Tags Posts tagged with "Suffolk County championship"

Suffolk County championship

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The Miller Place field hockey team was named small school champion after shutting out Pierson/Bridgehampton 2-0. Photo by Bob Savage
Crystal Esposito reaches for the ball. Photo by Bob Savage
Crystal Esposito reaches for the ball. Photo by Bob Savage

By Desirée Keegan

The Esposito sisters continue to get the job done for Miller Place.

Crystal Esposito scored off an assist from her sister, Arianna, with 19:20 left in the first half. Arianna Esposito set up Jill Fazio for the other goal with 3:54 remaining in the game, to help the Panthers to a 2-0 pounding of Pierson/Bridgehampton for the Suffolk County Small School title Nov. 1.

Goalkeeper Ally Tarantino needed to make just one save in the win.

Prior to that, No. 1 Miller Place knocked off No. 2 Rocky Point, 2-1, for the Class B crown. In that game, Fazio scored the game-winning goal off a deflection from Julia Burns with four seconds remaining in double overtime. Arianna Esposito added a goal and was assisted by her sister.

Miller Place will compete in the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 3 p.m.

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The Ward Melville field hockey team is all smiles after shutting out its opponent for the county title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Kate Mulham said the key to Ward Melville’s dominance is simple.

“There really is no secret. We know where we can play, our level of play and we keep it there each and every game,” Mulham said. “We take each game one at a time, we don’t underestimate anyone and we just work hard every game.”

The Patriots’ field hockey team uses that mentality to continue to shut teams down.

Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Kaitlin Thornton passes the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Even with the stakes so high, the No.1-seeded Patriots did what they always do, and shut out No. 2 Eastport-South Manor, 4-0, on Nov. 1 for the team’s second consecutive county title.

In 19 games, the Patriots allowed just six goals this season, outscoring their opponents 75-6. The game was never in doubt, as Ward Melville’s attack kept the ball in Sharks territory for most of the matchup.

Mulham rocked the box two minutes in, when Kaitlin Thornton broke free down the sideline and sent a cross pass to Mulham for the early lead.

Eastport-South Manor struggled to push the ball forward, but was met with formidable Patriots midfielders, who were able to advance the ball to their forwards.

Mulham’s stick spoke three minutes later, when she drilled one past the keeper off another crossing pass by Kerri Thornton, to put the Patriots out front 2-0.

Occasionally, the Sharks managed to push the ball past midfield, but were then met by the defense that dominated the backfield, like they’ve done all season.

With 7:48 left in the half, Mulham dished the ball off to senior Kiera Alventosa, and the midfielder fired at the cage for the score to put her team ahead by three.

Ward Melville came out in the second half much different than the first, focusing on ball control, clean passing, building time of possession and letting the clock unwind.

Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Lexi Reinhardt moves the ball up the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

“We always focus on attacking together — our whole premise is to play as a unit,” Alventosa said. “I think that in the first half we were revved up on nerves and excitement, so we came out hard, gave it our all and in the second half, we focused on our possession play with our passing.”

With 6:44 left in the game, the Patriots broke the cadence when Thornton broke down the left sideline and flicked a pass to forward Lexi Reinhardt, whose shot was deflected, but still stretched the net for the final goal of the game.

“We were able to control the ball between the 25-yard lines, using our back passes to keep possession, instead of going hard towards the offense the whole time,” Reinhardt said.

Ward Melville head coach Shannon Sioss said the fact that her team has held its opponents to such few goals, if any, this season is not just a result of her four strong defenders.

“The team defense we play throughout the field — every single one of our players is an integral part [of that defense],” she said. “They’re a very solid unit back there — it’s built of mostly seniors that have been playing together for a while — and they show great leadership back there.”

Ward Melville advances to the Long Island championship Nov. 5 at Adelphi University at 7 p.m. Ward Melville will face the either Baldwin or Massapequa. Results of that Wednesday night matchup were not available by press time.

