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Kyle Zawadzki

By Bill Landon

After what was argued to be a questionable call, Smithtown West’s football team couldn’t catch Huntington, falling 28-23 in the Bulls’ homecoming game Oct. 7.

On Huntington’s last possession of the third quarter, the offensive line stood and the line of scrimmage to start play, but decided instead to let the clock expire. What went unnoticed at field level was Huntington’s center bending over and touching the ball before he decided to stand up and let time tick off the clock.

Up in the press box, an assistant coach radioed head coach Steve Fasciani, who told player David Gonzales to pick up the ball and run with it. The wide receiver took off for the end zone, and officials blew their whistle at the 30-yard line, but Fasciani argued it was a live ball. After a 25-minute conference which including sourcing the rulebook, the ruling on the field stood that there was no touchdown.

“I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

—Steve Fasciani

In the fourth quarter, Smithtown West quarterback Kyle Zawadzki found wide receiver Chris Crespo open over the middle, who turned it up field for the touchdown with just over three minutes left to play. Kicker Matthew Villano scored on the extra-point kick attempt to pull Smithtown West within five, but Huntington took over and let the clock unwind.

“They play power football and they’re very good at it, but our second half — with how our defense played — was a huge step for us,” Fasciani said. “I have no problem with how our guys played in the second half today; all heart. They played tough and they took the next step in my opinion.”

Running back Eric Sands led the way for the Blue Devils, and after a long run down to the 2-yard line, he sealed the deal by punching into the end zone two plays later. Senior Nat Amato split the uprights for a 7-0 lead.

The Bulls struggled with their running game, and went three-and-out on their first three possessions against a formidable Huntington defensive unit.

Utilizing the hurry-up offense, Huntington connected on three consecutive pass plays to move the chains to the 15-yard line. Sands once again made his way into the end zone, racing down the right sideline and breaking a tackle before sauntering into touchdown land. After a low snap, holder Luke Eidle was able to gather it up and Amato struck again to put his team out front 14-0 with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter.

Smithtown West made progress up the field, but the Blue Devils defense forced a turnover, and Sands got the call once more as the junior raced 19 yards for the touchdown. Amato, perfect on the day, gave Huntington a 21-0 advantage with just under 10 minutes left until halftime.

“We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

—Steve Muller

“[Eric Sands] was a monster in the beginning of the game,” Huntington head coach Steve Muller said. “We thought they were identical to us with their offense — they’ve got a lot of talented skill players — but we knew coming in we were going to have to stop [Kyle Zawadzki].”

But the coach said he knew his team couldn’t stop him.

“He’s very, very good, an outstanding athlete,” Muller said. “Since can’t stop him, you have to bend him a little bit.”

Zawadzki made that hard to do when he dropped back to pass Crespo, crossing over the middle, who made the 36-yard touchdown catch. Crespo struck again on a handoff, punching it in for the two-point conversion to trail 21-8 with less than seven minutes left in the second.

Huntington responded when quarterback John Paci hit a hole, broke outside and raced 51 yards down the right sideline before he was forced out at the 14-yard line. Sands finished the play by breaking free of two would-be tacklers and finding the end zone for his fourth touchdown of the game. Sands said he couldn’t take all the credit for the scores.

“My line, they’re excellent,” he said. “They’re my leaders and I can’t say enough about them. They played great; I can’t do it without those guys.”

Smithtown West fumbled the ball four minutes into the third, and Smithtown West running back and linebacker Matthew Caddigan recovered it. Zawadzki scored on a keeper, taking the ball five yards for the only third-quarter score.

“I thought we played a sloppy second half,” Sands said. “But [Smithtown West is] a competitive team.”

The Bulls drop to 2-3 in the Suffolk County Division II standings while the Blue Devils improve to 3-2. Huntington hopes to spoil another homecoming when the Blue Devils travel to Newfield Oct. 14 at 2 p.m. Smithtown West will face off against crosstown rival Smithtown East the same date and time.

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Smithtown West bounced back from a tough loss to Northport with a 9-7 win over Bay Shore Tuesday.

With one game left in the regular season — a tough matchup against Division I leader West Islip — the boys’ lacrosse team has lost just four games this season, all of them one-goal games. The Bulls’ defense had a target to keep all opponents under five goals this season, and came close with 10 of its 15 competitors scoring six or fewer.

“We’ve been playing some big games lately,” said junior attack Jimmy Caddigan, who tallied a hat trick and two assists in the win over Bay Shore. “I think today we got back on track a little bit. Our defense has been playing great all year. We had some man downs that they played big on.”

Smithtown West senior attack Danny Caroussos got his team on the board first to open the game, and although Bay Shore tied it up, sophomore attack and midfielder Kyle Zawadzki scored with 15.9 seconds left in the first quarter to give his team the advantage.

Being a man down, Bay Shore was able to capitalize on the Bulls’ yellow card to again even the score. But that would be the last time the Marauders would come that close.

“Overall I though we could’ve played better — definitely not up to our potential, but coming off a loss it’s great to get back in the win column and get some momentum going into our last game of the year against a very good West Islip team coming in, especially on senior night,” Caroussos said of the May 12 game, which kicks off at 5 p.m.

Caddigan assisted on Zawadzki’s final goal of the evening, and Caroussos assisted on Caddigan’s first when he passed to the sophomore, who swiveled around the cage from the left side and scored for the 4-2 advantage.

The Bulls led by four goals twice. First, when Caddigan whipped the ball into the netting from two yards out with 30.5 seconds left in the first half, and second, when his younger brother Matt Caddigan found the net off an assist from John Hoffman.

Right before that goal that gave Smithtown West an 8-4 lead, senior midfielder Danny Varello, who won 17 of 19 faceoffs, won the draw and raced into Bay Shore’s zone, rocketing a shot in, in a play that lasted just several seconds.

Despite the showing, Smithtown West head coach Bobby Moltisanti Jr. said his team has some more work to do.

“It was a gritty win,” he said. “I felt we were inefficient on offense. There was an opportunity throughout the game where we could’ve pulled away, but we didn’t. I feel like we can play better, and the boys know they can play better. But I give the boys credit. They fought.”

His athletes agreed, but still think they have what it takes to go far.

“I think this team can beat anyone,” Jimmy Caddigan said. “We’re getting over that hump of finishing the regular-season games and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”

Although playoffs are looming in the near future, the Bulls are looking to take it one game at a time, with the immediate focus being on their senior night game.

“They’re No. 1 right now, we have a big rivalry between us and them,” Jimmy Caddigan said of West Islip. “We play them every year and we want one more big win.”

Zawadzki said the teams needs to clean up before heading into the next matchup, but added that the win over Bay Shore was important.

“This gives us confidence going into next week and we’ll just keep it rolling,” he said.

Smithtown West was a mixed bag this season, with strong senior leadership but some big contributing underclassmen. Although plenty of strong players will be left no matter what happens this postseason, for seniors like Caroussos, heading into his last few games will be bittersweet.

“There’s definitely mixed emotions,” he said. “We have a lot of potential and the county championship is one of the goals. I think we honestly have a chance to do that. We just need to come together as one unit and keep motivating each other to play better and better, and keep finding ways to win.”