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Semifinals

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By Bill Landon

Smithtown West’s boys lacrosse team found itself in an unfamiliar position this season.

Down four goals in the third quarter, the Bulls bounced back to tie the game 7-7 and eventually take a 10-9 lead, but a last-minute goal forced overtime, where the No. 2-seeded boys lacrosse team fell to No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East in the Class A semifinals May 24.

With Smithtown West down four goals, seniors Kyle Zaradski and Andrew Arce each scored twice, and junior Matt Caddigan made the go-ahead goal to give the Bulls their first lead of the game with six seconds left in the third quarter.

Half Hollow Hills East’s Mike Gomez found the net four minutes into the final quarter, but Arce stretched the net three minutes later to retake the lead, 9-8. The Colts countered again, but Arce continued to have an answer, scoring his fourth goal of the game for a 10-9 Bulls lead with 3:22 left to play.

With a minute left, Half Hollow Hills East forces overtime, and held the ball for one shot in the final seconds of a four-minute overtime period, which gave the Colts a sudden-death victory.

Smithtown West, which had outscored its opponents 202-82 this season, ended the year with a 14-2 record.

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By Bill Landon

A strong dose of Dylan Pallonetti is just what the doctor ordered.

With his No. 1-seeed Ward Melville boys lacrosse team down 2-0 in the first quarter, the junior scored three straight for a lead his Patriots would not let go of, and capped off the game with another three to seal the deal in a 14-8 Class A semifinal win over No. 5 Connetquot May 24.

Pallonetti ended with a game-high nine goals and one assist on the evening at Islip High School.

“We came out a little slow, but we started moving the ball well in the second half when we figured out their zone,” Pallonetti said. “And we scored some goals.”

He said his team will take the momentum built in this game and transfer it on to the next. Ward Melville faces No. 3 Half Hollow Hills East at Islip High School in the Class A title game May 30 at 7 p.m.

“We’ll have a couple days of practice,” Pallonetti said. “We’ll practice hard, go hard and just keep going.”

Ward Melville head coach Jay Negus said the team didn’t change its game plan when facing the Thunderbirds and will treat Wednesday’s game against the Colts the same way.

“We were a little impatient at first, but we came back to our game plan,” Negus said, noting playmakers on the field, especially on the defensive end, that made some of Pallonetti’s goals possible. “Ethan Larson, Frank Ciniglio, Alex Mazzone and Collin Krieg played well and Patty O’Neill made some unbelievable takeaways that sparked some transition goals.”

Seniors Matt Grillo (two goal, two assists), Zach Hobbes (two goals) and Lucas Flynn (one goal) also found the back of cage for Ward Melville. Senior Ryan Pallonetti, Dylan’s older brother, added an assist.

Ward Melville (16-1 overall, 13-1 in Division I) will look to avenge its only loss of the season. The Patriots fell to Hills East, 7-6, even after scoring three straight goals with 55 seconds left to close what was a 7-3 gap. Ward Melville is vying for its third straight county crown.

“We’ve got our work cut out for us against Hills East,” Negus said. “So we’re going to dig in the next couple of days and be prepared.”

This version has been updated to correct the amount of goals that Pallonetti scored.

By Bill Landon

P..J. Clementi powered No. 1 Harborfields’ boys lacrosse team to its first Class B final appearance since 1992.

Though scoring four goals in the first half of the Tornadoes’ 11-7 semifinal win over visiting Rocky Point May 23, his four assists in the second proved much more crucial.

The team had likened the game to boxing match. After the first two quarters, the teams were in a 6-6 stalemate, but Clementi said he knew the difference was Harborfields had what it took to last all four rounds of this fight.

“There’s no doubt [Rocky Point] is a great team, but we’re built for this — we’re a 48-minute team,” Clementi said. “Halfway through the fight we knew we had ‘em, so we stood on the gas pedal and it showed on the scoreboard.”