Tom Rotanz poses for a photo with a gold medal and trophy after the U-19 team he was an assistant coach of won a world championship. Photo from Tom Rotanz

A familiar face is stepping onto the college lacrosse scene.

Tom Rotanz, a former head boys’ lacrosse coach for Shoreham-Wading River for 18 years, will helm St. Joseph’s College’s new men’s lacrosse program, which will begin its first season in spring 2017.

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Rotanz said of joining the college ranks. “I think any competitive athlete and coach wants to show someone what good can come from having the right people around you and the good players that are willing to commit themselves, and I hope to have another successful tenure at St. Joseph’s.”

Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph's College's men's lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz will be the first head coach for St. Joseph’s College’s men’s lacrosse program. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz has a long history with lacrosse.

His elder brother was on the team that won Ward Melville’s first Long Island championship in 1974, and the younger Rotanz was part of the squad that won the second and third in 1976 and 1977. The lacrosse captain earned All-American honors as a senior in 1977, after his team also made it to the New York State championship game, the first one for lacrosse. The boys lost that game, 12-11.

From there, he was the captain of the Suffolk County Community College lacrosse team that won a national championship and earned All-American honors twice. He then repeated that feat at Adelphi University, where he was also named an All-American twice.

“Tom was a great player,” said his former high school coach, and a legend on the lacrosse scene, Joe Cuozzo. “He was a great competitor, had a great sense of humor about him, and I really enjoyed working with him.”

As a coach himself, with the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats’ program only a year old, Rotanz took over a roster of 14 players, including six freshmen. The team went 1-15 his first season, scoring 38 goals on the year. But seven years later, the team was ranked fourth in the country, after winning a New York State championship and scoring close to 400 goals.

“It snowballed into something that was really neat to be a part of,” he said. “In the last 13 years I was there, we won 10 county championships, five Long Island and three New York State. People always wondered why or how we kept winning every year and being ranked one or two in the county. I say if you have bright kids that buy into the system, I think anything is possible.”

Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz gets water dumped on his head by a former Shoreham-Wading River team after a win. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Rotanz earned his first of six Suffolk County Coach of the Year honors in 1999, two years before he led the program to its first county championship in 2001. In 2002, the program repeated as Suffolk champs en route to Long Island and New York State titles. The team also swept Suffolk, Long Island and New York State championship titles in 2007 and 2012.

In 2012, the coach added to his list of accolades, serving as an assistant for the 2012 USA Men’s U-19 lacrosse team that won a world championship.

Now, he hopes to be able to bring that same success to St. Joseph’s, and Shantey Hill, assistant vice president and senior director of athletics and recreation for the college, thinks Rotanz is the perfect fit.

“We were very lucky in that Coach Rotanz applied,” she said, referring to the school’s intensive, national search across all NCAA institutions. “He has a plethora of experience, and … he knows the landscape of Long Island, and he’s very well-connected with his peers to be able to do good recruiting for what we’re looking for.”

For Rotanz, being on the scene as long as he has and being a part of Long Island lacrosse, serving as an assistant coach at Smithtown West for the last two years, will be beneficial throughout the recruiting process for the Golden Eagles.

“I’m very close friends with a lot of the Suffolk and Nassau coaches, so they’re already contacting me with players that they think will be a great fit, kids that they think would really like to play for me; so that’s the neat thing.”

He added, laughing, “I think there will be a lot more kids that think about not leaving the Island now, hopefully.”

Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys' lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz makes a save during a Ward Melville boys’ lacrosse game. He helped the team to two Long Island championship titles and a New York State championship appearance. Photo from Tom Rotanz

According to Hill, the school decided the time was right for a lacrosse program after seeing that a number of Division III student-athletes in the college’s Skyline Conference that commit to play lacrosse come from Long Island and that there was interest with incoming and current students. The college also built a new outdoor athletic facility.

Hill said St. Joseph’s found the right coach in Rotanz.

“We think we hit a home run with coach Rotanz,” she said. “He’s not only a wonderful coach, but also a great man, and he will do great things. We’re looking forward to him not only being the face of the lacrosse program, but also being a mentor to our male student-athletes. His tenure speaks for itself. He’s very well-connected, and he has good relationships with lots of people, and that’s something you can’t put a price tag on.”

