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Tigers

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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.”

Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers' 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

By Miguel Bustamante

Northport school district is enacting stricter rules for handling student-athletes with concussions.

School board members were informed of new procedures for kids returning to athletics after those injuries during their meeting on Nov. 5, using guidance from New York State regulations.

Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers' 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport running back Rob Dosch makes his way upfield while he carries Sachem North defenders in the Tigers’ 29-22 homecoming win over the Flaming Arrows on Sept. 19. Photo by Bill Landon

Paul Klimuszko, Northport-East Northport’s director of physical education, athletics and health, and Cynthia Fitzgerald, director of student support services, made a presentation to the board outlining the new procedures to follow if a student has a concussion.

“A concussion is an injury that changes the ways the cells in our brain function,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s important to understand that a concussion is a brain injury, and can occur in any sport.”

According to Fitzgerald, there are between 70 and 90 concussions in the district every year, including at the middle and high school levels.

The two administrators laid out the “return to play” regulations, which are used across the country and require students to complete a five-stage observational test before full re-entry into school-sponsored physical activities.

The five stages include light to moderate aerobic exercises observed by the school nurse and/or an athletic trainer; a non-contact gym class participation period; and a full-contact gym class participation period. A school district physician must clear the concussed students before he or she can be fully reintegrated into school athletics.

The presentation followed a previous district discussion about student safety in school athletics. That subject has been a hot topic over the last few years, but particularly since Tom Cutinella, a high school football player from Shoreham-Wading River, died after taking a big hit in a game against John Glenn High School in Elwood last year. School districts across Long Island have been making changes to their concussion responses following Cutinella’s death, and there have been new directions from the state on the matter.

Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza
Northport-East Northport Superintendent Robert Banzer. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

New York State’s Concussion Management and Awareness Act of 2011 requires local school boards to develop and promote concussion management policies. According to the act, children and adolescents are more susceptible to concussions and take longer than adults to fully recover.

“Therefore, it is imperative that any student suspected of having sustained a concussion be immediately removed from athletic activity … until evaluated and cleared to return to athletic activity by a physician,” the act said.

Northport school officials don’t take concussions lightly, Klimuszko said.

“The athletic office ensures that all coaches are educated in the nature and risk of concussions and concussion-related injuries.”

Senior striker scores hat trick in Tigers’ win over Copiague

Charlie Theofield gets ready to score his hat trick goal for Northport. Photo by Desirée Keegan

Senior striker Charlie Theofield scored again, again and again Tuesday, to help propel the Northport boys’ soccer team to a 4-2 win over Copiague.

Northport's Joseph Malico sends the ball into Copiague’s zone between two opponents. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Joseph Malico sends the ball into Copiague’s zone between two opponents. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“Everyone was working hard and we played well,” he said following the win. “The first goal came after my goalie Kiernan Kirby kicked it up, and I wasn’t expecting it at first, but it went in, and the other two came naturally — I was in the right place in the right time, like I should be.”

Theofield got the Tigers on the scoreboard first when he chipped a shot in, over the Copiague goalkeeper’s head, as he came out the box to try to make a save, for the early 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the matchup.

Fewer than 10 minutes later, Theofield did it again, with the same shot straight up the middle and over the goalkeeper’s head, to give his team a 2-0 advantage.

“We pressed up a lot,” Theofield said. “Even thought we know we clinched playoffs, we should still be playing for first, and we’ve got to keep our offense up.”

With 25 seconds left in the first half, sophomore midfielder Joseph Malico gained possession of the ball with a defender on his hip and sent his shot to the center of the net for a 3-0 lead heading into the halftime break.

Northport's James McKenna tangles with a Copiague player in a race for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s James McKenna tangles with a Copiague player in a race for possession. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I thought we played really hard all game long,” Northport head coach Don Strasser said. “I though Copiague played really strong — they never gave up and they battled, but putting away a couple of goals early on in the first half helps the team.”

Less than three minutes into the second half, Copiague put its first point on the board, with a shot into the far left corner.