Although Rocky Point had its fair share of time with the ball, the Eagles struggled to get a clear shot on goal. The Tornadoes defense swept up several passes for turnovers and Harborfields was right back on attack.

“We really took it play by play, goal by goal — stayed focused on the little things,” senior Andy Derasmo said. “Getting ground balls and clearing makes the game.”

Clementi connected with Derasmo (three goals, one assist) three times in the second half to help Harborfields to a lead it would not relinquish. Clementi also handed the ball off to senior Jimmy Bifulco (three goals, one assist).

Harborfields head coach Glenn Lavey said he told his team to not worry about the tied halftime score, putting an emphasis on remaining physical to tire out the Eagles by the second half.

“We had to just focus on grinding,” he said. “I told my guys I wouldn’t be surprised if it was tied at halftime. I told them you win a 12-round boxing match with body blows — it’s not easy to stay with us an entire game.”

Rocky Point senior Mike Vaden (two goals, one assist) scored the final goal of the game. Classmates Jake Wandle and Zach Gill also added two goals apiece for the Eagles. Sophomore Tyler Kotarski made a game-high 15 saves to Tornadoes senior Zack Yorio’s 12.

Harborfields will face No. 3 East Islip for the Suffolk County title Wednesday May 30  at Islip High School at 4:30 p.m.

Meaghan Tyrrell has put the team on her back before.

With Mount Sinai down 5-4 at halftime, Tyrrell lifted her stick high above her head and sent her shot over visiting Rocky Point’s goalkeeper for the go-ahead goal, her second straight to start the second half, in the Mustangs 6-5 Class C semifinal win May 22.

As she pulled down her arms, with them, the weight came crashing down.

“Being down is always a stressful situation. We needed to remain composed. We knew each draw counted. Once the opportunity presented itself, I took it.”

— Meaghan Tyrrell

“Relief,” the Syracuse University-bound senior said of how she felt following the score. “Being down is always a stressful situation. We needed to remain composed. We knew each draw counted. Once the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I knew this was where our momentum would build.”

Senior Gabby Sartori scored on a free position goal to put Mount Sinai ahead 6-4. Tyrrell won six draw controls and Morgan Mitchell (one goal, two assists) won three.

Mitchell, a junior, is following in the footsteps of Kasey, her older sister, who just finished her freshman year on the No. 1-ranked Stony Brook women’s lacrosse team.

“I kept working and working, and my sister helped tremendously,” Morgan Mitchell said. “I felt comfortable, I changed things up — push and then pull to myself.”

She didn’t start the season at the draw circle after banging her knee and missing scrimmages, but she’s been impressing others.

“She’s one of the brightest spots this season so far,” head coach Al Bertolone said. “She’s done a tremendous job all season. Since we got her back it’s been full steam ahead.”

Mitchell was working hard in the first half, scoring the first goal and assisting on the next two as Mount Sinai went up 3-0 early. Senior Meaghan Scutaro made back-to-back stops on defense to keep Rocky Point at bay.

“It gets our momentum going when defense gets good stops like that,” she said. “We were looking to take away their key players — Maddy Sanchez, Bri Lamoureux, Christina Bellisimo — take their midfield out
of the game, but it became a really tight one.”

“It’s a boarder war. One thing about intensity is you have to match it.”

— Al Bertolone

Bellisimo (three goals, one assist) scored twice, once with the help of Sanchez, and assisted on another during the Eagles’ four-score streak that put them up 4-3 at halftime. Mount Sinai, which turned the ball over 10 times, made most of its errors in the first half.

“It’s a boarder war,” Bertolone said. “One thing about intensity is you have to match it. We started off great but we let them back into it and we had to try to get what we wanted to do going. We weren’t smart with the ball in the first half, but in the second half we were smarter.”

The head coach said it was a good test as the team enters the Suffolk County Class C title game against No. 3 Westhampton May 31 at Hauppauge High School at 3 p.m.

