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Warriors

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Sean Kennedy, Richie Lacalandra score three goals each to knot the game at 7-7

A Warriors run from the end of the second quarter to the middle of the fourth turned a 6-1 deficit into a 7-7 tie, but a final faceoff loss proved costly for the No. 3-seeded Comsewogue boys lacrosse team, as it fell 8-7 to No. 3 East Islip in the Class B semifinals May 23.

“I think the team was just a little nervous at first because of how big of a game it was,” said junior Sean Kennedy, who scored three goals in the contest. “Because usually we’re a really good first-half team.”

The Warriors defense struggled to clear the ball early, going 0-5 on first-half attempts, with the Redmen scoring on three of those turnovers.

But by the end of the second quarter Comsewogue started to figure it out.

“I felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

— Richie Lacalandra

“Once we settled down and we figured out the clear, we came storming back,” Comsewogue head coach Pete Mitchell said. “A lot of these kids have been through a lot of hard things in their lives and to see them come out and compete the way they did is tremendous. Especially the seniors, they’re a wonderful group of kids.”

Senior Richie Lacalandra scored the final goal of the first half to break East Islip’s six goal scoring streak and start a 4-0 Warriors scoring spurt. Junior Thomas Heyder scored on an over-the-shoulder and behind-the-back shot to start the second half, and Kennedy found the cage before Lacalandra’s goal that pulled the Warriors within one, 6-5, to end scoring for the third.

After an East Islip goal, Kennedy scored from 30 yards out for his third of the game, and Lacalandra added his hat trick goal from the same spot to tie it 7-7 with 7:10 left to play.

“On that play I just thought to myself, ‘I had the short stick on me, and there was a lane to shoot,’ so I stepped in and let it go,” Lacalandra said. “It felt good to be out there — we were chipping away at the score. If we didn’t come out slow at first I think there would’ve been a different outcome.”

Goalkeeper Thomas Heller said a halftime pep talk lifted his team’s spirits. He added he spoke to his defense about shaking off the nerves and looking at the second half like a new game. The junior said Kennedy and Lacalandra’s burst of power propelled the team.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle, It shows we fight to the end.”

— Thomas Heller

“Those two kids never quit on themselves,” he said. “And in big situations, they excel.”

The goalkeeper made two saves within a minute to keep the teams in a stalemate, but East Islip did the same on the other end.

“I was seeing the ball well and my defense was giving me good looks,” Heller said. “Our plan against East Islip was to keep our heads on a swivel, stop transitions and keep our sticks in the passing lane, because we knew they liked to feed the cutter, so we tried to eliminate that as much as possible.”

John Sidorski scored his fourth goal of the game with 47 seconds left for East Islip, which won the final faceoff. Comsewogue called timeout and pulled Heller for another man on the field to pressure the Redmen, but came up short, getting the ball back and into East Islip’s zone just as time expired.

“I think for my team to come back and score six goals shows a lot of heart and hustle,” Heller said. “It shows we fight to the end.”

Mitchell said he was proud to say that no matter how many curveballs were thrown at his team, and through all the doubt this season, his Warriors showed why they bear the name.

“You get bad bounces in life, you’ve got to deal with it and you’ve got to bounce back — and if I taught them that one thing then I’ve done my job,” Mitchell said. “We had a shot at the end, but their goalie made a great save. It shows a lot of character, and it’s why we call ourselves the Warriors – we never give up.”

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue almost called it a comeback. The girls lacrosse team trimmed a four-goal deficit to one in the final minutes of a first-round Class B playoff game against visiting East Islip May 18, and despite winning possession on the final draw with 20 seconds left, the Warriors failed to find the net, falling 9-8.

“We have awesome players with amazing speed — our seniors Hannah [Dorney] and Brianna [Blatter] stepped up, they played a hell of a game,” Comsewogue head coach Jaqueline Wilkom said. “We had to win that draw and push it down toward the net at the end, but unfortunately the game didn’t end in our favor.”

Dorney, a University of Notre Dame-bound senior, won possession and Comsewogue called timeout with 20 seconds on the clock. With time for one last shot, the Warriors turned the ball over and the Redmen recovered and let the clock run down.

