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Shoreham-Wading River

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Usually the football team schedules its homecoming game against a lower seeded team to increase the likelihood of victory, but not Shoreham-Wading River. At 4-0 the Wildcats hosted the other Division IV powerhouse Oct. 12, the Mount Sinai Mustangs, also at 4-0. It was the battle of the unbeaten, but the Mustangs scored the first two touchdowns and never looked back out pacing the Wildcats, 35-21, for the division’s top spot.

Senior running back Matthew LoMonaco led the way for the Mustangs first with a pick-6, a 62-yard reception for the score and a short yardage catch for his third touchdown of the game. Derek Takacs hauled in a 31-yard pass for the score, and Joseph Spallina punched in from short yardage. Senior kicker Joseph Balzano was perfect on the day splitting the uprights all five times.

Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Xavier Arline did what he’s done all season scoring on a pair of rushing touchdowns, and teammate Max Barone, the sophomore, caught a 7-yard pass from Arline for the score.

Pictured clockwise from right, running back Barone dives up the middle for Shoreham-Wading River; Mustangs celebrate after taking a 28-7 lead over Shoreham-Wading River; Mount Sinai LoMonaco with a pass reception against the Wildcats; Mustangs celebrate after one of LoMonaco’s touchdowns; Arline lunges toward the end zone; and Shoreham-Wading River’s halftime entertainment.

The Mustangs stand alone atop the Division  IV leaderboard 5-0 while the Wildcats dip to 4-1.

Next up for the Mustangs is a road game Oct. 18 against Southampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff.

The Wildcats look to get back to their winning ways at home Oct. 19 at 2 p.m. for their senior game.

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Leading the way for the Wildcats’ golf team was senior co-captain Gavin Melandro, a six-year varsity veteran and four-year All-League player, who lived up to his No. 1 position on the team winning his match by shooting a 43 against Longwood at Spring Lake Golf Club, Middle Island, Oct. 8. Kevin Beagan, a senior and co-captain of the team, shined from the No. 6 position defeating his opponent by three strokes. Andrew Vignola, who according to coach Rich Muller is the most consistent player, shot a 48 and is vying for a spot on the final six-man roster for postseason tournament play. Freshman Timmy Manzello, the No. 1 player for the JV squad, made his varsity debut in exhibition play. Muller said he deserved to be brought up, adding that Manzello shot a respectable 56. 

Longwood beat Shoreham-Wading River 7-2.

The Wildcats are back on the links Oct. 11 at Great Rock Golf Club in Wading River where they’ll take on Mount Sinai at 4 p.m. to conclude their regular season.

“I hope to have as many individuals qualify for the county tournament by playing well at leagues and having the team qualify would be special,” Muller said. “I have high expectations for my top three: Gavin Melandro, Tristan Costello, who didn’t play today, and Andrew Vignola to make the county’s. Depending on conditions, and what player shows up, we should do well.”

Photos clockwise from top left: Melandro sinks a putt on the ninth green; senior co-captain Matt Baylous with his tee shot on the 10th hole; senior co-captain Will Cutinella with his approach shot to the ninth hole; Liam Daly, a senior co-captain, chips onto the green; and Manzello chips onto the ninth green. 

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The McMorris Family leads the hike Sept. 30 through Manorville, ending at Shoreham-Wading River High School. Photo by Kyle Barr

Over 530 hikers crowded in the entrance to the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field at Shoreham-Wading River High School. On a day when school was out for Rosh Hashana, both the old and young still woke up in the wee hours of the morning wearing red shirts emblazoned with the words, “Fly High Andrew.”

Hundreds gather at the SWR high school football field in honor of Andrew McMorris. Photo by Kyle Barr

The Boy Scouts of America Suffolk County Council, along with Troop 161 and the McMorris family, together organized to memorialize Andrew McMorris Sept. 30, who was killed by a drunk driver last year, by finishing the troop’s hike on the first-year anniversary of the young man’s death.

Robert Rabbitt, the senior district executive of the Suffolk Boy Scouts council, said the Scouts, family and troop wanted to do something on the year anniversary to remember Andrew, and while they expected a good turnout of a few hundred, the more than 500 people who pledged to participate stunned him.

“We’re overwhelmed by the response,” he said.

Andrew was hit by a drunk driver while on a hike with his troop last year in Manorville. The 12-year-old Shoreham resident was pronounced dead the following day. The legal battle is ongoing for Thomas Murphy, the Holbrook man who has been charged in the death of Andrew. The trial is expected to begin in November, though that could be delayed.