“It was a wet, sloppy day, but you have to win on a day like today if you want to win a championship,” Bertolone said. “Our program, our tradition has put us in position. We’re right there.”

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Tyler Ammirato rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries in Miller Place's first Suffolk County semifinal win in seven seasons. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was an accomplishment seven years in the making.

Miller Place’s football team had its postseason cut short in a semifinal appearance each of the last six seasons, but Friday night was different.

Anthony Seymour completed two of six passes for 49 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 72 yards on seven carries during Miller Place’s win. Photo by Bill Landon

Despite frigid temperatures and howling winds, two Miller Place interceptions and two Tyler Ammirato touchdowns drove the scoring in a 28-0 shutout of No. 3 Shoreham-Wading River in the Division IV semifinals Nov. 11.

Ammirato, a senior running back, showed how anxious he was to get back on the field after missing several games to injury. Rushing for 130 yards on 18 carries, he scored both first-half touchdowns, the second set up by an Alex Herbst interception at the Wildcats 40-yard line. He broke free for touchdown carries of 55 and 30 yards, and with kicker Cameron Hammer scoring on the extra-point kicks following each of the runs, the Panthers were up 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.

“It’s the best feeling for us as a program — we’ve been to the semifinals six years in a row and to break through is a dream come true for everyone out here,” Ammirato said of the win. “On Sunday we’ll watch film to prepare for Babylon. We lost to them the first time so we’ll watch that film to see what we did wrong, we’ll watch a couple of other games of them and we’ll just keep rolling.”

No. 2-seeded Miller Place will face No. 1 Babylon in the county final at Stony Brook University Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment for this program — nobody realizes that this has been our swan song and to finally break through is a tribute to the kids because they believe in themselves,” said Miller Place head coach Greg Murphy said. “We’re finally healthy with Tyler [Ammirato] coming back — that’s a big piece of the puzzle for a kid who last year scored 30 touchdowns.”

Miller Place head football coach Greg Murphy smiles as he embraces coaches following the Panthers’ semifinal victory. Photo by Bill Landon

But Murphy’s “tough group of kids” had other athletes rising to the occasion.

After a scoreless third, junior linebacker Rob Morales also came up with an interception after stepping in front of a screen pass. He covered 35 yards before scampering into the end zone. He also had 13 tackles.

“When the plays come you’ve just gotta make them,” Morales said. “I saw the ball, I caught it and I ran. This is big this school has never won a Long Island championship and this is a big stepping stone towards that goal.”

Shoreham-Wading River, three-time Long Island champion, had its season cut short when Miller Place quarterback Anthony Seymour threw deep to the right side of the end zone to Tom Nealis who never broke stride for a 25-yard touchdown that put the game out of reach.

“They left me one-on-one with the cornerback and I knew they were going to come to me with a fade, and I was open, just beat ‘em,” Nealis said. “I’ve been coming to these games since I was 5 years old and to know that broke this streak, and to do it beating Shoreham-Wading River for a second time this season, it feels great.”

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Patriots hope to avenge last season's semifinal loss that ruined their perfect season

By Bill Landon

The freight train keeps on rolling.

Ward Melville’s undefeated field hockey team bested Mamaroneck 3-1 Nov. 4 to clinch the Southeast Regional title, and with that, punch a ticket to the state semifinal, where the Patriots will face Baldwinsville Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m. at Maine-Endwell Senior High School.

The team has unfinished business after having its perfect record blemished following the state semifinal game last year, and falling to Mamaroneck in the state finals in 2015. Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss was happy her Patriots avenged their loss to the Tigers, but said the win is nothing more than a stepping-stone toward the ultimate goal.

“I told them how proud I am,” Sioss said she told her athletes after the win. “But now it’s time to continue that journey up to Binghamton, which has been our goal since the beginning of the season.”