After a long scoring drought, and a save by senior goalkeeper Ahmad Timsah to keep the score unchanged, Theofield scored his hat trick goal.

With 4:25 left, the Copiague goalkeeper came out of the net to make a save, and punched the ball away amid a flurry of opponents. He pushed the ball straight toward the feet of Theofield, who seized his opportunity and knocked it in past the diving keeper for a 4-1 lead.

With 45 seconds left on the clock, Copiague scored its second goal of the game, to bring the final score to 4-2.

Northport's Jordan Amella dribbles the ball downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Jordan Amella dribbles the ball downfield. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We sort of died out at the end, but most of the game we were taking it to them, and that’s what we need to do for the rest of the season,” Theofield said. “We’re going to playoffs, and we’re hoping to take it to states.”

The team moves to 8-3 in League II with the win, has only let an opponent score three goals once, and has only given up two goals twice this season.

Despite losing two players in senior midfielder Dimitri Mendrinos and junior defender Ryan Pedersen, the team continues to rack up the wins.

“Every game is really a battle, so we just always have to play our best game,” Strasser said. “Since Dimitri’s injury, we are 2-1, and this is the first game without Ryan, so the first half we were 5-2, and the second half, right now, we’re 3-1, so all is good so far. At any given day, some team can beat you, so you just have to be on task and play hard from whistle to whistle; so we have to continue to play well.”

The Ward Melville football team got on the scoreboard first Saturday in a battle on the gridiron against visiting Northport, but the Tigers ultimately spoiled the Patriots’ homecoming celebration, winning 35-21.

Ward Melville (1-2) opened the scoring with an impressive 16-play, 82-yard drive, capped by senior running back Nick Cervone’s 7-yard touchdown run and junior kicker Joe LaRosa’s point after, to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

But Northport responded with a touchdown run of its own to tie it up.

With 1:57 left in the quarter, Ryan Elliot punctuated a nine-play, 65-yard march with a 13-yard touchdown run. With the point-after attempt successful by Ryan Tromblee, the game was tied, 7-7.

On the next possession, Northport intercepted senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea’s pass over the middle. The pass, which was intercepted by Northport safety Dan Preston, was returned 70 yards for the tiebreaking score.

Northport continued to light up the scoreboard, and took advantage of two turnovers, scoring three touchdowns to end the first half leading 35-7.

The Tigers didn’t score after the halftime break, while Ward Melville capitalized on two opportunities in the fourth to close the gap, 35-21.

First, junior wide receiver John Corpac scored on a 15-yard pass from O’Hea, who finished the game going 10-for-16 with 101 yards and two interceptions, and after, senior wide receiver Vincent Negri scored off a 1-yard pass from junior quarterback Wesley Manning.

Ward Melville looks to bounce back from the loss when the Patriots travel to Sachem North Friday, with the hopes of spoiling their opponent’s homecoming festivities. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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Northport’s Sara Dube reached for the return. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Northport Tigers took on perennial powerhouse Huntington Tuesday afternoon in girls’ tennis action at home in hot, windy conditions. With Huntington being the League II champions from last season, the Blue Devils were guessed to give it to Northport, but the Tigers hung on until the final and deciding match, where the Blue Devils escaped with a 4-3 victory to remain undefeated.

Huntington’s Abby Bellestri connects with the ball. Photo by Bill Landon
Huntington’s Abby Bellestri connects with the ball. Photo by Bill Landon

Due to the heat index, Tuesday’s match was an abbreviated 10-game pro set, where the first team to win 10 games wins the match, instead of the best two out of three sets of six, according to Northport head coach Peter Quinn.

Huntington singles standout, senior Emily Shutman, disposed of her opponent with ease, winning her match 10-0.

“It was hot, humid and very windy, but I served well and my opponent had difficulty handling that today,” she said. “My net play was really nonexistent — I didn’t have to come to the net, but I had a few drop shots that were pretty effective.”

Shutman added that she had to continually adjust her play to compensate for the wind, and that it was important to stay hydrated to avoid becoming lightheaded.