The hundreds of people gathered there came from all over Suffolk County, even as far away as Huntington, Rabbitt said. Members of the Miller Place Panthers football team also came to hike in support of the McMorris family. Andrew’s father, John, is a guidance counselor at the Miller Place High School.

Scouts and community members signed up to take a 1-mile, 5-mile or 10-mile version of the hike, helping to fundraise for the Andrew McMorris Foundation and to help create scholarships in Andrew’s name. The Boy Scouts council was also accepting donations to help build a new lodge at Baiting Hollow Scout Camp in Wading River, which will be named after Andrew.

Scouts from all over Suffolk County came to Manorville to participate in the hike. Photo by Kyle Barr

“What a wonderful turnout to celebrate Andrew,” said Matt Yakubowski, scoutmaster for Troop 161, as he and his troop boarded the buses to take them to the hike’s staging grounds. “It’s going to be a touching day.”

The hike started at the Pine Barrens Information Center in Manorville before moving through the Pine Barrens. The hike took participants past the place where Andrew was killed for those looking to pay respects.

Troop 161 has done much in the year since Andrew’s death to both memorialize him and work toward healing. The troop created a garden outside the Brookhaven town-owned Robert E. Reid Sr. Recreation Center in Shoreham to commemorate his life. Future Eagle Scout projects are planned to help advocate against drunk driving.

Later that day, the Andrew McMorris Foundation hosted a benefit at Suffolk Theater in Riverhead, with the proceeds going to support the nonprofit.

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Junior wide receiver Tyler Schwarz breaks to the outside in downing Bayport-Blue Point in the Wildcats opener Sept 6. Photo by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River School District announced it is putting its top coach back on the field.

Varsity football coach Aden Smith, far right, was removed from the team by district officials just before a game against Bayport-Bluepoint Sept. 6. Photo from SWR

In an email release, Superintendent Gerard Poole said they would be reinstating Aden Smith as the head coach of the varsity football team starting back next Monday.

“The district has decided to reinstate the varsity football team’s head coach, effective September 23,” Poole said in a statement. “We are proud of our team which is off to a great start this year.  We thank the assistant coaches who stepped up to lead the team until now, and we look forward to a continued great season.”

Smith was removed from his position after an alleged incident during a pre-season multi-team scrimmage at Islip high school. Players had got involved in what was described as a “scuffle,” and coach Smith had allegedly become involved. At a school board meeting Sept. 13 nearly the entire football team showed up in their jerseys to support the coach, saying his only intent was to defend his players.

“That day of the scuffle, he did nothing but stand up for his players,” team captain and quarterback Xavier Arline said during the board meeting. “If a scuffle is going to happen, we rely on our coach — we expect our coach to come to the rescue. If we can’t count on him, who can we count on?”

Smith, a teacher at the Longwood School District, did not immediately respond to email requests for comment.

While Smith was removed, the two assistant coaches took up the task of running the team, leading them to two convincing wins against Bayport-Blue Point and Port Jefferson.

With the reinstatement date set for Sept. 23, Smith will miss the third game of the season against Southampton set to take place Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. 

Smith will then retake the field Sept. 27 at home in a game against Elwood/John Glenn. Game time is set for 6 p.m.

 

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SWR Senior and football team captain Xavier Arline speaks at Sept. 10 board meeting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Nearly 30 young men in yellow and blue football jerseys sat huddled together in the Shoreham-Wading River High School auditorium Sept. 10 to support their head football coach they said had only wanted to protect their safety.

Varsity football coach Aden Smith, far right, was removed from the team by district officials just before a game against Bayport-Bluepoint Sept. 6. Photo from SWR

SWR’s varsity football coach Aden Smith was effectively suspended from the team Sept. 6 after an alleged “incident” in a preseason scrimmage game against Islip Aug. 30. The board held an emergency meeting discussing a personnel issue the Thursday before. In the Tuesday night meeting, nearly the entire football team sat in support of their coach, asking him to be reinstated.

Section XI’s website said Aug. 30 was a multiteam nonleague scrimmage taking place at Islip High School. Players and parents said the game was largely unsupervised by security staff or referees. Islip school district officials said in a statement it was a “brief scuffle.”

Players painted the picture that players had become violent on the field, and lacking referees, nobody stepped in to break up the unfolding violence except for Smith.

Senior Xavier Arline, team captain and quarterback, gained thunderous applause from attendees in his support of the coach.

“I played many sports over my life, and I’ve had coaches that have cared more about the sport or the result more than their players — coach Smith is not that,” he said. “That day of the scuffle, he did nothing but stand up for his players. … If a scuffle is going to happen, we rely on our coach — we expect our coach to come to the rescue. If we can’t count on him, who can we count on?”

