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Sachem North

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By Bill Landon

The Sachem North boys lacrosse team retied the game at 4 to 4 late in the third quarter but the Ward Melville Patriots shut the door in the final 12 minutes, scoring four goals to put the game away, 8-5, at home April 5.

Ward Melville remains unbeaten, and the win put the Patriots atop the Division I leader-board at 6-0 as of April 5. The loss dropped the Flaming Arrows to 4-2.

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Tigers rack up 28 first-quarter points in 48-7 homecoming win

Northport's Andrew Bolitho returns an interception for a touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

Northport’s football team was all over Sachem North Saturday, picking up a monster homecoming win in front of its fans Oct. 14. For the Tigers, the 48-7 victory was the fourth straight.

“I knew we were the better team,” Northport head coach Kip Lukralle said. “I feel we were better prepared. It’s our first home game, so there’s a lot of emotion. Sachem’s been a rivalry over the years. Staying focused was key, and our kids did that.”

Northport’s Max Napoli avoids a tackle as he moves the ball downfield Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Tigers came out firing, and racked up 28 points in the first quarter alone. Senior quarterback Ryan Walsh completed all four of his passing attempts for 140 yards and three touchdowns in that 12-minute span.

“I thought the team as a whole performed very well,” Walsh said. “There was great protection up front and the receivers ran great routes. It was all around a good day.”

Along with three passing touchdowns on the day, the Tigers added two rushing touchdowns and two interceptions returned for a touchdown.

Senior running back Sean Eagers made big plays on both sides of the football in his last homecoming game. He had a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the first and a 60-yard interception returned for a touchdown in the third quarter. For a player who says he loves football, it could not have been a better day.

“It’s just really special to me,” Eagers said of the sport. “It’s been a lot of fun this season and football means the world to me. It was great having two touchdowns on our homecoming day.”

Northport’s Sean Eagers rushes with the football Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem North started the game with the ball, but their first drive resulted in a blocked punt. Senior Bobby Labatto was credited with the stop and what would later set up Eagers’ touchdown with 6:35 left in the first.

Not even two minutes after the touchdown, the Tigers found the end zone once more. This time, Walsh dumped the ball to classmate wide receiver Curtis Lafond, who ran a curl route, found an opening on the left side and took it to the house for a 40-yard score to make it 14-0 Northport.

With 2:14 left in the first, Walsh continued to lead his dominant offense when he connected with sophomore running back Max Napoli on a pass across the middle of the field. Napoli scored from 40 yards out to increase the Tigers’ lead to 21.

In the final play of the first quarter, it was Walsh to Lafond for the longest passing play of the day. With two seconds left, Walsh heaved the ball from midfield and Lafond retrieved it in double coverage in the back of the end zone to give the Tigers a commanding 28-0 lead. Lafond was quite content with his performance, and even though he’s also a basketball player, he said football is what really gets his engine revving.

“It was awesome,” Lafond said of making the catch. “I’ve been waiting for a day like this the whole season. Football is the most emotionally investing sport you can play and to have your whole school come out and support you and get a win like that, it doesn’t get better.”

Northport’s Curtis Lafond celebrates a touchdown Oct. 14. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Sachem North got the ball to start the second quarter, but the possession didn’t last long. Flaming Arrows quarterback Nicholas Gambino threw the ball into the hands of Northport’s Andrew Bolitho, who carried the interception back 15 yards into the end zone.

Northport’s Jeremy Gerdvil made the longest play of the day six minutes later. The junior running back cut loose from Sachem North’s defense and cashed in a 65-yard rushing touchdown increasing the lead to 42-0.

The Flaming Arrows were in Tigers’ territory late in the third, but Gambino made the same mistake a second time when he threw toward Eagers, who picked off the pass and carried the ball 60 yards for the defensive touchdown. The point after attempt was no good, but it was still 48-0 Tigers.

With 7:39 left in the fourth, the Flaming Arrows finally got on the scoreboard. Senior Alezandro Aponte scored on a 3-yard rushing play to cut to deficit to 41.

“It’s great to win, period,” Lukralle said. “It’s great to beat Sachem, double period. And it’s nice to win at homecoming also. It was a great day for Northport football.”