All of the goals were scored in the second half, the first coming in the opening minutes when Ward Melville’s Caitlin Evans tapped in the ball after Lexi Reinhardt freed it from between the Tigers’ goalkeeper’s legs, despite being a man down.

“I was just so excited,” Evan said of scoring. “We’ve worked so hard all season, since August, to get here and we were not going to let it prevent us from getting to states. We were ready. We came in with heart and that really helped us to come back in the second half. We’re really working so hard for the seniors — it’s their last chance to make it to states.”

The Patriots’ lead was short-lived, as two minutes later Mamaroneck defender Emily Mahland ripped a shot past the goalie to make it a new game.

Both teams fielded a formidable defensive units, proved by the lack of shots on goal early on, but Ward Melville kept to its status quo by turning up the heat in the second half. Reinhardt found an open lane and rocked the box with a solo shot for the go-ahead goal with 10:45 left in regulation.Kerri Thornton scored the final goal with 2:45 on the clock.

“They’re an excellent program, so we had to keep the pressure going so they didn’t have a chance to come back,” Reinhardt said of Mamaroneck. “We’ve been [to the state semifinals and finals] before and we want to finish it this time. It’s not for us; it’s for the seniors, the whole program and the people [who] watch us.”

Ward Melville has allowed just two goals in five postseason appearances, and has outscored opponents 80-15 this entire season. Prior to the Southeast Regional win, the Patriots scored their 10th shutout of the year with a 6-0 win over Massapequa for their third straight Long Island championship title.

“Today we capitalized on our corners,” Thornton said. “In the last couple of games we haven’t been able to do that, but finally finished on those opportunities. Our defense also did a fantastic job. I don’t think they get enough credit for what they do.”

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By Bill Landon

Despite leading by three goals entering the fourth quarter — giving the No. 2-seeded Eastport-South Manor boys’ lacrosse team a run for its money — No. 6 Comsewogue was outscored 6-1 in the final 12 minutes, to fall 10-8 in the Suffolk County Class B semifinals May 26.

It wasn’t an easy road for the Warriors, which made the postseason with a 6-8 record in league play, and got in because of power points earned against top-seeded teams, according to athletic director Matt DeVincenzo. But Comsewogue showed resiliency, and knocked off No. 3 Harborfields with a 6-5 win May 18, and continued to battle through the bracket Friday.

Sophomore Sean Kennedy got things going for the Warriors when he spotted Nick Donnelly jumping out front from behind the cage, and flicked the ball to the junior, who buried his shot. But the Sharks answered back quickly. Kennedy found senior Ryan Dorney on the cut minutes later, but again Eastport-South Manor had an answer.

Sophomore Tom Heller — making 11 saves on the day — had his hand full protecting the net, and prevented several shots from passing him by to keep the score tied heading into the second quarter.

Senior Will Snelders ripped a shot from 35 feet out to put his team out front, and junior Richie Lacalandra scored off a feed from Dorney to extend the lead. The Warriors kept attacking, and Snelders sent a pass to junior Sean Power, who was able to redirect the ball to the back of the cage off a flick pass for a 5-2 advantage with 7:51 left in the first half.

Twenty seconds later, the Sharks’ Brandon Stiles sent a shot just inside the pipes, but the Warriors stymied any attempt at a comeback, as Lacalandra and Snelders scored unassisted goals to put Comsewogue up 7-3 with two minutes left.

“Everybody doubted us all year,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “We didn’t get a lot of accolades — we’re just a group of blue collar kids — and I’m proud of them.”

Eastport-South Manor’s Ryan Weiss scored with 31 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to three goals by the break. And after discussing with their coaches, two different teams entered play in the third quarter, as the defenses battled to a stalemate.

Things changed drastically in the fourth, and Eastport-South Manor’s Tom Szalkowski ended the scoring drought in the opening minutes, and teammate James Sherwood split the pipes 20 seconds later to pull within one goal, 7-6.

