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Playoffs

No. 9 Harborfields will travel to No. 8 Westhampton today at 4 p.m. in the second round of playoffs

By Bill Landon

Harborfields’ strength lies in its singles play. The No. 9-seeded boys tennis team swept all four singles spots — all the Tornadoes would need in a best-of-seven series — and went on to blank visiting Brentwood 7-0 in the first round of the Suffolk County playoffs.

Harborfields junior Alex Rzehak, who earned All-State honors the last two years, led his team at first singles. He shut down Brentwood’s Armando Santana 6-0, 6-0.

“He’s our No. 1 player,” Harborfields head coach Bob Davis said of his state tournament alternate. “He plays the best kid on every other team in our division. In fact, the top four finishers in the county are all from our division. This is the second year in a row he’s the alternate. He’s a junior, so he’ll get another bite at the apple.”

Eighth-grader Chris Qi, at fourth singles, also shut out his Brentwood opponent.

“He wound up with a 9-3 record this year in our division — that’s not easy,” the coach said. “We have some kids who are serious about tennis, and [slowly but surely] we’re getting there.”

Other young Harborfields athletes shined during the match. Freshman Michael Singer nipped his challenger 6-1, 6-0 at second singles. Singer made the All-County team this year, and won a round in the county singles tournament.

“We’re hoping for big things from him [moving forward,]” Davis said.

Rounding out singles action was junior Bobby Bellino, who won his match 6-0, 6-1.

“He could wind up being the best of all,” the coach said of his third singles player. “He’s got amazing tools, he just has to work on his consistency.”

The second doubles pair of John Mulé and Luke Verdon competed in the only match that went to three sets. After falling 3-6 in the first, the seniors rallied back to win 6-3, 6-1 to claim a win in the second-to-last match of the afternoon.

“It was interesting,” Mulé said of the match. “We really didn’t play much at all last week because of the weather. We may have underestimated our opponent at first, they’re pretty good.”

Davis, although thinking his team should have been seeded higher, said he’s under no illusion that his team will have to work hard to prepare for No. 8 Westhampton May 22. The Tornadoes will travel to Westhampton today for a 4 p.m. match.

“I think we should’ve gotten a high seed … so now we have to go out and prove it,” he said. “Westhampton is a very good team. It’ll be a very good match, so we’ll see what happens.”

Bellino said he’ll be prepared, but added the doubles pairs will also need to be ready to back up the singles players.

“It’ll be a lot of pressure on our doubles guys — they have to come up big and get those crucial points because if one of us in singles loses, we need a doubles team to pull through,” he said. “I’m just going to go in with a clear head and not think about the pressure that’s riding on the game … just go out and have fun, try to find my opponent’s weakness and use that to my advantage.”

After first-round bye Mustangs face No. 5 Rocky Point today at home at 4 p.m.

The visiting Mustangs galloped onto the field like it was a playoff game — knowing they needed to win to earn the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. But Mattituck’s girls lacrosse team made them work for it.

With the game tied 8-8 heading into overtime, Mount Sinai sophomore Morgan Mitchell dished the ball to senior Gabby Sartori, who netted what would end up being the game winner with two minutes remaining. Mitchell had lent a helping hand all afternoon May 12, ending the 9-8 victory with a goal and five assists. A handful of them helped senior Camryn Harloff tally a hat trick, in a game that won Mount Sinai a share of the Division II title with Bayport-Blue Point (both 13-1).

Mount Sinai’s Camryn Harloff, on left in a previous game against Rocky Point, scored four goals in the Mustangs’ regular-season finale. File photo by Bill Landon

“I wasn’t really thinking about scoring, I just knew we had to get the job done whether it was me or someone else,” Harloff said. “It definitely feels nice to win the division, but that’s just one piece of the bigger picture — we want another state title.”

Mount Sinai has won three straight Class C crowns, and a large group on the current squad have consistently helped get there.

Senior Meaghan Tyrrell, who is second among all Suffolk scorers with 49 goals and 36 assists, said despite a shaky start against Mattituck, her teammates always know how to pull together in crucial contests.