The Tigers have two games left on their schedule with one at home and one on the road. Northport will host Connetquot Oct. 21 before hitting the road to play William Floyd Oct. 27. Both games are currently slated for 2 p.m. starts.

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By Bill Landon

Smithtown West did what to many was inconceivable.

The boys’ volleyball team claimed the program’s first Class A Long Island title Nov. 12 with a four-set win over Plainview JFK (16-2) 25-18, 25-23, 24-26 and 26-24.

Junior outside hitter Chris Shanley had 20 kills, junior outside hitter Kevin Kelleher added 16 kills and senior setter Tom Bernard had 42 assists to lead the Bulls to the championship at Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus. Senior libero Jake Torres had 17 digs and senior middle blocker Tom Keller had five kills and four blocks.

To claim the team’s first Class A championship just three days prior, the No. 2 Bulls handed No. 1 Sachem North its first Long Island loss in 52 matches. In fact, Smithtown West swept its opponent, a two-time defending Suffolk champion, 28-16, 25-19 and 25-17 at Suffolk.

Again, Shanley led the way for the Bulls (14-2) with 15 kills.

He helped the Bulls not only tie the game twice, but give the team a one-point edge two times in the first set. He also put the team in the right state of mind to get the job done.

“We were getting the sets where they needed to be, we were getting kills and we distributed the ball well,” Shanley said, adding that he knew his team would have to play a mistake-free game in order to get the job done. “But I knew that they could come back with any mistake we made.”

Both teams scratched and clawed at the net as Sachem North (15-1) retook the lead, 23-22, and took the game to break point. But after Smithtown West called for a break in the action, the Bulls rallied back.

“We stayed composed and we played for every point until the game is over,” Kelleher said. “We’re a hard team — we push.”

Needing to win the set by two points, the Flaming Arrows brought the game to the brink, only to have Kelleher’s kill shot retie the game 26-26. The Bulls fought off back-to-back set points, and won it on a block by Keller, who had nine kills.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island.”

—David DeRosa

“Winning that first game gave us the confidence that we can do it,” Smithtown West head coach Michael Legge said. “We had a little bit of doubt, but that win gave us the confidence to go get them.”

The momentum carried over to the second set. The Bulls jumped out to 6-2 lead, and stood on the gas to make it a 14-8 advantage. Both teams exchanged points, but the Bulls maintained the margin, staying out front, 18-12. The team showed its defensive strength, as Torres dug and dove all over the floor — making nine digs on the night — and got the ball out to Kelleher and junior right side hitter David DeRosa.

“Our defense was the strongest part of our game — we pride ourselves on being the best defensive team on the Island,” DeRosa said. “[Assistant] coach Andrew Sanchez preaches defense, and that’s how you win games — you get the ball up, you throw it back at them and let them make the mistake.”

Sachem North did just that, making an unforced error to fall behind 22-14, and after giving the Bulls a point on a service error, a Bulls kill brought the match to break point, prompting another timeout in the match. After a sustained volley, the game was decided at the net off a blocked shot, and Smithtown West took a two-set lead.

Even with its strong teamwork, Smithtown West got off to a slow start in the third, before tying the set 5-5. The Flaming Arrows answered with three straight points before Shanley, from service, rattled off three of his own to knot the score at 8-8. Sachem North committed two more unforced errors, and continued to struggle to find a rhythm at the Bulls bounced out to a 17-11 lead.

The thunder from Smithtown West’s side of the bleachers echoed off the gymnasium walls, as the excitement behind, and thought of a first-time championship-winning sweep loomed.

DeRosa put up a wall on the right side, blocking shot after shot — making five blocks to go along with four kills — to help his team to a 23-16 advantage.

Legge said DeRosa’s play set the tone for the Bulls’ defense.

“Dave with those blocks on the right side — he just killed it — he was one-on-one with a lot of them and usually that’s an advantage for the other team,” the coach said, adding that those blocks were a difference-maker. “But big boy was getting up, getting hands on it — he was awesome.”

The Flaming Arrows flamed out, gave up the next two points and the championship.

“They’re a great team — they have the ability to come back from any deficit, so it wasn’t until that last point that it became real,” DeRosa said. “I was very surprised that it went three games, but we were ready for a dogfight.”