Cuozzo, who was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, said he used to go to Shoreham-Wading River practices and games to watch his former athlete, and has been thrilled with his approach to the game.

“The way he treats kids, he’s a real student of the game, and I can’t say enough on how proud I am of his accomplishments,” he said. “He brings a winning attitude.”

Rotanz, who said he tries to emulate the ways and successes of his former coach, is competitive, according to Cuozzo.

“He hates to lose — I think he got that from me,” he said, laughing. “I wasn’t a very good loser.”

Luckily, neither one of them has had to do much of that.

Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys' lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz
Tom Rotanz coaches from the sidelines of a Shoreham-Wading River boys’ lacrosse game. Photo from Tom Rotanz

Cuozzo compiled a 699-73 record while at the helm of the Patriots’ program. In 2007, he became the head coach at Mount Sinai, where he brought his win total to 747 in his four years before retirement. During his tenure with the Wildcats, Rotanz amassed a 256-99 record.

Cuozzo also thinks Rotanz will be able to draw athletes to the school.

“A lot of kids like to leave Long Island when they are finished with high school — they don’t want to stay local — but knowing Tom, he’s very convincing,” Cuozzo said. “He’ll do his homework. He’ll go out and scout, he’ll go to high school games and he’ll talk, make phone calls. He’s very organized, he’s very knowledgeable about the game, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to be successful there.”

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By Bill Landon

It wasn’t like the Newfield football team to trail in a game, but like the first and only other time they found themselves behind this season, it didn’t last.

Both times were against the Colts of Half Hollow Hills West. The first time was when the two teams faced off in September, when the Wolverines went on to outscore their opponent, 41-13. But this time, the teams were on a bigger stage — the Suffolk County Division II championship. Continuing its quest for a perfect season, Newfield propelled past a 20-18 deficit late in the second quarter to help the team claim its second county title since 2011, with a 58-34 victory at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium Friday night.

“From the beginning of the season you work as hard as you can to get here,” Newfield senior Austin Gubelman said. “It’s a surreal feeling, it really is.”

Gubelman, a tight end, scored first on a short run, and after a failed two-point conversion attempt, Hills West cut the Wolverines’ lead in half with a field goal. Newfield senior Elijah Riley, a wide receiver who has been a one-man wrecking machine this postseason with eight touchdowns in the last three games, scored his first of four touchdowns off a handoff he took more than 50 yards for the 12-3 advantage, after another failed two-point conversion attempt, to end the scoring in the first.

The two teams totaled 952 yards, with 516 coming from Newfield. Riley alone finished the game with 146 yards on 11 carries.

With junior Justin Ottenwalder catching a pass up the middle and carrying it 71 yards for a touchdown run, the halfback, who caught three passes for 154 yards and gained 62 yards on eight carries, helped the Wolverines remain in front. But the Colts responded with another field goal and an interception on a screen pass that was returned for a touchdown. With the extra-point attempt successful, Newfield’s opponent took a 20-18 lead with 1:51 left in the half.

Just like in that September matchup, the Wolverines wouldn’t stay behind for long.

With 20 seconds on the clock, Riley took matters into his own hands. He took a handoff up the middle and found nothing. Bouncing off the wall of defenders, the senior looked for an open hole on his first, second and third attempts before cutting to the outside and finding the corner of the end zone from four yards out to put his team out in front, 24-10. From there, the Wolverines never looked back.

Hills West was on the move to start the second half, but a deep throw to a wide receiver was snatched by Newfield senior safety Denzel Williams. From the 18-yard line, Williams returned the interception up field to the 31-yard line. He finished with 108 yards on nine carries.

Newfield senior Ryan Klemm, the team’s quarterback, dumped a screen pass off to Ottenwalder, who jetted down the left sideline, covering 69 yards for the score. With the extra-point attempt by senior kicker Jacob VanEssendelft successful, the Wolverines extended their lead to 31-20 with 7:22 left in the third.