“I believe draw controls led our team to victory, with Morgan [Mitchell] playing really well both on the draw circle and in the offensive zone,” said Tyrrell, who finished with a goal and two assists. Mitchell ended the game with six draw controls. “We play smart under pressure.”

Twin sisters, senior defenders Kirsten and Meaghan Scutaro, have also been fixtures.

“They hold us together like glue,” Harloff said. “The offense puts up the points we need, buy they are the key aspects to this team because defense is our foundation.”

Sartori and senior Jenny Markey added two goals each in the final regular-season game.

As the No. 1 seed, the Mustangs had a first-round bye, and will face neighboring Rocky Point, the No. 5 seed, at home today, May 22, at 4 p.m.

Harloff said she is anxious to try to make a run at her fourth and final state title.

“We definitely feel a target, but we don’t focus on that — we go day by day,” Harloff said. “We’re not going to be complacent, but we are confident.”

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By Bill Landon

Middle Country’s girls lacrosse team came up short at the buzzer in a Class A quarterfinal game that saw nine lead changes. No. 5-seeded Riverhead’s defense held down the fort in the final 30 seconds against the No. 4 Mad Dogs to pull away with a 13-12 win.

“It was a tough one today,” Middle Country head coach Lindsay Dolson said. “We made some mistakes that we didn’t need to make.”

Down 6-4 at halftime, Middle Country junior Sophie Alois scored her third goal of the game to make it a new one, knotting the score at 6-all three minutes into the second half. After a Riverhead goal, Middle Country senior Emily Diaz dished the ball to Alois, and then to senior Sydney Juvelier 35 seconds later to help the Mad Dogs retake the lead.

The Blue Waves tied it up again before Middle Country did in return, and Diaz scored on a penalty shot with 14:07 remaining to give the Mad Dogs what would be their final lead of the game.

Riverhead rattled off four unanswered goals to take a 12-9 lead and ran crucial seconds off the clock by stalling until the four-minute mark.

With 3:37 left in regulation, Alois split the pipes unassisted and scored her fifth goal of the game a minute later off a feed from junior Jennifer Barry. Middle Country won the ensuing draw and this time, it was the seventh-grader Kate Timarky who wouldn’t be denied, as her solo shot found the back of the net to retie the game, 12-12, with a minute-and-a-half left in regulation.

After a shot on goal by the Blue Waves, controversy ensued and the game’s three officials conferenced on the field. After a minute of deliberation, the trio ruled it a good goal and Riverhead retook the lead 13-12 with 30 seconds left.

Middle Country won the final draw and called timeout with 22 seconds remaining as the Mad Dogs planned their final shot, but failed to get the ball near the cage as time expired.

It was a stinging defeat for the defending Long Island champions.

“When we were down by three we didn’t panic — we have plans for that, and we finished with good draw controls and were able to [retie the game],” Dolson said. “I thanked the seniors for their hard work their dedication — they will be greatly missed and we wish them good luck next year.”

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue almost called it a comeback. The girls lacrosse team trimmed a four-goal deficit to one in the final minutes of a first-round Class B playoff game against visiting East Islip May 18, and despite winning possession on the final draw with 20 seconds left, the Warriors failed to find the net, falling 9-8.

“We have awesome players with amazing speed — our seniors Hannah [Dorney] and Brianna [Blatter] stepped up, they played a hell of a game,” Comsewogue head coach Jaqueline Wilkom said. “We had to win that draw and push it down toward the net at the end, but unfortunately the game didn’t end in our favor.”

Dorney, a University of Notre Dame-bound senior, won possession and Comsewogue called timeout with 20 seconds on the clock. With time for one last shot, the Warriors turned the ball over and the Redmen recovered and let the clock run down.

“We’re very young — we have five middle-schoolers and only four seniors,” Dorney said. “We had two key players out for most of the year, so for a while we were a little lost.”

The senior, who came into the game second among Suffolk County scorers with 85 points, four behind Northport’s Olivia Carner, found the net four times and assisted on a goal in her final Comsewogue lacrosse game. She finished the first half with a hat trick, scoring twice on penalty shots and once off an assist from junior attack Julia Fernandes. Her third goal closed the gap to one, 4-3, and even with No. 5-seeded East Islip countering with two goals in just over a minute’s time, No. 4 Comsewogue came back to keep the deficit the same, with the Warriors down 6-5 at the halftime break.