Kennedy found Donnelly again on a cut across the cage for an insurance goal, but the Sharks wiped it away by tallying four unanswered goals off faceoff wins.

“The faceoff ‘X’ was bad in the fourth quarter — we made a couple of mistakes clearing the ball,” Mitchell said. The head coach put the blame on himself for the outcome.

“That’s on me,” he said. “As the coach, to not make an adjustment on the faceoff when I could have — I take that one because I need to put them in the best position to succeed.”

Mitchell, whose team finishes its season at 7-9 overall, continued to convey pride for a team that accomplished what it did, extending its postseason and battling to some close games this season, like 7-6, 9-8 and 11-10 losses to No. 4 Mount Sinai, No. 3 Miller Place and No. 1 Shoreham-Wading River, respectively.

“They’ve worked hard,” Mitchell said. “And they’re going to be successful in whatever they do in life because of how hard they worked and the lessons they’ve learned [playing] Comsewogue lacrosse.”

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Chris Crespo moves the ball along the sideline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Yes, you can call it a comeback.

Everything the Smithtown West boys’ basketball team had worked for led to this moment. The Bulls were faced with adversity for what seemed to be the first time all season, but they wanted to be one of just two teams to make it back to the Final 4 for a second consecutive year. Up against another league leader Feb. 21, head coach Mike Agostino said he might not have had the right game plan.

Gerg Giordano muscles his way to the basket. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“They were really well-coached, well-prepared,” he said of No. 5-seeded and League IV leader Deer Park. “We might not have had it right, but we found a way to survive.”

No. 4 Smithtown West fell behind, and fast, losing the lead at the two-minute mark of the first quarter, and didn’t’ regain it until the fourth. In the end, junior Chris Crespo’s eight fourth-quarter points, junior Michael Gannon’s six and senior Greg Giordano’s five gave the Bulls its 50-47 come-from-behind win.

“Inside their heart and what they’re made of, it’s bigger than coaching,” Agostino said. “These kids have character, and they’re not afraid of the big moment. They’re going to go out and challenge anyone and every time they play it’s a full effort.”

On paper, it may look like Smithtown West had an easy road, going undefeated in League III and coming into the Class AA quarterfinals with a 20-1 record.

Giordano and senior Nick Ferolito gave the team a 4-0 lead after both teams went scoreless for most of the first three minutes. At the six-minute mark, a Deer Park field goal and 3-pointer put the team out front 9-5.

By halftime, the Bulls’ four-point deficit grew to six, 23-17, but the team was in as deep as an eight-point hole when a technical following a field goal gave Deer Park three more chances to grab points. The team hit two of three free throws for a 15-7 advantage with 7:20 left in the second.

Kyle LaGuardia leaps to the rim. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We were down the whole game, we were fighting back the whole time, but we all had each other’s backs,” said Giordano, who scored a game-high 22 points. “Coach kept telling us to stick to our game plan, eventually our shots were going to fall, and they did. We played good defense and that kept us in the game.”

Smithtown West chipped away at the lead with four different players lighting up the scoreboard, but Deer Park continued to have an answer. With 1:39 left in the third, another 3-pointer put Deer Park ahead 30-23, but a Giordano 3-pointer, Kyle LaGuardia layup and a floater by Giordano closed the gap, 32-30, at the end of the eight minutes.

Crespo opened the fourth quarter with a game-tying bucket, and the crowd erupted.

“It feels great not just for the team, but the community, too,” he said. “A lot of them are backing us here.”

The game would then be decided largely at the free-throw line.

Gannon made two at the 5:56 mark to give his team its first lead since the game’s opening minutes. Deer Park quickly tied the game, but Crespo came through again. He scored eight of his 11 points in the final stanza and also finished with seven assists.