Klemm said he knew his team had the ability to bounce back, and the Wolverines refocused their efforts after a losing record at the end of last year.

“We knew we had a really talented team and we worked very hard in the offseason,” the quarterback said. “It’s surreal right now. It’s an awesome feeling, and it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.”

The Colts fumbled on the ensuing kickoff, and Newfield junior Jesse McKeever scooped it up and took off for the end zone. The cornerback was stopped just shy of the goal line, and the Wolverines offensive unit went back to work. Gubelman got the call and plowed his way up the middle for his second touchdown in the game. With a missed point-after attempt, the tight end put his team out front, 37-20.

With just over five minutes remaining in the third quarter, Half Hollow Hills West quarterback Anthony Lucarelli found the end zone on a keeper and, with the point after, the Colts closed the gap a bit.

On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Newfield called on Williams, the Middle Country sprinter, who dashed 64 yards across the field, leading blockers all the way to the end zone. With the kick from VanEssendelft good, Newfield jumped out to a 44-27 advantage.

And after a Hills West three-and-out, Newfield struck again.

With just over a minute left in the third quarter, Riley eluded three tacklers and covered 46 yards for six points. VanEssendelft’s kick split the uprights to blow the game open, 51-27.

Hills West went to the air the rest of the way, and tried to force long passes to make up for lost time. Lucarelli went deep to his wide receiver, who appeared to make the catch but bobbled the ball. Just as deadly defensively at cornerback as he is on offense as a wide receiver, Riley snatched the ball out of the Colts player’s hands for the interception with just over three minutes left in the contest.

The dominant and forceful senior finished the turnover he created with a short plunge into the end zone for his final touchdown of the game. Along with VanEssendelft’s kick, Riley’s score increased his team’s lead to 58-27.

Newfield head coach Joe Piccininni rested his starters on both sides of the ball the rest of the way, and Hills West made the most of the change by scoring one final touchdown.

“Our mistakes were hurting us and we faced a lot of adversity, but we were able to come back tonight,” Piccininni said. “We faced a great football team tonight — they didn’t fall back and they didn’t falter.”

With that, the team was crowned Suffolk County champions, and Newfield will take its undefeated season to the gridiron of Hofstra University on Friday, for a 4:30 p.m. kick off against MacArthur in the Long Island championship game. Although this year looked uncertain after the Wolverines’ 3-6 season last year, Gubelman said he thought his team could do it all along.

“I’ve known my teammates my whole life — we’ve been playing together since we were 5 years old,” he said. “We practice hard the same way we always do, come out with one vision: [to win the] Long Island Championship.”

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The Shoreham-Wading River football team poses for a group photo in celebration of it's second consecutive Suffolk County championship with a 24-14 win over Elwood-John Glenn on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Since November 2013, all the Shoreham-Wading River football team has known is how to win football games, and although the Wildcats had their hands full with No. 2 Elwood-John Glenn, the team was able to grind out a win, 24-14, for the Suffolk County Division IV title Thursday night at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.

“When you work hard this is what you get — a county championship,” Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella said. “It’s been a battle throughout the season. We’ll watch film and practice late to prepare for the Long Island championship the same way we did for this game.”

Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats' 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River junior quarterback Kevin Cutinella scrambles out of the pocket in the Wildcats’ 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Amid rain and harsh winds, Elwood-John Glenn lined up in punt formation after a three-and-out, and snapped the ball to the punt protector, who was unable to handle the wet ball, and the Wildcats pounced on it, recovering the fumble at the nine-yard line. Two plays later, Cutinella punched in for the touchdown, and with the extra point good, helped put his team out front 7-0 at the 8:42 mark of the first quarter.

With the Knights unable to answer, the Wildcats were on the move again. On the first play from scrimmage, senior running back Chris Rosati drove the ball down to the nine-yard line with just over four minutes remaining in the stanza. Two plays later, Rosati pounded his way into the end zone for the score, and with senior kicker Daniel Mahoney’s extra-point attempt successful, the Wildcats edged ahead 14-0.