After the Redmen tallied two more scores to start the second, a Comsewogue penalty put the Warriors at even more of a disadvantage, as East Islip capitalized on the opportunity to go up 9-5. Sophomore Olivia Fantigrossi scored her second goal, freshman Nelida Watson assisted Fernandes’ second and Dorney scored on another penalty shot to give the game its final score with 29 seconds left.

“We pump each other up from the sidelines, and our bonding in practice is what helped us get this far,” Dorney said. “We’re a family.”

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Wolverines face top-seeded Smithtown East in the out bracket on the road May 15 at 4 p.m.

By Bill Landon

Although the double-elimination game didn’t go as planned, Bobby Vath got by with a little help from his friends.

The first-inning showing was all visiting Connetquot needed to get past Newfield, 3-0, in the first round of baseball playoffs May 14. With a runner in scoring position a Vath pitch was drilled deep to left field for a ground-rule double and a 1-0 lead. Three pitches later, a passed ball at the plate put Connetquot ahead 2-0.

“I went back into the dugout after the top of the first, and they were right there ready to pick me up,” the senior said of his teammates. “So I was ready to go back out there in the second and fight for my team.”

Newfield was unable to answer in bottom of the inning, and unfortunately for Vath, an RBI-single gave the Thunderbirds an insurance run in the top of the second.

Newfield was able to get the bat on the ball after that, but when the Wolverines did get on base, Connetquot’s defense answered the call to keep them there.

Vath found his rhythm in the third, and despite Connetquot putting two runners on base in the top of the sixth, the senior didn’t give up a run the rest of the way. He struck out the next two batters in that inning to get out of the jam.

“He settled down after that first inning and started throwing outs, working off his fastball and had good command of the game,” Newfield head coach Eric Joyner said. “That’s just vintage Vath — he’s a great competitor.”

Newfield faces an unexpected opponent Tuesday, May 15, after top-seeded Smithtown East was upset by No. 17 Bay Shore, 7-4.

“Our approach has to be the same — come out of the gate hot, protect the baseball and throw strikes,” Joyner said. “We’ll have to execute a little better offensively tomorrow than we did today.”

Despite Newfield being the No. 8 seed, Vath said to him and his Wolverines, it doesn’t matter what seed they are, or what number they’re facing.

“We’ll definitely get the scouting reports from the other coaches who’ve played [Smithtown East], because that helped us in this game too, but their number doesn’t scare us,” Vath said. “We’ll go in there with the mentality that if the 17thseed beat the No. 1 seed, anybody can beat anyone on any given day.”

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Miller Place sophomore Lauren Mancini carries the ball downfield with a Mount Sinai defender on her back during a scrimmage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Miller Place boasts a mix of youth and experience in its girls lacrosse team this season, including nine eighth-graders, many   of which were on the Panthers playoff team last year.

Miller Place sophomore Madison Murphy gains possession off the draw. Photo by Bill Landon

The team finished its 2017 campaign with a 7-6 record, making the playoffs but falling to rival Shoreham-Wading River in the opening round. The girls scrimmaged Syosset before going toe-to-toe March 17 with New York State champion Mount Sinai, scoring several goals against their formidable neighbors.

Being a young team, boasting just four seniors with sophomores, freshmen and the nine eighth-graders making up the rest of the roster, Miller Place head coach Thomas Carro is under no illusion as to what’s in store for his squad this season.

“We’re going to have some growing pains in the beginning,” he said. “They’re going to make mistakes. We turned the ball over like 11 times in that last scrimmage [against Syosset], so we’ve got to limit those — and we will.”

Carro said five-year senior goalkeeper Hailey Duchnowski, along with returning defenders, should keep the Panthers in games.

“I think we have one of the best goalies we’ve ever had,” Carro said of Duchnowski, also pointing to junior defender Ava Burns and sophomore midfielder Madison Murphy, who he said is “going to have a good year.” “If those girls play hard, that stuff becomes contagious and the younger group will follow them.”