“I’ll do a lot of stretching and work on my stroke and just try to stay loose to get ready for John Glenn,” Shutman said as she begins to prepare for the next match.

Northport senior Allisa Risebrow won her singles match 10-5 but added that the glaring sun was a factor on the court.

“I had the sun in my eyes, so the conditions were [challenging],” Risebrow said. “It was so hot and windy that I had to read the wind; so depending on what side I was on, the wind was either pushing, or I had to push against it.”

Northport’s Lucy Jiang sends back a forehand shot. Photo by Bill Landon
Northport’s Lucy Jiang sends back a forehand shot. Photo by Bill Landon

Risebrow added that her opponent struggled charging the net, and she returned a lot of short balls to exploit that weakness.

Huntington head coach Jamie Fishlow said his team will be focusing on the fundamentals, and that the Blue Devils will need to improve from top to bottom if they want to remain league champs.

“We need to work on our doubles positioning, work on our footwork and just hitting the ball and to be consistent,” Fishlow said. “Emily [Shutman] has the best all-around game in singles play, but today was close, and Northport gave us a good match.”

Northport junior Gabrielle Schuck, who competed in doubles, said her team’s first match of the season was a struggle and that the conditions made it much more difficult.

“We fought through it, we kept going, but I had to sit down and take water breaks to avoid headaches,” Schuck said. “[Huntington is] the best team. We’ve lost to them many times, but today we were tied 3-3 and it went to the final match.”

Quinn said that Huntington is without question the team to beat in League II but was impressed with his team’s first match of the season.

“We played well, we did some good things, we moved well, but the heat and the wind was a factor,” the coach said. “It was a very good competitive first match of the season.”

With the win, Huntington improves to 3-0, while Northport dropped its season opener.

Huntington will host John Glenn today at 4 p.m., and Northport will travel to Walt Whitman today at 4 p.m., before hosting Hauppauge on Friday at 4 p.m.

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Girls’ lacrosse players will compete at the Division I level next year

Northport's Katie Cook defends against a Bay Shore player. File photo by Desirée Keegan

By Clayton Collier

It’s not often that an individual high school team gets multiple athletes to commit to college programs.

The fact that Northport girls’ lacrosse will send seven athletes to play at the collegiate level this fall is impressive enough, but longtime head coach Carol Rose said this isn’t out of the norm.

“Typically almost all my seniors go on to play lacrosse in college at the next level; very few do not,” Rose said. “Six girls is about the average per year, and we already have five other kids committed.”

Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

This year, the team exceeded the average.

Kristen Brunoforte, Heather Engellis, Victoria D’Amato, Gabbi Labuskes, Emily Yoo, Amy Breitfeller and Katie Cook will be playing at Jacksonville University, the University of Oregon, the State University of New York at Cortland, The Naval Academy, Binghamton University, Wesleyan University and SUNY Geneseo, respectively.

Five rising seniors have also already committed, as Courtney Orella, Ryan Columbus and Noelle Peragine who have verbally committed to Villanova University, Fairfield University, and Georgetown University, respectively, and Kelly Jacobsen and Natalie Langella will attend Bryant University.

Labuskes, an All-County attack who has already started with the Naval Academy, said Northport gave her the skills necessary both as an athlete and as a leader.

“Overall, I think it pushed me to better myself as an athlete, a friend and a person,” she said. “I have taken all the lessons learned and carried them with me. Many of which I have been able to use here at the Naval Academy, and will continue to use and be grateful for for the rest of my life.”

Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Heather Engellis competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

Engellis, an All-League attack, said she didn’t start playing lacrosse until the past few years, and wasn’t sure the sport was for her until being convinced by Rose.

“I improved significantly thanks to Coach Rose,” she said. “She actually was the one who persuaded me to play, and looking back, I cannot thank her enough. She’s taught me everything from the basics to all the technical stick work and beyond.”

Rose, who also coaches the Long Island Yellow Jackets, started the Northport program in 1990 with her husband, Alton. Throughout the entirety of the program’s history, the couple has coached together.