Fellow team captain and senior Mike Casazza echoed his teammate’s words.

“Coach Smith is so invested in our team but at the same time focuses on helping every single one of his players,” he said. “In the summer he sent every kid a letter. He told them what they can improve on and gave us tips as well.”

Other team members said Smith often went above and beyond for his players, including meeting with them off the field or bringing in a person to talk with them about the dangers of drunk driving.

John Arline, Xavier’s father, related back to previous tragedies in SWR football history as to why Smith ran out onto the field that August day.

“When it’s your son lying at the bottom of a pile, who comes to your son’s rescue?” he said. “When it’s your son being hit helmet to helmet, who do we expect to protect them? … [Smith] provided safety and tried to defuse the situation.”

While details on the fight remain fuzzy, Rick Casazza, Mike’s dad, said there was an obvious lack of referee supervision. He added in a play prior to the scuffle an Islip player had pulled his son’s helmet, punched him in the face and grappled with is face mask.

“Coach Smith was the only coach to step in and verbally handle the situation,” he said. 

Players and parents continued on saying Smith had been a mentor to the players, with Casazza’s father saying the coach had shared college prospects with him over the phone.

Board President Michael Lewis said the district would be receiving additional information for their investigation come Friday, including written statements from people there at the scrimmage and advice from attorneys.

“This board is not sitting back,” he said. “We’re making sure we get it right.”

Jeff McAuley, a longtime member of the football and soccer booster club, said Smith has been ostracized due to the news, but on Aug. 30 he was teaching his players to step in and protect those who need it.

“Coach Smith stepped in and protected his players at all costs.”

— Xavier Arline

“If this community has been rocked with tragedy, we have the opportunity here to prevent what I feel is a tragedy,” he said. “He came to the aid of a player. Nowhere are the other coaches being suspended, nowhere are the referees that should have been there, and he’s being ostracized.”

Though as the investigation goes on, the number of weeks left in the season depletes as well. 

The suspended head coach could not be reached for comment. Interim head coach Virgil Romer instead led the team to an opening home victory last Friday against Bayport-Blue Point.

Players did not give a full description of what happened at the game from their point of view. Instead Arline made a statement on behalf of the team.

“Coach Smith stepped in and protected his players at all costs,” he said.

Smith was installed as head coach last year and he helped take SWR past division finals in the 2018 season and to the top-seeded spot in Division IV for this year.

There are about eight weeks left in the season until playoffs. The board nor Superintendent Gerard Poole could give a timeline when the investigation would be concluded.

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Senior quarterback Xavier Arline lunges into the endzone for SWR against visiting Bayport-Blue Point in the Wildcats season opener Sept. 6. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior quarterback Xavier Arline led the Shoreham-Wading River with five touchdowns to power the Wildcats past visiting Bayport-Blue Point 41-7 in the team’s opening game of the season at home. Arline amassed 227 yards on 25 carries delivering interim head coach Virgil Romer his first varsity career win. Romer took the helm after 3year head coach Aden Smith was removed from the roster following an alleged incident Aug. 30 at Islip high school in a multiteam preseason scrimmage.

It was midway through the second quarter before Bayport-Blue Point put points on the board, their only score of the game. SWR sophomore running back Max Barone punched in from short yardage for the score and Jake Ekert, a junior, split the uprights five times in the rout. Outside linebacker Jake Wilson, a junior, was credited with a pair of sacks in the victory. The Wildcats hit the road Saturday, Sept. 14 to take on the Royals of Port Jefferson. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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Varsity football coach Aden Smith, far right, was removed from the team by district officials just before a game against Bayport-Bluepoint Sept. 6. Photo from SWR

Shoreham-Wading River’s varsity football coach Aden Smith has been removed from his position in time for tonight’s game after an alleged “incident” in a multi-team scrimmage event in Islip last friday, the district said.

A statement from Superintendent Gerard Poole said Head Coach Smith had been involved in a scrimmage against Islip that took place Aug. 30 at the Islip High School. Section XI’s website said it was a multi-team nonleague scrimmage.

The district did not provide further details on what kind of incident took place.

“While this investigation is underway, the head coach has been removed and the current assistant coaches will be leading the team,” Poole said in the statement.

Smith could not be reached for comment. 

The team was set to play against Bayport-Blue Point’s Phantoms today at 7 p.m. at the SWR high school, and district officials said the game is still on.

Smith was installed as head coach last year and he helped take SWR past division finals in the 2018 season and to the top seed spot in Division IV this year.