“It was a hard-fought battle,” Crespo said. “Despite being down we always feel confident. We don’t feel rushed. We’re not frustrated or out of our element. We know that if we play within ourselves we know we’ll get good results.”

ichael Gannon prepares to make a pass. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Giordano added two free throws for a four-point lead with 35.9 seconds, 46-42, and Deer Park called timeout after timeout to try to find plays to score. All the team could muster was one free throw, and the Bulls were back to the line to add to its lead. Again, Gannon sank both of his opportunities with 12.5 seconds left in regulation to give the Bulls more breathing room.

“I’ve taken 1,000 free throws in my life, so hitting a few, I felt confident about knocking them down,” he said. He scored all six of his points in the third quarter, all from the charity stripe. He closed out the game making two more with 4.8 seconds on the clock.

“When you sit down in the beginning of the season, you know Stony Brook is at the end of a long road,” Agostino said. “Now, to finally get there, it’s really exciting.”

The Bulls will take on the No. 1 seed in the semifinals for the second straight year. They’ll face Bay Shore at Stony Brook University Feb. 25 at 2:30 p.m.

Giordano said for now he’s soaking in the moment. He said the team is excited to get back to where they lost last year.

“It was surreal — this is the last game on my Smithtown West home court and it was amazing to see all the guys come together and be able to make some big plays at the end to come out with the win,” he said. “It shows with the group of guys we have — we’re all so tight, so close, we all work in practice each day — how much we can pick each other up in times like these.”

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Brianna Lamoureux moves around the cage. Photo by Desirée Keegan

It came down to the last second, literally, and the Rocky Point girls’ lacrosse team was on the losing end, as the No. 2 Eagles were upset by No. 6 West Babylon, 9-8.

“It’s the toughest not just end of the game, but end of the season,” Rocky Point head coach Dan Spallina said. “These girls have been through a lot with me and I feel like they’re daughters to me. I have 23 daughters and this one stings for sure.”

The girls didn’t get off to the start they may have liked, as West Babylon scored the first two goals of the game for the early advantage.

“Let’s go, let’s answer back,” Spallina shouted from the sideline, and his girls did just that.

Freshman attack and midfielder Brianna Lamoureux passed the ball from the left side of the cage to senior attack Jillian LoManto up top, who snuck the ball inside to cut the lead in half. After winning the ensuing draw and attempting to score, the West Babylon keeper made a save, but a turnover in Rocky Point’s zone led to another Eagles opportunity, and they weren’t going to squander it.

Madison Sanchez crosses into North Babylon’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Madison Sanchez crosses into North Babylon’s zone. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Sophomore midfielder Madison Sanchez swiveled around the back of the cage and dumped the ball in to tie the game.

Despite battling back, West Babylon’s Sam Geiersbach was hard to contain, as she scored her second, third and fourth goals of the game to end the half with her team up 6-5.

“We were sloppy — we let [Sam Geiersbach] loose a little too many times,” Spallina said.

At the 19:42 mark, West Babylon broke the ice for the scoring in the second half, but Rocky Point was quick to respond when, off a free position shot, junior attack Christina Ferrara passed to freshman attack and midfielder Delaney Vu, who rocketed a shot into the netting. Minutes later, Sanchez passed the ball to freshman attack Megan Greco, to tie the game 7-7.

Again, Geiersbach came through for her team, scoring the go-ahead goal, but Vu countered with a goal off an assist from LoManto. Junior goalkeeper Britney Iamele came through with clutch back-to-back-to-back saves to keep her team in the game, and Spallina called for timeout.

“We were made for this,” Sanchez shouted to her team. “Give it everything you have.”

After maintaining possession for several minutes, and the ball flip-flopping sides, neither team could make it to goal, until Lamoureux was awarded a free position shot after an illegal check knocked her down. With 15 seconds left on the clock, she scored, but the goal was waved off after the referees called a stick violation.

Geiersbach gained possession at midfield and scored her sixth goal of the game with a second left on the clock to break the tie.

