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Ward Melville junior wide receiver John Corpac cuts up the middle in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Ward Melville football team was able to stay within striking distance through two quarters of play in its season opener, but visiting Lindenhurst broke the game open in the second half to defeat the Patriots 28-13 in League I gridiron action Friday night.

After a slow start, the Bulldogs struck first three minutes into the second quarter when senior quarterback Ryan Hofmann connected with junior wide receiver Steven Ramirez for the score, and with the extra point good, the team led 7-0.

With just over a minute left in the half, Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea found junior wide receiver John Corpac, who turned the corner and flew down the right sideline to go the distance for the touchdown. It was a 61-yard pass play that put the Patriots on the scoreboard, but when the point after attempt pushed wide left, Ward Melville trailed 7-6.

Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone draws a crowd as he rushes with the ball in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone draws a crowd as he rushes with the ball in the Patriots’ 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

It became a game riddled with cramps and penalties, and the Patriots led the way in both categories.

“You can’t let officiating determine a games [outcome], it’s got to be decided on the field by the players,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “And unfortunately, our guys didn’t do what we asked them to do [tonight].”

The Hofmann–Ramirez tandem answered back on the last play of the half for another touchdown. After a failed point after, the Bulldogs took a 13-6 lead into the halftime break.

Boltrek said that going into the third quarter being one score down to the reigning county champions wasn’t a bad thing.

“I thought we had a chance the entire time, but between penalties and cramped players, we don’t have the depth to pull that off,” he said.

Lindenhurst looked to put the game away on the second play from scrimmage to open the second half, and it did. Senior running back Joe Barber pushed his way up the middle, breaking several tackles, and made his way 65 yards downfield for the score to put the Bulldogs out in front, 19-6. Junior quarterback Austin Perri scored next for the Bulldogs, as he plowed his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion, to help his team break out to a 21-6 lead.

Ward Melville was unable to answer, and again fell victim to the Hofmann–Ramirez combination. The two paired up on a pass play and Lindenhurst took a commanding 28-6 advantage.

Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O-Hea makes a deep pass in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea makes a deep pass in the Patriots’ 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

Deep in their own territory, Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone provided the spark to make it a two-score game when he broke outside and cut to the middle of the field. After the dust settled, he went 81 yards for the score to trim the Ward Melville deficit, and sophomore kicker Joe LaRosa split the uprights to trail 28-13.

The Bulldogs threatened again deep into the Patriots’ territory but on a rare miscue, coughed up the ball as Ward Melville recovered the fumble on their own 15-yard line.

With just under five minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots ran the hurry-up offense as O’Hea aired the ball out the rest of the way, but no open receiver could be found.

“I thought we let it get away from us,” Boltrek said. “We’ve got to fix the mistakes, but it was great that we hung with the defending county champs.”

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Jimmy Puckey and Kevin Cutinella carry Tom Cutinella’s jersey onto the Stony Brook University field for the Long Island Championship game. File photo by Bill Landon

By Clayton Collier

Following a 2014 season that began in tragedy and ended with the program’s first Long Island Championship, the Shoreham-Wading River football program returns to the field well-prepared to contend for another title.

The Wildcats persevered to complete a perfect 12-0 season while coping with the loss of teammate Tom Cutinella, who died following a collision during a game at John Glenn High School on Oct. 1.

“It is an incredible story, but one I’d never want to live through again,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “In the end, we lost Tom, and although the season ended miraculously and kind of storybook, it’s something we wish we didn’t have to go through.”

Millheiser said it was difficult for everyone following the loss of Cutinella, but from a coaching perspective, it was particularly hard to handle.

A sign with Tom Cutinella’s jersey number sits above the press box above the soon-to-be old Wildcats athletic field. File photo by Bill Landon
A sign with Tom Cutinella’s jersey number sits above the press box above the soon-to-be old Wildcats athletic field. File photo by Bill Landon

“It’s not something that you can even find anybody to ask advice on how to handle that as a coach or as a person or a friend,” he said. “So we kind of did our best to be there for each other and get through it.”

To keep his memory alive, Shoreham-Wading River will name its new multipurpose athletic field after Cutinella. While construction takes place, the Wildcats will play home games at Rocky Point High School. Millheiser said he wants future Shoreham-Wading River athletes to know who Cutinella was.

“He lived his life in a certain way that we want our players and our team to live up to that and remember that always,” he said. “And naming the field after him is a constant reminder of how we want to do things and how we want to act. His name and his legacy will carry on.”

The Wildcats picked up right where they left off last year in their season opener Friday night in Riverhead against McGann-Mercy, besting the Monarchs in a 35-0 rout. Cutinella’s brother, Kevin, scored a touchdown in the first quarter.

“They play with a lot of enthusiasm and our kids matched that and were able to make some big plays early then stay in the lead,” Millheiser said. “It was a good game between two good teams, and fortunately we made a few more plays than they did.”

Millheiser said his team’s hard play was a positive but would like to see some improvement on blocking.

The game was also the first test for new quarterback Jason Curran, who replaces All-County quarterback Danny Hughes. Though Hughes was a special player, according to Millheiser, he has the utmost confidence in Curran’s abilities.

“I think he has the ability to do the things that Danny did, but he’s gaining experience,” he said. “He’s still going to have to learn the football side of it. You don’t just walk into a huddle and have the kids follow you. You got to kind of earn that from them. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.”