Smithtown West will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood Nov. 19 to make its state tournament debut. Pool play begins at 10 a.m., and should the Bulls advance to the finals, the first set it scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

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Patriots have won all 10 games, with five Division I matches left this season

Kerri Thornton dribbles the ball up the field. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

These Patriots are perfect.

In the Ward Melville field hockey team’s nine straight wins leading up to its matchup against Sachem North Sept. 29, the team has allowed just three goals. In the Patriots’ two games prior, they shut out Smithtown East, 1-0, and Bay Shore 4-0.

So it was no surprise that the Flaming Arrows matchup yielded similar results.

Sachem North (8-3 overall, 6-3 Division I) managed just two shots on goal, and quickly fell behind when senior Kassidy Rogers-Healion rocked the box for a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game. The Flaming Arrows never recovered, and fell 3-0 on their own home turf.

Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt redirects the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior goalkeeper Bella Nelin said she had complete confidence in her defense to protect the goal.

“I really trust my [defenders] in front of me, and we all just play our hardest,” she said. “Scoring that first goal in the first minute changed the game, and we controlled the tempo of the game by doing that.”

Nine minutes later, Rogers-Healion’s stick spoke again, when the forward took a crossing pass from junior Kerri Thornton and drove her shot home to put her team out in front 2-0.

Nelin, who had a quiet day in the box, said her team prepares the same way for each game, no matter who they face.

“We don’t underestimate any team that we play — regardless of the skill level,” Nelin said. “If we played them before, if we beat them before, [it doesn’t matter]; so we came out like we do for any other game.”

Sachem North controlled the middle of the field though, which forced Ward Melville’s attack to counter.

“Sachem North is an awesome team and we knew we had to come out strong,” Rogers-Healion said. “Seeing that they had a great hold on the center, we were able to pass around that using the outside and [send] the ball back.”

Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Kiera Alventosa clears the ball by sending it downfield. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior Hannah Lorenzen was the last Patriot to light up the scoreboard, when the midfielder took a cross from Rogers-Healion and smacked the ball past the keeper to go up three goals with five minutes remaining in the first half.

Lorenzen said that Sachem North was much stronger in the final 30 minutes of play.

“We expected that they’d come out harder in the second half — they always do,” she said. “We knew that we had to step up our game — every single one of us — and keep the level of intensity up and just play our game.”

Sachem North struggled to find Ward Melville’s end of the field, and the Flaming Arrows had their hands full fighting off Patriots attackers for the remainder of the game.

“Although it was a solid win, I think that the girls would agree with me this wasn’t our best midfield game today, as far as our passing game,” Ward Melville head coach Shannon Watson said. “[Sachem North’s] strength was in the middle — they did a really nice job of stepping up and beating us to a lot of balls today.”

Watson said there is little discussion about her team’s undefeated performance [10-0 overall, 9-0 in Division I] with five league games left before the playoffs. The Patriots are just going to keep playing their game.

“We focus on possession and when we do that we’re more successful on the attacking end,” Watson said. “I think we did a nice job of keeping it out of our defensive end today.”

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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.

The Tigers fought tooth and nail to top Sachem North, 14-12, on Tuesday afternoon.

Despite being down early, the Northport boys’ lacrosse team battled back to grind out another victory, to take a 16-0 win streak into the postseason, after going 11-0 in League I to earn the No. 1 seed.

“It’s very satisfying because the boys showed the traits they’ve had all season,” Northport head coach George Searing said of the win over Sachem. “They met some adversity, but the nice thing was that they didn’t fold. They persevered and they came back the way we were expecting them to.”

Northport scored an early goal, but Sachem countered a minute later, scored again, and didn’t trail thereafter until midway through the third quarter.

“It’s sort of been their trademark all year,” Searing said. “They don’t let this stuff bother them because they work real hard in practice and we prepare for situations, so it didn’t surprise me one bit that even though we got down and things were going against us, we still persevered and found a way to stick with the program, move forward and find a way to score those winning goals.”

Senior attack and co-captain Rocco Sutherland scored to tie the game at 2-2, and after two Sachem goals, one with 40 seconds left in the quarter, scored again with five ticks left on the clock to pull the team within one, 4-3.

Sachem pulled out to a 6-3 lead after Northport turned the ball over several times, and after a few key saves by senior goalkeeper and co-captain Scott Hatch, junior defender Finn Goonan recovered the ball at midfield and took it all the way for the score with 31 seconds left in the halftime, to close the gap 6-4.