“We’re very young — we have five middle-schoolers and only four seniors,” Dorney said. “We had two key players out for most of the year, so for a while we were a little lost.”

The senior, who came into the game second among Suffolk County scorers with 85 points, four behind Northport’s Olivia Carner, found the net four times and assisted on a goal in her final Comsewogue lacrosse game. She finished the first half with a hat trick, scoring twice on penalty shots and once off an assist from junior attack Julia Fernandes. Her third goal closed the gap to one, 4-3, and even with No. 5-seeded East Islip countering with two goals in just over a minute’s time, No. 4 Comsewogue came back to keep the deficit the same, with the Warriors down 6-5 at the halftime break.

After the Redmen tallied two more scores to start the second, a Comsewogue penalty put the Warriors at even more of a disadvantage, as East Islip capitalized on the opportunity to go up 9-5. Sophomore Olivia Fantigrossi scored her second goal, freshman Nelida Watson assisted Fernandes’ second and Dorney scored on another penalty shot to give the game its final score with 29 seconds left.

“We pump each other up from the sidelines, and our bonding in practice is what helped us get this far,” Dorney said. “We’re a family.”

Mustangs earn No. 1 seed in Class C postseason bracket, which begins May 23 for Mount Sinai. Comsewogue claims No. 2 seed and begins B qualifier play in semis May 23.

Mount Sinai boys lacrosse team members pile up on Tyler Gatz after he scored a buzzer-beating game-winning goal for sole possession of the Division II title. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Tyler Gatz took home the Division II title for Mount Sinai.

With the Mustangs down 3-2 in the final minutes, the freshman midfielder assisted on classmate Brendon Ventarola’s game-tying shot before scoring the go-ahead goal as the buzzer sounded for a 4-3 home win over Comsewogue May 11.

Mount Sinai’s Tyler Gatz looks to get around Comsewogue’s Karl Lacalandra. Photo by Bill Landon

The game-winning play called for the ball to end up in the stick of senior JoJo Pirreca, but Gatz said he saw an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.

“The play was sideways,” the freshman said. “I saw that they over-pursued me, so I put the stick in my left hand, got top side and just let it go.”

Mount Sinai was tied with Islip at 12-1 atop the league leaderboard heading into Friday’s game. Harborfields and Comsewogue were tied for second (10-2), but the Tornadoes took down Islip earlier in the evening (13-7) to leave the Mustangs to battle it out with the Warriors for sole possession.

“Comsewogue played great defense tonight — they did a great job, so I feel fortunate that we were able to get this win,” Mount Sinai head coach Harold Drumm said. “It’s easy when you win 10-1, but [we were] playing a tough team and things [were] not going our way. Our team showed it had a lot of heart, and that’s what tells you if you have a team or not.”

Comsewogue attack Richie Lacalandra gets checked by Mount Sinai’s Matt Ventarola. Photo by Bill Landon

After a scoreless first quarter, Comsewogue senior Anthony Passarella broke the ice, and juniors Chris Wolfe and Sean Kennedy scored next to give the Warriors a 3-0 lead with 4:11 remaining until the halftime break. Known for its stout defense, Comsewogue remained solid until eighth-grader Joseph Spallina’s solo shot rocked the back of the cage to end of the quarter.

Not wanting his age to be paired with inexperience, the team’s scoring leader proved his prowess when he struck again four minutes into the third on an assist from junior Dominic Boscarino to pull his team within one, 3-2.

“When we were down 3-1 we really weren’t moving the ball,” said Spallina, who ranks seventh among all Suffolk scorers with 76 points on 34 goals and 42 assists.

The freshman said his team wanted to take it slow, thinking back to the lone loss of the season, a 10-9 defeat at the hands of Islip April 11, and wanted to redeem that loss by taking sole possession of the division crown. Comsewogue went a man-down on three separate occasions and Mount Sinai was unable to capitalize.

