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Northport Tigers

Mikey Brannigan proudly displays the United States Flag as he races down the London track during the 2017 World Para Athletes Championships. File photo

By Desirée Keegan

Mikey Brannigan didn’t roam the halls of Northport High School, he ran down them. He’d dash through the doors as others raced behind him, saying “catch me if you can.”

“Stop that kid,” Brannigan said they would shout, laughing.

Mikey Brannigan received a proclamation from New York State Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. Photo from Assemblyman Lupinacci’s office

Brannigan battled his way to a successful high school career, and beyond after graduating in 2015. The runner is continuing to exceed expectations — being the only Paralympic athlete in history to hold simultaneous records in the 1,500-, one-mile, 3,000- and 5,000-meter events. He brought home two gold medals — in the 1,500 and 800 — and silver in the 5,000 at the London 2017 World Para Athletics Championships at the end of last month.

“Make no mistake about it Mikey wants to be the best,” his New York Athletic Club coach of two years, Sonja Robinson said. “His drive — it shines out. You see it. He loves running.”

Brannigan was diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, and began running at 8. Fast-forward 11 years, when as a 19-year-old he became the first individual with autism to win a gold medal in the 1,500. He also became the first athlete with a T-20 Paralympic classification to shatter the 4-minute mile threshold in August 2016 with a 3 minute, 57 second finish at the Sir Walter Miler meet in Raleigh, North Carolina. A month later, he competed in the Special Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he took home the gold after a dominating 3:51 in the 1,5000.

Mikey Brannigan, at center, is surrounded by politicians and coaches as he shows off his new proclamations and gold and silver medals. Photo from Assemblyman Lupinacci’s office

Now at 20, he’s training to compete in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo.

“I’m taking it little by little and want to show everyone that if you take even little steps you can achieve your dreams,” Brannigan said. “Look at all you can achieve. Work hard and you can achieve your dreams. You can achieve anything.”

Brannigan was honored by local government officials at Northport High School Aug. 9, receiving accolades for his accomplishments, while the members also dubbed Aug. 9 Mikey Brannigan Day in New York.

“He’s truly our hometown hero,” state assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) said. “Mikey’s story is nothing short of amazing. What he has accomplished at his age is unheard of. His achievements are a true testament of his hard work, dedication, perseverance, sweat and tears.”

State Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), whose kids graduated from and played sports in Northport, said he was in awe, and pointed to the back of the room — the local kids that were in attendance at the press conference — as the “cool” part of the event.

“He’s truly our hometown hero. Mikey’s story is nothing short of amazing. What he has accomplished at his age is unheard of.”

—Chad Lupinacci

“What we do when we go to Albany is we brag,” he said, putting his hands on Brannigan’s shoulders. “We tell everyone how cool our districts are, we tell everyone about the Northport school district, and we’re very proud of where we live and where we represent. There’s nothing, in my opinion, nothing better than dealing with young adults, no matter what they may be doing, because they’re the future.”

Brannigan grinned as he was invited to Albany in January to be recognized by the entire state legislature. State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) also presented him with a proclamation.

“We’re going to bring you up to Albany, but the bad news is, you have to run there and it’s 200 miles,” Flanagan joked.

“That’s a long, cold trip,” Brannigan responded, waiving his arms no.

Flanagan said he was humbled and proud to be in Brannigan’s presence.

“These are the stories people should know about and want to hear about,” he said. “I went from a stage where I used to run, then I jogged and now I walk. On my best day, I couldn’t even come close to the accomplishments of this young man, who really is a role model.”

State Assemblyman Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) agreed the barriers Brannigan has broken are unbelievable feats.

Mikey Brannigan smiles as he shakes New York State Assemblyman Andrew Raia’s hand during a press conference at Northport High School. Photo from Facebook

“Every day you turn on the television and something bad is happening,” he said. “I want to turn on the television to see this young man. It’s a big responsibility to carry, but in just the few moments I’ve had to talk with him, I know he’s up to the challenge.”

Raia proceeded to tell Brannigan he was going to embarrass him, to which he responded: “Do it.”

The assemblyman pointed out the runner’s red, white and blue Sperry top-siders, and said he needed to find out where he got them.

“He’s such a proud American,” Raia said, to which Brannigan smiled and shook his hand. “We wish nothing but the best. Keep running, my friend.”

Lupinacci shared a similar sentiment during the conference that was broadcasted on Facebook live and viewed by nearly 3,000 people.

“Your family and friends and all of us here today are proud of you,” he said as he gave Brannigan a hug. “Younger generations will follow in your footsteps. You’re not only our hometown hero, you’re an inspiration to all New Yorkers and all Americans. You’re an inspiration to people around the world.”

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Chris Parker pushes past the blocker. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Northport’s boys’ volleyball team (now 8-2 League 1) limited visiting Center Moriches (now 4-7) to just 33 total points in the Tigers’ sweep Oct. 18, 25-10, 25-9, 25-14.

From the opening serve, Northport overwhelmingly dominated the net, blocking shot after shot and serving strongly, limiting the Red Devils to 10 points in the first set.

Northport head coach Amanda DiPietro rested her starters for the second set, but it only got worse for Center Moriches, as the bench demonstrated the team’s depth. The Tigers broke out to an 11-3 lead before Center Moriches scored again.

Sam Maritato tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon
Sam Maritato tallies a kill. Photo by Bill Landon

“I felt confident that if I put my subs in, they could get the job done,” DiPietro said. “They came out with a lot of energy, and we just played our game and we felt confident on our side [of the net].”

The margin grew to 18-5 before Center Moriches called timeout, but the conference didn’t help. The Tigers allowed just four more points before putting away the set.

“We wanted to let everybody get a chance to play,” senior middle hitter Jamie O’Donnell said. “It was a smart decision by the coaches to do that. We didn’t have many unforced errors either, so we did well to keep that under control.”

Northport fell behind 4-1 early in the third set, but switched gears, forgoing the power serves for aces by playing it safe and just putting the ball in play. Center Moriches grew tired and began making mental mistakes, which proved costly as the Tigers clawed their way to tie, and eventually take an 8-6 lead.

“Our job today was to just get the ball over the net, put the ball in play and let them make their own errors,” senior outside hitter Chris Parker said. “We served almost every ball inbounds, which was important.”

None of the starters had seen action since the first set, except for team captain Jeremy Rescott, a senior setter who directed his band of nonstarters to keep the ball in play, and let their opponent beat themselves.

“Our strategy was to keep our serves in and cut down on as many errors,” Rescott said. “We knew this was a team we could play conservatively [if we played mistake free].”

Jeremy Rescott slams home a spike. Photo by Bill Landon
Jeremy Rescott slams home a spike. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior right side hitter Sam Maritato finished the job for Northport by blasting an unexpected service ace to take the third set, 25-14, to win in straight sets.

Rescott led his team with six kills, Parker added five and O’Donnell finished with four. Junior setter Ben Sandt led his team in assists, with 14.

“I think our libero Andrew Roniger is one of the most underrated players — he’s so confident and although he’s quiet he really takes charge on the court,” DiPietro said of the way the senior played throughout the match. “I’m always impressed with my captains Jeremy Rescott, Chris Parker and Jamie O’Donnell, too, they’re just leaders on and off the court. But still, when you take them out, we have other guys that step up.”

Northport has four games remaining in the regular season, two of which will be critical for playoff seeding. The Tigers faced Smithtown West (7-2) Oct. 19, but results were not available by press time. Northport will meet West Islip Oct. 24, before taking on undefeated Sachem North on Oct. 26 at home 5:45 p.m. Then comes Half Hollow Hills Oct. 31.

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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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