Christina Bellissimo passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Christina Bellissimo passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Good players make great plays and that’s what she did,” Spallina said of Geiersbach. “Even at the end of the game, it was a good shot off stick at the hip. That’s just what it comes down to.”

But he said he’s proud of the way his girls battled back time and time again, and made huge strides for the program this season, as it is his first 10-win season since 2010.

“It’s a bitter end,” he said. “But I love this team. I love the character, I love the hustle, I love the heart. We’re resilient as anything, we’re athletic as anything, and we’re young. I told them this could do one of two things — it could shut you down or it’s going to motivate you, and I’ll do my damndest to make sure this motivates them. It’s going to speak to the types of kids they are when they bounce back from this. It’s been a great season.”

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Northport senior wide receiver John Tabert makes a diving catch in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon

By Joe Galotti

After losing a perfect season in last year’s playoffs, No. 2 seeded Longwood looked like a team on a mission in their return to the Suffolk Division I semifinals on Friday night. Visiting No. 3 Northport allowed the Lions to strike for 14 points in the game’s opening minutes, and was never able to recover from the early blow, falling 48-21.

Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith passes the ball up the middle in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon
Northport senior quarterback Andrew Smith passes the ball up the middle in a previous game. File photo by Bill Landon

The loss not only marked the end of the 2015 season for the Tigers, but also the finish of the high school careers of many of the team’s key offensive players. Quarterback Andrew Smith, running back Dan Preston, fullback Rob Dosch, wideout John Tabert, center James Clemente and guard Rob Fontana will be moving on this spring.

“With all the struggles and all the work that we put in over the season, it’s tough coming to the end,” Preston said. “We gave it our all to get to the Long Island Championship, but we came up short.”

Northport dug itself an early hole in the contest, allowing a 75-yard touchdown run to junior Latrell Horton on Longwood’s first play from scrimmage. Then, on the Tigers next possession, Smith was intercepted by senior cornerback Mike Linbrunner, who proceeded to run the ball into the end zone to make it 14-0.

Later in the opening quarter, Longwood’s offense was deep in Lions’ territory, threatening to expand their early lead even further. But, Northport forced a fumble, which junior linebacker Andrew Havrilla was able to recover.

The play seemed to help settle things down for the Tigers, and the team was able to cut into the Lions’ lead soon after. Just seven seconds into the second quarter, Preston reached the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown rush, trimming Longwood’s advantage to 14-7.

“We showed our pride,” Preston said. “We’re not the type of team to just give up and lie down.”

With 7:40 remaining in the second, the Lions expanded their lead back to 14, when senior halfback Tahj Clark ran 31 yards for a touchdown.

But Northport continued to show fight, and with 4:41 remaining before the half, was able to pin the Tigers down in their own end zone and come away with a safety. Havrilla once again was responsible for a crucial play, this time making the tackle in the end zone.

Northport senior fullback Rob Dosch rushes up the field with the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon
Northport senior fullback Rob Dosch rushes up the field with the ball in a previous contest. File photo by Bill Landon

With 1:48 left in the second quarter, Smith made it a 21-15 game, when he connected Tabert for a touchdown.

The Lions added another touchdown before the end of the half, but Northport still found itself within striking distance entering the third quarter.

“After they scored early on in the game, I was happy with the way we were able to fight through like we always do,” Smith said.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, it would be all Longwood in the second half. Clark added two more touchdown runs, to help give his team a commanding lead.

Dosch provided Northport’s only score in the final 24 minutes, registering a four-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Lions move on to the Suffolk Division I finals to face off with No. 1 Lindenhurst at Stony Brook University. The Tigers meanwhile, finish with a 6-4 record.

There was plenty of emotion on the Northport sideline after the loss, knowing that this was the end for many of the team’s leading players.

“We had a good season,” Smith said. “It’s been a long one, and we fought through a lot. I’m proud of this team and what we were able to do.”

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