Mount Sinai’s Joseph Spallina drives past Comsewogue defenseman Zach Gagnon. Photo by Bill Landon

The tables turned when Spallina was flagged for an infraction and served a one-minute penalty to close out the third, and his team again went a man-down with under three minutes left in the fourth, but Comsewogue couldn’t find the net.

“We had one devastating loss against a really good team,” Spallina said of the loss to Islip. “So we were thinking, ‘Just make one stop at a time.’”

Mount Sinai gained possession with less than 40 seconds left and moved the ball around the cage to let time tick off, allowing for just one last shot before a looming overtime period, which is when Gatz made his move.

“They play hard, they’re very well-coached,” Drumm said of Comsewogue. “We know they have great athletes on the field and we knew we had to tighten up a little in the crease, and even down 3-1 we [knew we’d have] opportunities on offense. We needed to keep believing, so I just tried to stay the course.”

The Mustangs earn the No. 1 seed with the win. Mount Sinai will host the winner of Thursday’s matchup between No. 4 Shoreham-Wading River and No. 5 Sayville in the Class C semifinals May 23 at 4 p.m. Comsewogue, the No. 2 seed, will compete in the Class B semifinals , hosting the winner of the No. 3 East Islip and No. 6 Half Hollow Hills West game May 23 at 4 p.m.

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By Bill Landon

Comsewogue’s Ejim Nnate eliminated every would-be threat as she swept all four of her track and field events in the Warriors’ 90-60 win at Bellport May 8.

Of her victories, her 33-10 leap in the triple jump and 16-6.75 mark in the long jump were personal bests.

The biggest improvement was in the Warriors’ 4×100-yard relay time. Although second to Bellport’s 49 seconds, the Comsewogue quartet of senior Gabrielle Griffin, junior Gabrielle Savage, sophomore Sabrina Donoghue and freshman Brianna Quartararo finished in 51.4 seconds off its average time of 53. 

“Our 4×100 relay today is a season-best for us,” head coach Matt Brown said. 

The relay team owns the school record and finished sixth at the St. Anthony’s Invitational May 5. According to Brown, the girls are ranked sixth in the county.

Daniella Barchi, who came in eighth in the 1,500 race-walk at the invitational, won the event against Bellport by shaving two seconds off her time for a personal record. Before the Top 10 county race-walker finished a 7:26 time, she ran a 7:28 Saturday.

“I was definitely nervous, because the race-walk is my main event,” Barchi said. “Surprisingly, after competing in the 1,500 run, I felt ready to go. I said, ‘I can do this right now,’ I was so pumped.”

Quartararo, who ran four events, is currently the school record holder in the 400. She finished fourth in the event at the St. Anthony’s Invitational.

Griffin is ranked second in the county in the 400 hurdles, eighth in the 100 dash and 15th in the 200 dash, according to Brown. She is hoping for a shot at qualifying for the state championship in the 400 hurdles in addition to the relay.

The Warriors improve to 4-1 with one meet remaining in the regular season. Brown, who said he’s expecting better jumps for his team in the future, said Comsewogue will have its hands full when the team travels to North Babylon (4-0-1) May 10 at 4 p.m. If the Warriors win, they’ll be in a two-way tie for first in League IV with West Islip (5-1).

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Richie Lacalandra cuts to the cage. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Behind the sticks of Richie Lacalandra and Chris Wolfe, Comsewogue powered past Half Hollow Hills West 13-7 April 27 despite a third-quarter scare.

The pair combined for eight goals and five assists, with Wolfe helping the Warriors regain the advantage by scoring his hat trick and fourth scores on feeds from junior T.J. Heyder (one goal, three assists) after Hills West rallied for three unanswered goals to close the gap 7-6 in the third. Lacalandra received an assist from Heyder and a pass from senior Sean Power in the fourth for his third and fourth goals of the game.

Chris Wolfe drives past a defender. Photo by Bill Landon

“[When they closed within two] we had to tighten up our defense — the offense was stalling a little bit so we had to work the ball around and attack the short [stick offensive players],” said Wolfe, a junior. “We knew they were missing one of their better defenders too, so we had to attack the weaker poles and try to get men open when we drew double [coverage].”