Miller Place freshman Alexa Corbin moves the ball through midfield in a scrimmage against Mount Sinai. Photo by Bill Landon

Duchnowski pointed to areas of promise and areas of concern she has with her unit up to this point in practice.

“We are doing really well at moving the ball fast on offense, coming together on defense, working hard,” she said. “But we’ll have to get better in transition.”

Murphy’s assessment of her team’s progress so far she said belies its age, but also noticed moments of weakness.

“We have a bunch of athletes,” she said. “We need to play together as a team, and if we do that it’ll all come together. We’ll need a lot of communication on the defensive end as well as on offense, and if we can do that fluently we can win.”

Senior Nicole Beck will also provide the Panthers with the leadership they need, and said, like her coach always does, Miller Place doesn’t rebuild, it reloads.

Miller Place junior Ava Burns battles for a ground ball against Mount Sinai. Photo by Bill Landon

“We lost a great amount of talent last year, but so far we’re still able to put up the numbers offensively,” Beck said. “It’s been impressive — we didn’t think we’d be able to do that — we have a lot of young girls who are playing really well.”

Murphy said her team’s preparation for the league opener at home against last year’s nemesis won’t have anything to do with the athleticism of the team, but with the mental preparedness. Miller Place will host Shoreham-Wading River March 28 at 4 p.m.

“If we go into that game with a positive mindset, work as hard as we can, I think there could be a positive outcome,” she said.

Carro said his team competes with some of the sport’s top Long Island talents, and said finding a way to neutralize high-caliber opponent’s threats will be key to competing with the cream of the crop.

“Shoreham lost a lot [of talent] last year, but it’ll be a test for us to play a team that’s next door to us; the girls all know each other,” the coach said. “We have Rocky Point and Mount Sinai [as neighbors and opponents this year], and those are tough teams. These girls come out and play hard against those teams, and if we take care of the ball and make good decisions, we can be in the game with anybody.”

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Olivia Williams fights for possession under the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The number 20 must be lucky for Olivia Williams.

In her senior year, still donning her number 20 jersey, the forward helped her team to a perfect, 20-0 regular season.

Holly McNair reaches for the rebound. Photo by Desirée Keegan

On Feb. 20, she had the game of her life, scoring a double-double on 11 points and 20 rebounds in a 69-52 Class A semifinal win over Sayville. The No. 1 seeded Mustangs will face No. 6 Hauppauge
Feb. 23 at Farmingdale State College at 5 p.m. to defend its Suffolk County crown after nabbing the first one in school history last year.

“I wanted to lay it all on the line, make sure we got back to the finals,” Williams said. “I couldn’t stop going. I didn’t even feel tired because I knew I had to keep fighting until the end.”

Five Mustangs fought for Mount Sinai’s first-quarter lead. While Sayville might have been expecting leading scorer Gabby Sartori to drive to the basket, Williams was first on the board on a free throw after a Sayville 3-pointer. Down 5-1, Sartori sent a long pass over to Brooke Cergol for the score, and Williams tied things at 5-5.
Margaret Kopcienski assisted next on junior Holly McNair’s field goal, to give the Mustangs a lead they’d never relinquish.

“We got into the paint really, we drove to the basket and passed the ball out to get the shot when we needed to,” McNair said. “We had so many good passes, and when we play together as a team, I think we’re unstoppable.”

Gabby Sartori leaps up to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Sartori did turn it on though, scoring eight of Mount Sinai’s 11 points in the second quarter and 11 of her team’s 14 in the third. Of her game-high 29 points, she scored 13 on free throws, going 7-for-8 from the charity stripe in the third quarter.

“I saw they were playing off me, and driving is my main purpose when I play,” said Sartori, who also had 10 assists and 10 rebounds to complete a triple-double. “When I see the foul coming I take it, because I know I’ve been working hard from that free-throw line to get the easy buckets.”

She said the crowd definitely got the team going.

“The energy, the fantastic atmosphere, I think we fed off that,” Sartori said. “That feeling from last year, I’ve never forgotten it, and I just can’t wait to feel it again.”

Margaret Kopcienski looks for the open girl. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Defense was the focus, and the game plan was to be aggressive as the Mustangs keyed in on Jenna Harclerode and Devin Dolan. Mount Sinai held the girls to 12 and eight points, respectively.