The coaches pumped up their players in the huddle before they took to the field for the third time, shouting: “Take a look around you. I want to see people who are ready to go. Take it one play at a time. Focus. Who cares what they think is going to happen out there. We know what’s going to happen out there.”

Senior midfielder Nick Roros said something clicked for his team that the Tigers were able to pull it together.

“Our communication was weak in the beginning, but after halftime, we really communicated very well together and we understood what had to happen,” he said. “And we made it happen.”

Senior midfielder, faceoff specialist and co-captain Austin Henningsen also thought things changed for his team after halftime.

“We were down in the beginning, which was tough for us, but something really happened at halftime,” he said. “Coach got us fired up and we scored two goals in the first minute or minute and half, and we took off from there.”

Roros received a pass after a ground ball scoop up off the center draw, and rocketed a shot in at the 11:47 mark to pull his team within one goal, 6-5.

Two minutes later, senior attack Jake Carroll scored his second goal of the game while Sachem was a man down, to retie the game, 6-6.

After senior goalkeeper and co-captain Billy Kelly made a save in goal for the Tigers, Roros scored off an assist from sophomore Ryan Magnuson to give the Tigers their first lead since the first goal of the game.

Sachem tied the game and continued the pattern of last-second goals, scoring with nine seconds remaining in the third to pull ahead 8-7, but after Henningsen won the faceoff, senior attack Jack Sullivan answered with a buzzer-beater to tie the game, again.

Henningsen, who won 24 of 29 faceoffs, opened the fourth winning another, and faked a pass he took all the way to goal for the score and a 9-8 lead.

“I love throwing a fake pass, it’s a great play. I was running down off the faceoff, threw the fake pass to Roros and the guy fell for it, I kept going straight down and put it in the back of the net. But they have a great goalkeeper — he’s outstanding. I was even surprised it went in,” he said with a laugh.

Carroll and Magnuson connected for a goal for the second time in the game, this time to give the team its first advantage of the game, 10-8.

Kelly made another save, but Sachem grabbed the rebound and found the back of the net. The Tigers scored again, but Sachem countered with two goals to tie the game, 11-11.

Northport wouldn’t let Sachem take the lead again, and Henningsen won the ensuing faceoff and passed the ball to Roros in front for his hat trick goal.

“I think we all just realized that this could be our last game playing together,” Roros said. “We’ve all played together since we were little kids; we all love playing together and we didn’t want this to be our last time.”

Henningsen continued his dominating performance at midfield, leading to Sutherland’s third and fourth goal, as the Tigers pounced out in front, 14-11.

With 29 seconds left on the clock, Sachem gained possession after the ball rolled out of bounds, and scored with 11 seconds remaining in the game. Sachem called two timeouts in a row, but turned the ball over, and Northport held on for the 14-12 win.

“The biggest thing was Austin Henningsen on the faceoffs,” Searing said. “No matter what they did, we knew we would get the ball back, and that’s a very big confidence booster for a lot of our guys, because even if we make a mistake and we give up a goal, we know we’re going to get the ball back.”

Henningsen admits he started off a little shaky, but found his rhythm.

“They had some good defensive tactics on the faceoff today, but I figured it out toward the end,” he said of the team’s three-player lineup he was not accustomed to. “I knew what I was doing and I got comfortable with it, and kept winning. And the wing guys were phenomenal — boxing out so I could scoop it up.”

Searing continued to credit Henningsen, adding that because the team can continue to win possession after a score, as long as they don’t make too many mistakes and turn the ball over, teams don’t get on a scoring run against the Tigers, while, if Northport remains mistake-free, the team will continue to win faceoffs and score goals for runs of their own.

“He’s a very special player.” Searing said of Henningsen. “He’s got the heart of a lion and he was exhausted getting fouled and slashed, and he still persevered and sacrificed so the team could win this game.”

No. 1 Northport will host No. 4 Ward Melville at Veterans Park Friday at 4:15 p.m. in the Class A semifinal match, where the team hopes to keep its streak alive.

“We’re confident that we’re going to come out and play just the way we have been,” Searing said. “ It’s been a winning formula so far, so we’re hoping it can continue.”