On Elwood-John Glenn’s ensuing possession, Chris Forsberg almost went the distance as he broke free of tacklers and covered 81 yards. Shihan Rudyk finished it as he punched it in from three yards out to put the Knights on the scoreboard. With the point-after attempt good, Elwood-John Glenn trailed 14-7 with 7:37 left in the half.

The Knights struck again soon after, when quarterback Wayne White found Kyle Tiernan for a 25-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 heading into the break.

The rain intensified and the wind picked up in the second half, leaving both teams struggling for traction in the third quarter.

After an injury timeout, Shoreham-Wading River senior Jason Curran took over under center, but it was Mahoney who helped his team score next, as he attempted a 33-yard field goal attempt in the fourth. The senior made it look easy, as he split the uprights to put his team out front, 17-14. According to the kicker, it wasn’t as easy at it looked.

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River's 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Rosati breaks outside for a long gain in Shoreham-Wading River’s 24-14 victory over Elwood-John Glenn for the Suffolk County Division IV title on Nov. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

“It was like kicking a rock,” he said, adding that he was exhilarated to see the ball go between the posts. “It felt like my leg was 10 pounds heavier and the ball was 10 pounds heavier.”

With five minutes left on the clock, the Wildcats added insurance points when Curran handed off to Rosati, who did what he’s done all season, grinding up the middle for the touchdown. With Mahoney perfect on the evening, Shoreham-Wading River put the game away 24-14.

“We put in the right kids in the right spots,” Shoreham-Wading River assistant coach Hans Wiederkehr said. “We were able to make plays at the right time.”

The Wildcats advance to the Long Island Championship, where the team will take on Locust Valley on Friday at Hofstra University. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

“We’ve got a lot of homework to do because we’ve never seen them before,” Wiederkehr said. “But we’re going to get right back to what got us here — practicing hard watching film.”

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Ward Melville's Victoria Tilley and Alex Stein grab a block at the net in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

It was a battle of the undefeated teams, but Ward Melville fell short. The Patriots girls’ volleyball team was able to power past Smithtown East but had trouble doing it again, and fell to No. 1-ranked Connetquot, 27-25, 25-18, and 25-20, Thursday in the Suffolk County Class AA finals.

Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots' 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior Alex Stein scores a kill shot in the Patriots’ 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

The Thunderbirds broke out to an early 10-4 lead, but the Patriots made it a one-point game later in the set to trail 19-18, forcing a Connetquot time out. Ward Melville scored next to tie the game at 19-19, but Connetquot rattled off five more points to surge ahead 24-21.

It was advantage Ward Melville when the Patriots scored the next four points to take a 25-24 lead, but the Thunderbirds were the No.1 seed for a reason, and dug out two more points to retake the lead, 26-25, and aced the final point to put the set away, 27-25.

“I felt like we got robbed in game one — I thought we had it but got a bad call there,” Ward Melville head coach Charles Fernandes said. “But I’ve got to be honest, I don’t think we played like we normally play. We didn’t pass very well and when we don’t pass well we don’t get into our offensive system.”

In a repeat of the first set, Connetquot broke out to a 10-4 lead and edged ahead 12-5 in the second set, before the team jumped out to a 20-8 lead. Ward Melville battled back to trail 22-14, and both teams traded points as Connetquot took the set to the brink, leading 24-14 before Ward Melville rattled off four unanswered points to trail 24-18. The Thunderbirds scored next though, to claim another set, 25-18.

Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team's 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville junior Cierra Low sets the ball in the team’s 3-0 loss to Connetquot in the Suffolk County Class AA finals on Nov. 12. Photo by Bill Landon

Fernandes spoke to his team following the second-set loss about what it took to battle back, being down two games to none.

“This has happened before — teams pull this out,” he told his team. “You’ve got to get the first one and that’s the hard one.”