The Warriors’ defense had shut the door on the Colts before the flurry, holding them to three goals in the first half. Sophomore Tom Heller made 11 stops between the pipes. Head coach Pete Mitchell said his University of Albany-bound goalkeeper was facing some of the strongest offensive attackers in Suffolk County.

“They were everything we thought they would be — they have great shooters, great plays,” Heller said. “We watched film, saw the passing lanes, we kept our sticks up, knocked down a lot of passes and as a team our performance was outstanding.”

Lacalandra (four goals, four assists) said a well-timed break in the action helped his team regain its composure.

“When they closed [within] two goals coach called timeout and told us we have to pick up the intensity; they’re getting close,” the senior said. “Our offense picked it up — we began to click and we put in three or four right away.”

Power and Heyder scored goals in the final minutes. Junior Sean Kennedy finished with two goals and two assists.

Sean Kennedy passes to a cutter. Photo by Bill Landon

The Warriors improve to 8-2 in Division II behind No. 2 Mount Sinai and undefeated Islip.

With four games left in the regular season, Stony Brook University-bound Lacalandra said his team’s strategy to prepare for the postseason is simple.

“We want to win out,” he said. “We want the top seed, so if we can win out we’ll be in good shape.”

Mitchell, although pleased with his team’s performance on the night, said his Warriors will have their hands full, and it’ll take a total team effort as the temperature begins to rise. Comsewogue hosts Bayport-Blue Point (7-3) May 2 at 7 p.m. before traveling to Eastport-South Manor (5-5) May 5 for a 6:30 p.m. matchup. The Warriors will close out the season with a home game against Sayville and an away game at Mount Sinai.

“Richie Lacalandra is very dangerous, so they paid a lot of attention to him, but so long as our other guys — Sean Power, Anthony Passarella, Chris Wolfe and Nick Donnelly — are producing, we’re a little more well-rounded,” the coach said. “We have four games left and they’re all against very strong opponents, so we’ll need to stay in shape, stay focused, eliminate mistakes. It’s going to get hotter, so we’ve got to play more people, so the guys who haven’t been getting the runs, we’re going to need ‘em, so they’ve got to be ready.”

Mount Sinai's Morgan Mitchell races downfield with Comewogue's Mia Fernandes pushing her toward the right sideline. Photo by Desirée Keegan

By Desirée Keegan

The Mustangs chanted in the huddle: “unleash the madness.”

Fueled with fire following its first loss in 21 games, the Mount Sinai girls lacrosse team amped up the intensity to clobber visiting Comsewogue 15-2 April 23.

After being down 6-0 in the first half of a loss to Bayport-Blue Point last Friday, the girls knew they had to come out firing.

Mount Sinai’s Emma Tyrrell passes the ball. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“We realized we can’t take any team lightly,” said junior attack Morgan Mitchell. “We have to play each game like it’s our last one; stay focused and keep our eye on the prize.”

She kept that concentration in the draw circle, flicking the ball toward the sideline instead of up or down the field, so that sophomore midfielder Jenny Markey could scoop it up. Markey boxed out Comsewogue’s Hannah Dorney for crucial minutes of possession that led to two of her three goals in the first five minutes of the game.

“I know I was going against a strong opponent in Hannah Dorney — I had to box her out first so she doesn’t get it, because she’s strong in the circle,” Markey said. “When I boxed her our I knew I have the ball. If we match other team’s intensity we can play with anyone.”

Mount Sinai began double-teaming the Warriors ball carrier once they finally got possession and forced 17 turnovers in the first half. After Comsewogue’s Julia Fernandes scored off a Dorney assist to cut Mount Sinai’s lead to 4-1, senior Camryn Harloff began to attack, scoring two straight of her game-best four goals to up the advantage. Mitchell assisted on two of them as the Mustangs scored five times in a 15 minute span.

Mount Sinai’s Meaghan Scutaro shoots while Comsewogue’s Ava Fernandes (on left) and Hannah Dorney reach to block her. Photo by Desirée Keegan

“I like being in the middle, and Morgan and I work really well together,” said Harloff, who’s heading to the NCAA’s No. 1-ranked team, Stony Brook University, in the fall. “When her older sister [Kasey Mitchell] was on the team I worked well with her, too. We just click.”