“We are best friends and love watching film together and discussing all aspects of the team together,” Rose said of working with her husband. “He is great defensively and we complement each other well, since I am more offensive orientated.”

Brunoforte, an All-League goalie, said she enjoys the husband-and-wife coaching dynamic. Though entirely coincidental, her new coaching staff at Jacksonville is also a married couple.

Gabbi Labuskes competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan
Gabbi Labuskes competes for Northport in a game against North Babylon last season. File photo by Desirée Keegan

“I feel like when coaches and assistant coaches are close it makes teaching the game a lot easier,” she said. “They complement each other, especially in the sense that they usually teach two different sides to the game.”

In addition to Brunoforte, Engellis and Labuskes, the loss of an All-County midfielder in D’Amato, All-League attack in Yoo and key defenders in Cook and Breitfeller to graduation, would be quite the hit for any program to immediately recover from on paper. At Northport, however, it’s next woman up.

“There is a lot of potential for next year,” D’Amato said. “They have a lot of talented girls.”

Despite all the comments and kind words for Rose, she said it’s due to her athletes’ own hard work.

“They dedicate a lot of time to their sport year-round and showcase themselves to college coaches throughout the country,” Rose said. “We give them a lot of opportunities for exposure and they take advantage of it.”

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The Northport High School Class of 2015 graduated on Saturday, June 27. The bleachers were filled to capacity as speakers U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) congratulated the students and offered some advice.

Principal Irene McLaughlin, as well as other Northport High School staff members and members of the Northport-East Northport school board handed out diplomas and cheered on the students. Valedictorian Joseph Wetzel and Salutatorian Ana Chisholm gave poignant speeches, and the Northport High School Choir sang “Fields of Gold.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Northport's Olivia Carner dumps the ball into the cage over the Bay Shore goalkeeper’s stick. Photo by Desirée Keegan

These Tigers are showing their teeth.

The Northport girls’ lacrosse team capped off the regular season with a six-game winning streak, holding Bay Shore scoreless through the first half Tuesday and trampling the Marauders 13-4, to prove they’re not a team to take lightly in the playoffs.

“I thought they played with confidence,” Northport head coach Carol Rose said. “We played aggressive on defense, fairly patient on offense and we were able to execute some of these fast-break opportunities that we had and not have any letdown in the second half like we had in the past two games. Maintaining the momentum was good.”

Northport senior attack Gabbi Labuskes put the team’s first point on the board after a foul call, and from there the team kept the ball rolling, scoring four more unanswered goals — with Labuskes scoring the last one — to take a 5-0 lead into the halftime break.

Northport's Gabbi Labuskes moves the ball across the field past two Bay Shore players. Photo by Desirée Keegan
Northport’s Gabbi Labuskes moves the ball across the field past two Bay Shore players. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I think a big part of our win was going to be who won the first draw of the game; who came out 100 percent,” Labuskes said. “Moving the ball up the field was probably our biggest help throughout the game because we were able to transition the ball with half-field passes really quick and get it over the defense’s head. I think that played a really big factor.”

The senior attack scored the opening goal of the second half after she bulled her way up the middle and lobbed the ball overhead for her hat trick goal.

Northport junior midfielder Natalie Langella was next to score, followed by eighth-grade midfielder Olivia Carner, who dumped the ball in top center over the goalkeeper’s stick for her second goal of the game.

“They felt good about themselves and I think that that was key, especially when we were losing draw controls” Rose said of her team’s ability to score. “I think we only won four out of 18 draws. That’s not so good. To be able to come out on top with a 13-4 win and lose all the draws is pretty amazing. It also shows a great defensive effort.”

Northport junior attack Courtney Orella whipped one past the keeper next, and with 11:36 left to play, Bay Shore finally put a point on the scoreboard to avoid the shutout.

Labuskes took over on the draw and helped her team win possession, and on the next scoring play, two of Northport’s youngest players connected for a goal. Carner dished the ball in front of the net to seventh-grade attack Danielle Pavinelli, who scored for a 10-1 advantage.