With their backs against the wall, the Patriots broke out to an 8-2 advantage in the third set as the team tried to avoid elimination, but after a Connetquot time out, Ward Melville struggled to maintain the margin, and the Thunderbirds bounced back to tie the game 10-10.

Connetquot scored next to take its first lead, but the set was retied at 16-16 courtesy of a kill shot by Ward Melville senior outside hitter Alex Stein. The Thunderbirds edged ahead 20-17, then 22-19 and again brought the match to the brink leading 24-20.

Stein said that her team’s performance was not up to par with the level her team usually plays at.

“I don’t know if we were nervous, anxious or just all over the place mentally, but we did not click as a team,” she said. “Our defense was all over the place and it’s just not how we play.”

The Thunderbirds scored next to sweep the Patriots and advance to the Long Island Championship round against Massapequa, where the team beat the Nassau County champs for the Long Island championship title.

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Elijah Riley scores three touchdowns on 10 carries for 210 yards

Newfield wide receiver Elijah Riley rushes with the ball behind blocker Justin Ottenwalder in the Wolverines' 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Elijah Riley stole the show Saturday.

The Newfield football team continued its winning ways when the Wolverines defeated North Babylon, 32-6, in the semifinal round of the Division II playoffs Saturday.

Newfield wide receiver Elijah Riley lunges for extra yards in the Wolverines' 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon
Newfield wide receiver Elijah Riley lunges for extra yards in the Wolverines’ 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

And the Wolverines wasted no time hitting the scoreboard.

Riley, a senior wide receiver, scored his first of three touchdowns on the afternoon on a hand-off, where he broke to the right sideline and took off for the end zone, covering 60 yards along the way. Through swirling wind, senior kicker Jacob VanEssendelft split the uprights and Newfield took an early 7-0 lead.

North Babylon was unable to answer, and the team’s defense couldn’t stop senior quarterback Ryan Klemm next, who went to the air, finding senior tight end Austin Gubelman over the middle. On a second effort, Gubelman found the end zone for the score, and with the extra-point attempt wide left, helped put his team out in front 13-0 with 6:20 left in the opening quarter.

“We expected a very tough opponent — our defensive line started off with a big push on every play, it’s all on the defensive line,” Gubelman said. “[But] we didn’t play up to our best ability. Wer’e going to have to step it up with a good week of practice and we’re going to have to focus to get ready for Friday.”

The scoreboard went quiet until the opening play from scrimmage in the second half, where Riley struck again when he took off down the left sideline, outrunning any defender as he covered 63 yards for the score. With a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Wolverines settled for a 19-0 advantage.

New field quarterback Ryan Klemm throws the ball deep for a touchdown in the Wolverines' 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon
New field quarterback Ryan Klemm throws the ball deep for a touchdown in the Wolverines’ 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

Riley said North Babylon was a more potent opponent this week than they were when the Wolverines faced the Bulldogs earlier in the regular season, because the team had fewer injured players.

“They were a better team this week with their three returning starters — we had to prepare like we did last time, but just harder,” said Riley, who finished the game with 210 yards on 10 carries. “Our defense and our offense finished it out and our special teams did a great job.”

On their ensuing possession, North Babylon mounted its first sustained offensive drive. On a third-and-8 from Newfield’s 40-yard line, North Babylon’s ball carrier, Nick Grassa, took a hit from Gubelman that knocked the ball loose. Newfield junior Justin Ottenwalder recovered it at the 33-yard line with 8:38 left in the third quarter, arresting the scoring threat.

“We knew it was going to be a hard game and we prepared for them,” said Ottenwalder, who rushed for 49 yards on two carries. “But I knew it was going to be a tough game because they’re a good team.”

Newfield wasted no time cashing in on the Bulldogs’ mistake, and Klemm, despite the gusty wind, went to the air again. The quarterback found Riley in stride on a post-pattern play, and the wide receiver rushed across the field 39 yards for his final touchdown of the game. The stirring wind pushed the extra-point attempt wide left, and Newfield surged ahead 25-0 in the closing minutes of the third quarter.