Kasey Mitchell, an Stony Brook lacrosse player currently, and Harloff will be teammates again soon.

Mount Sinai spread out the assault with senior attack Meaghan Tyrrell also scoring a hat trick, and her younger sister Emma adding two goals and an assist. Twin defenders Meaghan and Kirsten Scutaro picked up the pace to get to slides that blocked Comsewogue from getting close to the cage the rest of the way.

“I think we bounced back from our loss, which we really needed,” Harloff said. “I think we met their intensity, and I think we played as a team.”

Behind head coach Al Bertolone who eclipsed 100 career wins with a 14-7 triumph over Christian Brothers Academy April 16, Mount Sinai moves to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in Division II. The Mustangs travel to Sayville April 26 for a 4:30 p.m. game.

“We have to take it play by play and realize how we got ourselves here,” Mitchell said. “It’s focusing on those little things. We set the bar so high, and we need to continue to reach it.”

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By Bill Landon

The rackets of Comsewogue boys tennis team’s doubles players did the talking in a 5-2 takedown of Patchogue-Medford April 13.

Tyler Petruzzi and Srikar Ananthoju eliminated their opponents 6-3, 7-5 for the first of five points in the match at first doubles.

Petruzzi, a team captain who is a consecutive All-League player, said  although he welcomed the warmer weather, the wind presented a challenge.

“We were able to push some balls really deep and that made for some easy volleys at the net.”

— Tyler Petruzzi

“It was definitely easier to push up because of the wind — that was also pushing a lot of balls back our way,” he said. “We were able to push some balls really deep and that made for some easy volleys at the net.”

Ananthoju had competed in singles in the first match of the year against Pat-Med, recently making the switch to doubles.

“I hit my first serves pretty well, but I would have to say we can play better position and we need to focus on strategy,” Ananthoju said.

Head coach Mike Taheny said his first and second double pairings have been the core of the team.

“In order to win, my doubles teams need to sweep, and my doubles do a good job at that,” Taheny said. “My one and two I don’t think have lost yet this season, and my third doubles is a work in progress, but I think they’ll be fine.”

Senior Alan Smith partnered with sophomore Yash Diwan to win in second doubles play 6-4, 6-1.

“They tried to lob it over to us, and it was easy gets they wind would push right back on the ball,” Smith said of his Pat-Med challengers. “I thought we smashed the ball well today.”

“In order to win, my doubles teams need to sweep, and my doubles do a good job at that.”

— Mike Taheny

Diwan thought he played better in the warmer weather, but said he served lighter to stay safe in the wind.

“It was really good weather today,” Diwan said. “My and Alan’s volleys were really on point today.”

Taheny said because of the strength of other singles players in League VI, especially in Pat-Med and Middle Country, and all-around talent at Port Jeff, his team begins each match at a disadvantage.

“We are a bit overmatched at first singles,” he said. “So when we play them, we’re down 1-0 to start — that’s challenging. If we can win out with doubles, we’ll be in a good position. I’m not saying we can’t beat those teams or are going to get blown out, but it’s going to be a competitive match.”

Anthony Romano was the bright spot for the Warriors at second singles, besting his opponent 6-2, 6-3. Taheny said Romano is a solid player for him, predicting his junior will captain the team next year.

Aneish Kompally took a 6-4, 7-3 victory and Ryan Swenning a 6-0, 6-1 win in singles for Comsewogue.

Now at 3-3, the Warriors hit the road to take on Bellport April 18 at 4 p.m.

By Rich Acritelli

Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said: “The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.”

Former Port Jefferson Station teacher and coach Tom Hespos holds the words of Lombardi near and dear to him, even reciting them to his former business class students at Comsewogue High School. A three-sport athlete, Hespos had the honor of playing for Lombardi in 1964 before being cut from the Packers’ training team.