“We had to shut down those two girls because they really pick their team up,” McNair said.

Williams’ job was to defend against Dolan, and Mount Sinai head coach Jeff Koutsantanou thought his number 20 exceeded expectations.

“Olivia Williams was outstanding,” he said. “She took on an All-County player and she played the game of her life tonight — she out-rebounded her, she played her tough. She really did a great job. Without her strength, we might not have been as successful.”

Six Mustangs found themselves on the scoreboard, with Cergol adding the third double-double for her team on 11 points and 10 rebounds. McNair finished with eight points, Kopcienski added six and Casey Campo rounded out the scoring with four.

“We’re all really hyped up,” Williams said. “We knew we wanted to come out strong, we weren’t selfish, and we’re going to do it again. We’ve been wanting to take it game by game, but I’ve really been hoping for the chance to repeat history.”

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Alex Sober scored a career-high 31 points in Ward Melville’s quarterfinal loss. Photo by John Dielman

By Jim Ferchland

With their first league championship in 28 years, the Patriots’ magical season came to a close. It was a rematch for Ward Melville (17-5) against top dog Half Hollow Hills East (19-2) in the second round of the playoffs on Feb. 20. The Thunderbirds were responsible for ending the Patriots season in 2017. This year, it was the same outcome.

Senior and Quinnipiac University signee Savion Lewis racked up 40 points for Hills East. Meanwhile, senior Alex Sobel countered with a career-high 31 points for Ward Melville, but it wasn’t enough as they came up short 84-72 in the Class AA quarterfinal.

Ray Grabowski finished with 17 points in his final game with the Patriots. Photo by John Dielman

“I expected to win,” Sobel said. “I played well, but it just wasn’t enough. My career-high doesn’t even matter.”

The Patriots had difficulty taking care of the ball, turning it over 17 times, 12 of those coming in the first half.

“We knew that they would get a lot of points in transition,” Sobel said. “That’s what they did. If we didn’t turn the ball over as much, we would have won the game.”

Ward Melville head coach Alex Piccirillo, who brought his team to the postseason all three of his seasons, said it was tough to contain Lewis.

“Savion is the best player in the county,” he said. “He’s going to be voted on that. We knew he was going to get his points.”

Ward Melville Junior Ray Grabowski recorded 17 points and eight rebounds in the loss. Senior Brendan Martin finished his final game with 10 points, five assists and seven turnovers.

Junior guard Robert Soto had nine points, five rebounds and had six turnovers. Despite the loss, Grabowski said the team fought hard.

“I thought everyone played well,” Grabowski said. “I thought Sobel played a great game. It was just a very good team we were up against and there’s not much you can do.”

Ward Melville outscored Hills East in the fourth quarter, 25-22.

“It’s a playoff game in a great playoff atmosphere,” Piccirillo said. “We knew that it was going to be tough. It was either going to take a stop or a big shot to be made for it to swing our way and we just couldn’t get enough momentum to keep it in our direction.”

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Madison Brady keeps a Deer Park opponent at a distance as she moves the ball up the court. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Erin Tucker and Hallie Simkins combined for three points from the free-throw line in the final seconds of Harborifelds’ girls basketball team’s 39-37 edging of Deer Park at the Northport invitational shootout Dec. 30, helping to cap off 2017 on a 6-0 undefeated streak in League V.

Hallie Simkins muscles her way to the rim with a Deer Park opponent at her hip reaching for the block. Photo by Bill Landon

The Tornadoes haven’t missed a beat despite losing all five starters to graduation last year.

“This is a completely new team,” Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said. “And that was a good win for them.”

Early in the game points were hard to come by for both teams, as Deer Park took a 7-6 lead into the second stanza, which is where the Falcons’ 3-point game came alive. Three consecutive trifectas were scored before Harborfields could answer, giving Deer Park an 8-point lead, 16-8, with three minutes left in the first half.

Harborfields junior Celia Argiriou launched a long distance shot to net her first 3-pointer of the game to close the gap to 16-13, but the Falcons outscored the Tornadoes 17-11 in the quarter to take a 24-17 advantage into the locker room.