The next SWR board of education meeting is set for next Tuesday, Sept. 10 at 7 p.m.

 

Shoreham-Wading River school district is considering converting the closed fitness center into a wrestling center. Photo by Kyle Barr Photo by Kyle Barr

Robert Badalian once woke up early in the morning on weekdays to make it to the aging Joe Ferreira Fitness Center at the Shoreham-Wading River High School. For close to 20 years, from 6 to 8 a.m. men and woman walked through the door, quickly becoming friends and regulars. Most were older in age and already retired but found a community where they could exercise without judgment.

“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym.”

— Peggy Loscalzo

More than a year since the fitness center suddenly closed after an engineer’s report showed the floor was not up to code, the fitness center regulars are continuing to shout their support at board meetings for their small group to be able to use a fitness center at their school. Though current plans to move the fitness center into the school building has many of those residents feeling they’re being pushed out, as now the temporary facility is located inside the school in rooms A101 and 102.

“If the fitness center stays where it is or moves to the auxiliary gym, it will remain a single use facility,” Badalian said. “It’s just not logical that you would move a fitness center from an external building, that’s self-contained, and move it into the high school.”

Officials have already floated the idea to move the fitness center into the school building where the current auxiliary gym resides. Though the district had definitive plans to renovate the old fitness center, a proposed plan is to create a wrestling center in that external building where the old gym room sits vacant.

Board Vice President Katie Andersen said much of it has to do with the security issue of having people walk outside the building during school hours to reach the gym. Students also have limited access and could suffer injury outside from adverse weather.

SWR Superintendent Gerard Poole gave a presentation at the Aug. 20 board meeting recommending gym hours be separate from students’ hours, and that if the gym were to be moved into the school it would only be open for outside residents two days a week in the evening hours and Saturday morning. He also offered the idea of a structured community program for fitness education.

Shoreham residents like Jim and Peggy Loscalzo, who had used the old gym for more than a decade before it was shut down, vehemently opposed the idea of limited times to use the gym. They said the only times they could attend gym hours were early in the morning, as later in the day they may be too tired to go to a gym. 

“I got through cancer thanks to the exercise of the gym,” Peggy Loscalzo said.

Poole presented there was an average of 30 weekly resident users of the previous gym, and most were regulars. Of those 30 only eight users exceeded three days a week in attendance.

Badalian vehemently disputed those numbers, calling it closer to 70 paid members.

“The staff was never even questioned about this,” he said.

Some residents questioned why the wrestlers should need their own specific space, though those parents with kids in the wrestling program called it a year-round sport, with training taking place throughout the year.

“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership.”

— Connor Blenning

Several residents said they have bought gym memberships in the meantime, but they find it hard to schedule their times, so they could be there with the old compatriots of the old gym.

SWR student Connor Blenning, a wrestler, said lacking a fitness center hurt them last wrestling season, and having a specific space for their sport would be invaluable.

“We didn’t have a gym to do strength training,” he said.

He added that he thought that if the gym is easily accessible to students, who might walk by it multiple times a day, they could be influenced to use the fitness center where they may not have previously.

“We students don’t have the money to buy a gym membership,” he said. “School kids could staff it.”

Board President Michael Lewis said they are still working on the proposals and have not made any final decision yet what will become of the old or a new fitness center.

Artie Gross, behind him his office at the SWR middle school. Photos from Gross

“It was a good time. I enjoyed the opportunity to teach a lot of talented kids,” said Artie Gross, reflecting on a more than three-decade music teaching career, much of it spent at Shoreham-Wading River. 

Gross, who has been a mainstay in the Shoreham-Wading River school district as a middle school vocal music teacher for the past 35 years, retired at the conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year. 

“He was the ultimate professional.”

— Kevin O’Brien

“I just knew it was time,” he said. “Thirty-five years is a good number.”

Gross said that since he was a kid he knew he had a passion for music. As a young man he remembered constantly playing guitar and singing.

“I would bring my guitar to school — I was the class musician, I got involved in some of the school’s shows and plays,” he said. 

When it came time to decide what he wanted to pursue as a career, Gross said he knew his parents wouldn’t pay for guitar lessons. 

“It was pretty obvious I wasn’t going to school to be a guitar performance major,” the Port Jefferson resident said. 

Despite that, Gross found his answer while being in a high school chorus class.  

“My high school chorus teacher made such an impression on me and I was like ‘This is what I want to do,’” said Gross.  

After graduating high school, he went to the University of Rhode Island for one year before transferring to SUNY Buffalo to complete his bachelor’s in music education. Gross would then go get his master’s degree at Ithaca College. 