Tom Hespos playing for C.W. Post. Photo from Rich Acritelli

Raised in North Bergen, New Jersey, the quarterback and linebacker gained local success for more than his skills on the gridiron. He played baseball and basketball and was coached in the Babe Ruth League by his father, who was also a noted semiprofessional pitcher for the Jersey Blue Sox. Hespos’ mother was known for playing competitive softball.

During his senior year at St. Joseph of the Palisades High School, he captained his football team and performed well, but didn’t see as much time behind two of northern New Jersey’s top quarterbacks. Hespos turned down the chance to toss his mean curveball for the Boston Red Sox and headed to what was then called C.W. Post on scholarship where he played football and majored in business administration.

As a freshman, Hespos blossomed to 6’2’’, 205 pounds and quickly found the Pioneers wanted to take advantage of his passing skills. He took over as starting quarterback his sophomore year and was known for his 80-yard passes downfield.

During a 1964 contest, C.W. Post upset Northeastern University, defeating them 31-10. It was in that game Hespos, then a senior, made history, becoming the first quarterback in school history to reach 400 passing yards in a single game. He completed 22 of 30 passes and threw four touchdowns in the win. By the end of his collegiate career, he also amassed more than 2,000 passing yards, also a first. That year he was selected to the All-Eastern College Athletic Conference Small College Team and the Little All-America Team. He was named the team’s Most Valuable Player in 1963 and 1964 and was captain in 1964. Hespos was the first quarterback to lead C.W. Post to a victory over arch-rival Hofstra University in 1963.

Hespos was said to inspire his team to achieve the Hofstra win, but he credited his teammates.

“They made few mistakes, accepted a team-first mentality,” he said. “I appreciated the big linemen that the coaches placed on the offensive line to adequately protect me.”

For years, Hespos held all of the quarterback records for the Pioneers, that is, until Glen Cove-native Gary
Wichard entered the picture. Wichard was a two-time All-American, professional quarterback for the Baltimore Colts and  was a famous sports agent, who was said to be the inspiration for the main character in the movie Jerry Maguire. 

“They call it coaching, but it is teaching. You do not just tell them … you show them the reasons.”

— Vince Lombardi

Following his senior season, Hespos received letters from professional American and Canadian football organizations inquiring about signing him to a free agent deal. He ended up choosing the Packers, and signed with a modest bonus before being invited to training camp.

Lombardi, a Brooklyn native and former member of the Fordham University football team coached football and basketball at St. Cecilia High School, where he also taught Latin and physics, not far from Hespos’ roots in North Bergen. The coach attended every meeting between the offensive coaches and the quarterbacks, and Hespos recalled the stature of this respected teacher, noting he was “demanding,” and that he expected all his players to “produce.”  

“He had an agile memory that knew everything about every player that was on the field,” Hespos said.

The Port Jefferson Station teacher threw passes next to future Hall of Famer Bart Starr. One of seven quarterbacks invited to train, he was ultimately cut behind Starr’s backup Zeke Bratkowski.

After he left Green Bay, Hespos played for a minor league football organization within the Atlantic Coast League. He was signed by the Jersey City Jets, which had former players that also had professional experience in United States and Canada.

Like at C.W. Post, Hespos was a key member of his squad and helped it win a league championship.  After injuring his shoulder for a second time, Hespos was forced to put his football career behind him. By 1969, he began working at John F. Kennedy High School on Jane Boulevard in Port Jefferson Station. Well before this school received the name Comsewogue Warriors, Hespos coached the Spartans in football, baseball and basketball. In the early 1970s, he was hired to coach football in Sea Cliff for North Shore High School. While this was a long distance from his regular job, this position allowed Hespos the opportunity to coach with his teammates from C.W. Post, who he’d also formed with in a doo-wop group called Spider and the Webs. The group performed in the same venues that also featured The Times and The Duprees. In 1965, they sang at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadow. Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller recognized the spirit of the group with a certificate.

During Hespos’ three years with North Shore, he helped lead the team to three league titles and a county championship.