“At halftime, our coach just told us 7 points is nothing — we’ve just got to keep chipping away at it, we’ve got to play harder than them,” Tucker said. “That’s what went through everyone’s mind — do it for the team, and eventually, it will move in our direction. We played a zone coverage we literally put in three weeks ago, and we caused some turnovers that we were able to turn into points.”

With three minutes left in regulation, the forward battled in the paint and scored to make it a 1-point game. One the next possession, Simkins took matters into her own hands and banked two points of her own to give the Tornadoes their first lead since the first quarter with 2:28 left.

Erin Tucker shoots uncontested. Photo by Bill Landon

“I just kept thinking, ‘We have the effort, we have the drive, but we just kept fighting and pushing them by doing what we know how,” said Simkins, who finished the third quarter with two consecutive buckets that cut the deficit to 31-26. “[We won because of] our mental toughness — we all really stayed headstrong on the court and we never gave in.”

With 12.6 seconds on the clock, Tucker went to the line shooting two and banked both of her free-throw shots to edge ahead by three. After a Falcons score, the Tornadoes kept their cool, and Simkins split the difference during her team’s final showing at the charity stripe to seal the deal.

Tucker and Simkins topped the scoring sheet with 11 points apiece. Freshman forward Madison Brady, who banked seven, said Lavey’s encouragement at halftime resonated with her and her teammates, who know the program’s positive playoff position its in year after year.

“Coach said we can come back, and we all agreed that we’re better than that first half, and we could come back,” Brady said. “We just have to battle it out every game the whole season to win our league, and hopefully make a run at a county championship.”

Harborfields looks to continue its positive trajectory in 2018 when it hosts Hauppauge Jan. 4. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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Devin Demetres rushes with the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Centereach threatened to retie the game late in the fourth quarter, but a costly interception halted the Cougars march down the field, and with that, went the football team’s chance to compete in the Division II finals. Centereach fell to North Babylon 14-7 in the county semifinals Nov. 10.

Chris Witherspoon leaps up in an attempt to intercept a North Babylon pass. Photo by Bill Landon

The Cougars had a historic run, opening the season on a five-game winning streak and completing the season with an 8-2 record.

Centereach head coach Adam Barrett said the transformation of his team  to finally become a playoff contender was due to several factors.

“The players have really committed to the offseason program and took the necessary steps to improve each year, which was key,” he said. “Having leaders that want to be the best they can be, and never settling has really helped the younger kids contribute. Having a great core of young coaches that bought into the program and the system that I brought here and having them relate to the kids is a big factor as well.”

On their opening possession, the North Babylon Bulldogs began a march down the field from deep inside their own territory, leaning on running back David Estrella. They ground out yardage and sustained the drive until ultimately finding the end zone on short yardage with four minutes left in the opening quarter.

North Babylon threatened again with six minutes left in the half, but the Cougars defense made a stand, forcing the Bulldogs to punt on fourth-and-15.

The spark for the Cougars offense came three plays later, when senior quarterback Jay Morwood handed a pass to junior Devin Demetres, who despite seeming to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, broke outside and defended against four would-be tacklers while covering 65 yards during his touchdown run. Sophomore kicker Matt Robbert completed the point-after attempt to make it a new game.

Marcus Garcia-Miller drags a tackler as he moves the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

On the opening drive of the second half, a Centereach fumble proved costly. After North Babylon recovered, the team completed three plays before Estrella sauntered into the end zone once more for a 14-7 lead.

With less than two minutes remaining in regulation, Centereach mounted a drive downfield connecting on a pair of long pass-plays, one of which was a 32-yard toss to Marcus Garcia-Miller, but both were called back because of offensive pass interference. On a third and long, Morwood threw a Hail Mary pass near the end zone where a North Babylon corner leaped in front for the interception, and with it, victory.

Barrett said that seniors Alec Kiernan, Vinny Liotta and Mike Grieco have led the team to places he hasn’t seen, and were a big part of the team’s success.

“Buying in to everything we do and making other players better around them is why I consider them leaders,” Barrett said. “They lead by example on the field, in the classroom and in the community. Even though the season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, the seniors have really shaped the program into what it is today.”

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