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From left to right, Matt Lopiccolo, Jacob Arditti, Maki Stavropoulos, Jeff Towle and Mark Napoli signing their letters of intent. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Clayton Collier

Five Ward Melville student athletes will continue their football careers after committing to play at the collegiate level — a rare occurrence for the lacrosse powerhouse that they hope will soon become a trend.

All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, center Maki Stavropoulos, guard Matt Lopiccolo, defensive end Jacob Arditti, and tackle Mark Napoli will all move on to play college football this fall.

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said having more of his athletes signing to play in college is essential in reviving the Patriots football program, largely because it makes the sport more appealing to other athletes at the school.

Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Jeff Towle reaches back to throw a pass in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

“To get the football program at Ward Melville to take off, the environment and the image had to change,” he said. “I thought there were plenty of good football athletes in the district that just didn’t realize the potential they had and didn’t realize that playing college football was a real possibility, and instead they gravitated toward lacrosse or baseball or other sports that they thought offered that for them.”

Boltrek, who played college football at St. Lawrence University after graduating from Ward Melville, said the program occasionally gets one player every few years who moves on to the collegiate level. Now having five in one year, he hopes it will bring new life into the program.

“To have five in one year is a pretty big deal for us,” the first-year varsity head coach said.

Towle, who will attend Division II Pace University this fall, also doubled as a talented catcher on the baseball team, but said football has long been his preference.

“I was always a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I just happened to be showing more talent in baseball at the time. Then I got my opportunity on the football field and play well. I’ve been a football guy my whole life.”

Towle was not even the starting quarterback until the final five games of the season. Serving as the reserve, Towle continued to train to ensure he would be ready should he get his chance.

“I worked as hard as I could, knowing maybe I’ll get a shot, maybe I won’t,” he said. “But if I did, I wanted to be ready.”

When Towle got his chance, he thrived, completing 13 touchdown passes and tossed for over 1,100 total yards of offense.

His mother, Jessica Spencer, said her son’s dedication led him to obtaining such an opportunity.

“He hung in there and he did everything they asked him to and it paid off,” she said. “I’m very proud of him and I’m very grateful to have him.”

Stavropoulos, a captain and three-time All-Division honoree, and Lopiccolo, who also achieved All-Division honors, will remain teammates as the pair heads to Division III Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Lopiccolo and Arditti, like Towle, had obstacles to overcome as both were cut from the junior varsity squad in ninth grade.

“I was sad because football is my sport — I’ve been playing since I was five,” Lopiccolo said. “But at the same time it gave me the drive to work harder and hit the gym.”

To ensure that they wouldn’t be cut again, the pair “lived in the gym,” as Boltrek described, working out for 90 minutes a day, five days a week under the coach’s guidance. Lopiccolo said he was thrilled when he and Arditti made the team the following year, crediting the effort they put in  aover the year to improve themselves physically.

“It’s crazy how the tiniest bit of effort can change something completely,” he said.

Napoli, the team’s final commit, was an All-Division tackle who will attend the Division III Stevenson University.

Towle said he, along with his four fellow teammates that committed to play college ball, owe their diligent work ethic and ultimate success to Boltrek for his ambition and guidance.

“To be honest, we probably worked harder than any team in the county throughout the week during the season, and that’s a credit to [Coach Boltrek],” he said. “We wouldn’t be where we are without him; any of us.”

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The proposed budget for 2015-16 includes funds for a new elevator at the high school. File photo by Elana Glowatz

Now it’s up to the voters.

Port Jefferson school board members adopted a 2015-16 budget on Tuesday night that would raise the tax rate 1.62 percent, matching the state-imposed cap on how much it can increase.

The $42.4 million budget proposal has not changed much since it was first presented to the community earlier this year. It would increase staffing levels — bringing in additional teachers for English as a second language, a groundskeeper and teaching assistants — and put $1.25 million toward constructing a new elevator at the district high school.

The elevator project is so costly because in order to build a lift that is up to code, the district will have to construct a wider elevator shaft as well as new lobbies on each floor.

Another driver of the budget increase is funding to have an ambulance present at Port Jefferson lacrosse and football games, a safety measure proposed in response to the death of a Shoreham-Wading River High School student-athlete following a football game against John Glenn High School in the fall.

But it won’t be all increases — the school district is expecting to see a 4 percent decrease in state teachers’ retirement system contributions next year.

Although the tax levy would only go up 1.62 percent, the budget-to-budget increase would top 5 percent, due to staffing and capital costs. However, Assistant Superintendent for Business Sean Leister explained during a budget presentation on Tuesday, the district would draw $1.3 million from its debt service fund to offset the increase. That fund contains leftover monies from completed bond projects.

If voters approve the budget in May, the tax rate would increase to $144.67 for every $100 of assessed value on a property.

Also on the ballot will be a proposition to create a new capital reserve fund aimed at replacing roofs at the three schools. Leister said the district would put surplus dollars leftover at the end of each school year into the new capital reserve fund to support roof replacements, which would be staggered so that those new roofs don’t eventually have to be replaced all at once.

According to Leister’s presentation, the district would need a community vote to use money from the fund, once it is established.

The district will hold a budget hearing on May 12 in the high school auditorium.

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