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Port Jefferson Royals

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Wyandanch traveled to Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Sept. 15 and defeated Port Jefferson on the football field 26-23. The Royals have opened the young season with two straight losses. They’ll look to get in the win column Sept. 21 at 6 p.m. at Mount Sinai.

Port Jefferson School District’s new athletic director, Adam Sherrard. Photo from PJSD

Port Jefferson School District’s athletic programs have excelled in recent years, but the Royals faced a new kind of challenge this summer.

Adam Sherrard has been named the replacement for Port Jeff’s outgoing director of health, physical education and athletics, Danielle Turner, who accepted a similar position in the Locust Valley school district in June.

Sherrard, a Farmingville resident, has coaching and teaching experience from previous stops at Huntington and Smithtown school districts, where he taught physical education at all grade levels. Most recently he taught at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet Intermediate School in the Huntington district. He served as Smithtown East High School’s defensive coordinator for the varsity football team and as a middle school lacrosse head coach, in addition to other high school and middle school coaching assignments, according to his LinkedIn page.

“I’m eager to work with the students, staff, nurses, administrators, coaches and parents in the district,” Sherrard said in a statement. “Since I first arrived here, I noticed the commitment to the well-being of students is profound and I look forward to continuing to strengthen the positive environment in the Port Jefferson School District.”

He earned an advanced graduate certificate in educational leadership from Stony Brook University and a Master of Arts in educational leadership and administration from Touro University International, according to a district press release. He holds a Bachelor of Science in physical education from Cortland University.

“The energy and enthusiasm that Mr. Sherrard exudes will serve our district well,” district Superintendent Paul Casciano said in a statement. “We look forward to his leadership and progressive ideas in building on the many successes of our athletic program. Mr. Sherrard will continue to move us in the positive direction of our physical education and health education programs. This includes social and emotional growth opportunities to ensure our students have the support systems needed to succeed.”

During Turner’s time with the Royals, the girls varsity basketball and soccer teams each reached New York State championship rounds, with the soccer team bringing home its second straight trophy in 2016. It was the team’s third straight appearance in the finals. The basketball team fell just short in the 2017 state title game, though it was the first time it had won a county crown since 1927. Quarterback Jack Collins broke numerous school records and became the first football player in school history to be named League IV Most Valuable Player. The wrestling team went undefeated and won the League VIII championship during the current school year. Shane DeVincenzo put Port Jeff’s golf program on the map, winning the Suffolk County individual title in 2017.

“Port Jefferson will always have a special little place in my heart, and I could not be more thankful that my career has led me through it,” she said in a June email.

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The Port Jefferson girls’ varsity soccer team returned home from Cortland with its second consecutive state championship Nov. 13, and it was honored with a parade down Main Street and a ceremony at Village Hall hosted by Mayor Margot Garant. The team was led by Head Coach Michele Aponte and nine seniors, who turned a 31-3-1 two year record into two state titles. Members of the community came out to congratulate the team for all of their impressive accomplishments. Garant and the rest of the village’s board of trustees has set aside Nov. 13 every year as “Lady Royals Soccer Champions Day.”

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Port Jefferson junior forward and co-captain Jillian Colucci shoots and scores through a crowd of Babylon defenders. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

After dropping the first two non-league games of the season, the Port Jefferson girls’ soccer team is back on track after topping Babylon Monday, 4-1, to continue a three-game League VII winning streak.

“Coming from being Class B and beating them in the Suffolk County Championship last year and now dropping down to Class C, it is definitely a big win for us today,” head coach Allyson Wolff said. “In the beginning of the season we played some tough opponents in Ward Melville and Center Moriches and we felt like the girls weren’t talking or communicating, so we worked on that and our passing in practice, keeping it simple and playing to feet — not just trying to kick the ball — so I feel we definitely stepped it up for this game.”

Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson sophomore midfielder Hailey Reale feels pressure from a Babylon defender as she maintains possession of the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Port Jefferson sophomore goalkeeper Brianna Scarda made several big saves to keep the score 0-0, and the Royals had some chances at a goal early on, but Babylon’s defense came up with the stops.

Although opening the second half still in a stalemate, the Royals were quick to make up for lost time after speaking with Wolff at halftime.

“At halftime I told them that they weren’t playing our game,” Wolff said. “Babylon was beating us to the ball and stepping in front of us, and I told them that if we were going to let them do this, then we’re not going to win. I told them that they have to want it and it has to come from their heart, and told them that the other team looked like it wanted it more than they did, and I think that got them angry and sparked something.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O'Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals' 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor sends the ball into play during the Royals’ 4-1 win over Babylon on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Less than four minutes in, junior forward Jillian Colucci beat out the Babylon goalkeeper, who came out of the box to try and make a save, and shot the ball into the right side of an empty net off an assist from junior midfielder and forward Clare O’Connor, for the 1-0 lead.

“I knew I was going to get the pass, so I started running and felt the defense on my back, but I was able to touch it past the goalie and did whatever I could do to continue to touch it into the net,” she said.

At the 29:48 mark, after O’Connor sent the ball into play, Colucci attempted a goal through a swarm of defenders, and junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin put out her foot to stop the rebound and sent the ball into the right corner for a 2-0 advantage.

Off another assist from O’Connor, who crossed the ball into the box after a foul call, Colucci scored her second goal with a straight shot up the middle through traffic and past the keeper. She followed it up with her hat trick goal when, again, the Babylon goalkeeper came out of the box, leaving the net empty.