From there, Gross got his first gig teaching in the Bethpage school district, filling in for a music teacher who was out sick for the year. 

“From February to June of that year I was full-time teaching strings,” he said. “I ended helping out with shows and doing a little bit of singing.” 

The following year, Gross initially thought he would be going back to Bethpage but the district told him it was now a brand-new position and would bring him down to starting sub-salary. 

“They told me I’d be teaching seven elementary school classes a day and I was like, this doesn’t sound good,” he said. 

While Gross ultimately decided not to stay at Bethpage, he had heard there was an opening for a music teacher at SWR and called to see if the job was still available. 

“They told me it was still available. The superintendent didn’t like the person we sent up,” he said. “I met with the assistant principal and principal — and boom, I was hired that day. Just a few days before the school year [in 1984].”

Gross said during his first year he wanted to build up the chorus program in the middle school. After one year it went up from 48 kids to more than 100 kids participating. 

After his first year in the district, Gross began splitting time at the high school and middle school as a traveling teacher. During his time at the high school he was involved in music direction for shows as well as taking charge of the chorus. Starting in 1990, he came back to the middle school full-time. 

Linda Jutting, a former orchestra teacher at SWR, first met Gross during his first year on the job in 1984.

“It wasn’t until 2002, when I came back to the district, that I worked with him at the middle school for 15 years until I retired,” she said.

Jutting said her own three children had Gross as a teacher and said he had an amazing work ethic.

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students,” she said. “He went above and beyond.”

Gross said he had a strong passion for what he did and wanted to share it with the kids. 

“I think one of my strengths is being able to connect with middle school kids and treat them like young adults,” he said. “I think one of the most important things is believing in them and getting them to believe in themselves.”

“He was really dedicated to his craft and his students.”

— Linda Jutting

Kevin O’Brien, district band director at SWR, said he can’t say enough good things about Gross. 

“I worked with Artie in the same building for 12 years. He mentored and helped me during my first couple of years in the district,” he said. “He was the ultimate professional.”

Gross mentioned when he retired, he received a signed poster from former students. He realized all the people he had affected positively.  

“I was just doing my job, I didn’t think I was doing anything special,” he said. “One girl told me, ‘I became a social worker because of the way you treated me.’”

Gross said he is looking forward to practicing playing his guitar more and hopes to visit his children in Wyoming and Australia. The Port Jefferson resident also hopes to be involved in the middle school shows in the future and is currently giving private lessons. 

“I had a good career. I got to share something that I loved, which was music,” he said.

 

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Shoreham-Wading River school district is considering converting the closed fitness center into a wrestling center. Photo by Kyle Barr Photo by Kyle Barr

Shoreham-Wading River’s ailing fitness center may see a new lease on life, should the puzzle pieces come together.

At a July 8 meeting, Superintendent Gerard Poole presented the idea to the school board that the district could convert the old Joe Ferreira Fitness Center and turn it into a wrestling center, while at the same time taking the auxiliary gym and turning that into a new fitness center.

Though the thought is still up in the air, the plan would require making major renovations to the old fitness center, located just to the east of the main high school building. The fitness center, built in the 1980s, was closed in July last year when an assessment of the building by the school district’s internal engineer showed the flooring was not up to code for constant physical activity. The building would require additional steel supports, toilet renovations to make it ADA compliant, new HVAC, emergency lighting and an upgraded fire alarm system.

Last October, the district said the renovations could cost upward of $200,000.

The district moved exercise equipment into room A101, right next to the cafeteria. Room A102 will also be used for fitness come September.

In a survey sent to students by the district about whether they would use a fitness center within the high school, 75 percent responded yes.

At the July meeting, Poole said the district had originally included the fitness center as part of its 2015 bond project, which is currently in the midst of renovating the high school parking lot. Though the school district could use additional funds left over to remake the fitness center, it won’t know how much funds it has left until the end of August, the superintendent said. There is no current funding in the 2019-20 budget to convert either the auxiliary gym or old fitness center.

Local residents who once extensively used the old fitness center for exercise during non-school hours have said they wished to be allowed to use the machinery, though Poole said they would have to look at hours and access for nonstudents on the off hours.

In addition the district said this change would potentially allow them to use the outside building as a polling place, instead of the usual gym space. School’s being used as polling places has been a sore spot for several North Shore school districts as they continue to look at security concerns.

Poole said, in speaking to the Suffolk County Board of Elections, there is no requirement that the district reuse the same space.

“It’s a matter of looking at the layout seeing where everything can fit,” Poole said.