Bay Shore tacked on another goal when an opponent beat out Northport eighth-grade goalkeeper Claire Morris. Labuskes followed with her fourth goal of the game, after clashing with two Bay Shore defenders and shooting over a cluster of defenders while sliding into the turf, and Bay Shore scored again to bring the score to 11-3.

“I think the defense has come a long way,” Rose said of her team. “They’ve been experimenting with three or four different types of defenses and they’re finally comfortable with a couple of them.”

Labuskes scored her fifth goal of the game off an assist by senior midfielder and co-captain Victoria D’Amato. After a Bay Shore goal, Pavinelli tallied the final goal of the game on a bounce shot with 23 seconds left on the clock.

Heading into playoffs, Rose would like to see her team focus on winning more draws and limiting the turnovers, but she’s confident in her Tigers, who finished the regular season 12-4 overall with an 11-3 mark in Division I.

“We only had three loses in the regular season — they were close, and I think it’s anybody’s game,” Rose said of heading into the postseason. “Whoever plays with the most head, heart and hustle will come out on top.”

The No. 3-seeded Tigers will face off against the winner of Saturday’s No. 6 Ward Melville versus No. 11 Half Hollow Hills game at home on Tuesday, May 19. The opening draw is scheduled for 4 p.m.

Like her coach, Labuskes is sure her team has what it takes to make a run this postseason.

“It feels deserved,” Labuskes said of the win. “I think this team can do whatever we want it to do. I think we have the potential to go all the way if we want to put the work in and if we want it that bad.”

Luis Antonio Fernandez leads the pack for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With twice the number of athletes, Northport’s boys’ track and field team dominated the League II meet on its home track Tuesday to win the meet 105-20.

Sam Augustin leaps over the hurdle for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon
Sam Augustin leaps over the hurdle for Northport. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country head coach George Royce said that most of the districts’ athletes come from Newfield, so a venue change earlier in the year adversely affected his team.

“At the very beginning of the season the athletic director moved us to Centereach, so a lot of our athletes [from Newfield] just didn’t come out for the team,” Royce said. “The Newfield kids didn’t want to take the bus over, and we lost quite a few good athletes, so we’re really short.”

Short or not, finishing fifth for Middle Country in the 3,200-meter run was sophomore Luis Antonio Fernandez, a second-year varsity runner who had never competed in the event before.

“We only had one kid in it and I already ran the 1,600 and I wasn’t feeling that good for the 800,” Fernandez said. “So I wanted to wait a little bit so I could recover.”

Northport freshman Isaih Claiborne was at the head of the pack for the 3,200, and stayed with the leader, making big kicks down the final 200-meter stretch to cross the finish line at 11 minutes, 36.3 seconds.

Crossing the finish line first in the 1,600 was a tie between Northport senior Michael Cossaro and junior Sam Napoli, who both finished in 4:59.03.

Northport head coach Bob Burkley said his team’s victory was due to the number of competitors his team fielded this day. Burkley has been coaching for years and also noted that he coached Middle Country’s head coach back in 1974.

“The team aspect is what won it for us,” Burkley said. “It was a team effort because they ran in groups, and that was the key.”

Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon
Denzel Williams competes in the long jump for Middle Country. Photo by Bill Landon

Middle Country standout Denzel Williams, a junior, is a premier sprinter and one of the fastest kids in League II, according to his coach. While he believes Chris Weiner is the best pole-vaulter in the league.

Williams, who won the 100 in 11.6,  said that the running conditions weren’t the best, as he ran slower than his personal best of 11.2.

“The wind affected me — it was a long bus ride here and I didn’t get a good warm up,” said Williams, who specializes in the 100, 200 and long jump events.

With the win, Northport improved to 2-1, while Middle Country dropped to 0-3.

Despite the strong athletes Royce has, the coach said his team has a tough time filling the roster to compete against the bigger teams.

“We’re very young, with only one senior and we have talent, but we’re small and have trouble competing against these larger schools,” he said.

Middle Country will host Sachem North on Tuesday at 4 p.m., and Northport will travel to Connetquot Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.