Tags Posts tagged with "Football"


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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.