The Wolverines weren’t done yet though, and on the second play from scrimmage to open the final stanza, Ottenwalder got the call. On a hand-off up the middle, the junior made something out of nothing when he broke to the outside, eluding two would-be tacklers for a 36-yard touchdown run. With VanEssendelft’s kick, the two helped the team to a 32-0 lead.

New field's Jelani Greene plunges up the middle for extra yards in the Wolverines' 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon
New field’s Jelani Greene plunges up the middle for extra yards in the Wolverines’ 32-6 win over North Babylon in the Division II semifinals on Nov. 14. Photo by Bill Landon

The Bulldogs would not go down without a fight, and with just over four minutes remaining Jajuan Winters, on a handoff from quarterback Jared Ziegler, punched his way into the end zone from eight yards out to put North Babylon on the scoreboard. The point-after attempt failed.

Newfield senior Steven Hoynacky took over under center the rest of the way as head coach Joe Piccininni flushed his bench — ensuring everyone saw playoff action.

“North Babylon’s a great football team — they’re a ground and pound attack and they come at you and if you make a mistake against them, they’ll make you pay for it,” Piccininni said. “I’m so proud of our kids stepping up today. They maintained their composure and they just got it done.”

With the win, Newfield advances to the Suffolk County championship at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, where the Wolverines will take on Half Hollow Hills West Friday at 7 p.m.

“We’ll take it one day at a time — prepare each day,” Piccininni said. “But our preparation will be the same.”

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By Bill Landon

Just call it the fabulous fifth.

The No. 2 Kings Park girls’ volleyball team defeated No. 1 Westhampton Beach in three straight sets Thursday, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-17, to claim the school’s fifth straight Suffolk County Class A title.

The Kingsmen took seven straight points in the first set, and broke out to a 10-6 lead as both teams continued to trade points until Kings Park was ahead 17-12 at the first time out.

The Hurricanes battled back with several long volleys to close the gap to 20-18, but the Kingsmen rattled off four more points to take a 24-20 advantage. Kings Park looked to put the game away, and did, but not before Kings Park took three more points, to win the first set, 25-23.

“Our team is about coming out and doing what we have to do,” Kings Park junior outside hitter Lauren Kloos said. “We come out with so much excitement, so this win is just amazing for us.”

With the teams tied 7-7 in the second set, Kings Park surged ahead 24-17, but Westhampton Beach scored the next three points to trail 24-20. Again, the Kingsmen found a way to dig out the last point, to win the second set 25-20.

Kings Park sophomore middle hitter Erika Benson said her team has a winning formula.

“I think it’s the passion we have for each other,” she said. “All three matches were close, and they played really well, but in the end we came out stronger.”

Westhampton Beach struggled, and fell behind in the third set 8-2 in a must-win set to stay alive. The Hurricanes would not go quietly though, and battled back to close within four points late in the match.

Kloos finished with 14 kills; senior middle hitter Lauren Kehoe added 12 kills and 16 digs; senior outside hitter Jaclyn Wilton had 12 kills and 16 digs; sophomore libero Meagan Murphy had 25 digs; and senior setter Stephanie Cornwell added 31 assists.

“We communicate really well; Meagan Murphy, Lauren Baxter and Kayla Buell played really great defense,” Kehoe said. “Lauren Kloos and Jaclyn Wilton were swinging great and Stephanie Cornwell was serving really well, so it was just a good performance all around.”

It was the third time the teams faced each other this year, and although Kings Park won the second meeting between the two, the Hurricanes handed Kings Park their only loss in the season in the first game of the year.

Wilton said Westhampton Beach is a much stronger team this season compared to last.

“We lost to them in our first game, we’ve been undefeated in my high school career and that first lost hurt,” Wilton said. “I never knew what that felt like, but since then, I knew that I never wanted to experience that again.”

And so far, they haven’t.

With the win, Kings Park advances to the Long Island championship round.  The team will return to Suffolk County Community College’s Brentwood campus tomorrow, Nov. 14, to face Wantagh at 3 p.m.