“The game was intense, and it always is against Babylon,” Colucci said. “Since we’re only playing them once this season we knew we had to step up and play them as hard as we could and keep our record strong against them.”

Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon's zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Port Jefferson junior midfielder and forward Brittany Fazin kicks the ball behind her to keep the pressure in Babylon’s zone. Colucci would grab the pass and score on the play, and the Royals went on to beat the Panthers, 4-1, on Sept. 21. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Scarda made a save, her last of 18 on the afternoon, exactly three minutes after the Royals’ final goal to preserve the clean sheet for the time being, but after a goalie change, senior Noelle Zimmermann gave up a goal with 5:07 left to play, to bring the final score to 4-1.

“We really, really earned it,” Scarda said of the win. “All the nerves that we had — being scared about the game, we took and converted into our skill and our playing. We got our heads in the zone every chance we got and we trained very, very hard leading up to this game.”

What helped the Royals was that the team was playing to feet instead of chasing the ball in the air like they did in the first half.

“We don’t have good control of it [in the air], and when they play things to feet it’s pretty, it’s beautiful and it makes things happen,” assistant coach Michele Aponte said. “They’re a stronger group of girls together, especially getting to the level they got to last year. They want it.”

Port Jefferson travels to McGann-Mercy Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. game. The Royals have topped the Monarchs all six times they faced their opponent in the last three seasons.

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Senior runner finishes final indoor track and field season with a multitude of achievements

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke
James Burke stands atop the podium after earning a gold medal in the mile at the state championship. Photo by Jim Burke

Almost no one can catch him.

This past weekend, Port Jefferson high school senior James Burke earned a silver medal at the New Balance Nationals Indoor at the Armory in Manhattan, making him the second fastest miler in the country at 4 minutes, 8.48 seconds.

It’s just one highlight of his final and most memorable indoor season.

“I’ve just been more about trying to win races and disregarding time, not really watching the clock, because my mentality with that was every record you get will eventually be broken, but every title you get can never get taken away from you,” Burke said.

Although he wasn’t watching the clock, Burke ran a new national No. 1 time in the 1,000-meter at the Molloy Stanner Games in January, finishing in 2:26.35.

Burke said the 1,000 is, of course, not his forte, but he was excited to be able to show his range.

“It was definitely a big confidence booster for me to know that there’s a variety of events that I can excel in; to know that I’m not limited to one event,” he said.

Besides topping the country, the mark also broke the Long Island record of 2:27.39, set by Chaminade’s Sean Kelly last season.

Following that race, Burke competed in the New Balance High School Boys’ Mile at the New York Road Runners’ Millrose Games in February, and finished first with a time of 4:11.25. He also nabbed his first New York State gold medal for the mile at the state championship meet earlier this month.

Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke's mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke
Head coach Rod Cawley, runner James Burke, athletic director Debra Ferry and Burke’s mother Maureen pose for a photo. Photo by Jim Burke

“Anything he had, he put it out there this year,” Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley said. “He performed to the best of his ability throughout the entire season, and it showed in the result.”

The medal was special to Burke not only because it was his first time earning gold in a state competition but also because of the memories that haunted him from the same meet the year prior.

Last winter, Burke made his move with about 600 meters to go in the race and was passed with nearly 20 meters left, resulting in a second-place finish.

“That image was in my head pretty much all year, because I didn’t get a chance in the spring,” Burke said, explaining that he had mononucleosis last spring and could not compete at states. “I was waiting the whole year for that day. Remembering what happened last year, every day, for the whole year, it was definitely a good feeling to place first.”

Then came the national championship, which went a little differently for the Royal compared to his previous races, but his coach was still proud of his athlete.

“He ran beautifully, he did what he had to do, he went out faster than he ever went out before,” Cawley said of his six-year varsity runner. “James persevered and he never gave up. He always tried to catch [Michigan’s Grant Fisher]. It was a phenomenal performance — very gutsy, very smart. He did a great job.”

The difference this time around was the pace of the first 800 meters. During the state meet, the first half of the race was completed in 2:17, but at nationals he finished that distance in 2:01.

The pressure didn’t bother Burke. The mile was just run differently because the stakes were high and the competition was fiercer. But as a result of the speed, Burke believes he got in his own head.

James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo
James Burke runs in a previous outdoor competition. File photo

“That was the fastest I’ve ever gone through 800 meters, by 10 seconds, in the mile, so it was interesting because as I was going through it at that pace, I saw the clock and thought I should be really tired but I wasn’t,” he said. “Going through at a pace I’m just not used to going got in my head a little bit, so I told myself I was more tired than I really was.”

But Burke got through the mental minefield to secure his second-place finish.

As a result of the new feat, Burke believes that he can continue to shave time off his mile to reach his goal of four minutes.

“So much of racing is staying in the right mental place throughout the race,” he said, which is also why each time he sets foot on the track, he remains confident and determined that he will win.

Cawley said this quality is critical to his senior’s success.

“To go in to a race with that attitude gives you an advantage, because when you doubt you’re going to beat somebody, you’re not going to beat them,” he said. “James is a reality check, because with him around, no matter what you do, you just don’t look as good. He’ll always exceed your expectations and he will always perform to the best of his ability. There’s no doubt in his mind, when he stands on the track, that he’s going to beat everybody else.”

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