Tom Hespos wearing his old Spiders & Webs T-shirt. Photo from Rich Acritelli

In 1975, Hespos began coaching Comsewogue’s varsity baseball team, which instantly became one of the most competitive teams in the county. By 1982, his program reached the pinnacle of excellence with a 27-4 record and winning the state title. Over seven years, Hespos’ teams, which won five league titles, a county title ad Long Island crown before the state nod, regularly won more than 80 percent of its games.

Following the state win, Hespos left coaching to begin Greenway Lawn Sprinklers, which serviced homes from Port Jefferson Station to Montauk and Orient Point.

Hespos’ athletic prowess was further awarded when he was inducted into six halls of fame, including the Hudson County, New Jersey and C.W. Post athletic halls of fame. His 1982 baseball team is also recognized on the Comsewogue Wall of Honor.

“They call it coaching, but it is teaching,” Hespos said recalling the words of Lombardi. “You do not just tell them … you show them the reasons.”

He said even before meeting his acclaimed Packers coach he was moved to become a teacher from some of his former ones.

“I will always remember the coaches and the mentors I had back then,” he said. “The coaches I had at St. Joseph challenged me, motivated me and inspired me.”

Hespos moved to Wading River before heading down to Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he still lives. He is a father of two and grandfather of six, and enjoys fishing, playing golf and watching the New York Mets at their minor league baseball complex.

Rich Acritelli is a social studies teacher at Rocky Point High School and an adjunct professor of American history at Suffolk County Community College.

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Cameron McNicol fires at the cage during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

One week into practice, head coach Pete Mitchell is liking what he’s seeing from his Warriors, showing the depth he hopes can carry Comseowgue into the postseason.

Seniors Richia Lacalandra on offense and Zach Gagnon on defense have filled the shoes left by Will Snelders and Ryan Dorney, and junior Thomas Heller will remain between the pipes this year.

Tom Heller makes a save during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

“This year, there’s a lot of competition,” Mitchell said, noting that he puts a lot of faith in his mostly-returning offensive unit and new faceoff taker Cameron MacNicol.

“He’s very good,” Mitchell said of MacNicol. “[We have] a good mix. We’ll be a lot deeper — we have a lot more kids — and I think that was one of our faults last year.”

Even as snow puts practice indoors, Lacalandra said the team is working hard.

“Coach is getting us there — we’re running every day, we’re getting bigger, stronger, faster; that’s key,” the Stony Brook University-bound four-year varsity player said. “As that happens, the play will come. The team has chemistry, and [I believe] we’ll get it done this year.”

Last year, Mitchell said few people expected the Warriors to make the postseason with a 7-9 record, let alone battle Eastport-South Manor in the Suffolk County Class B semifinal round. He thinks with his stronger defensive unit, especially with the blocking skills of his midfielders, the Warriors’ chances are that much higher.

“I have probably two of the best defensive middies that I’ve ever had in Reno Molina and John Felice, who is actually my backup goalie — he’s one of the fastest human beings I’ve ever seen,” said the coach adding junior Sean Kennedy will be another to watch.

Chris Spahr clears the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Gagnon said it’s been tough to be stuck in the gym, but said the team is focused on facing Kings Park in the first game of the season March 27.

“[We’ve] got a lot of young kids, a lot of talented kids who push each other hard,” he said. “We just have to stay after it, keep our eyes on the prize. We need to be smooth, clean things up a little bit [because] some things are still a little sloppy, we have to start talking more, but besides that I think we look good.”

Heller, a University at Albany-commit, said his team will never settle with where it’s at until hoisting up a championship trophy.

“Everyone’s hustling — we’ve got a solid offense, we’re moving the ball well on defense and [creating those passing lanes],” he said, adding he sees Half Hollow Hills West being stiff competition, but likes Comsewogue’s chances. “I think we’ll beat them.”

Mitchell said he’s pleased with the dedication he’s seen so far, and seeing his team not take any practice lightly will provide good results out on the field.

“Everybody’s on their ‘A’ game,” Mitchell said. “We’ll be prepared [for that first game]. These kids know what Comsewogue lacrosse means to the school and to this community. When you play Comsewogue you know you’re going to play a lacrosse game.”

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Hannah Manetta. Photo by Jim Ferchland

By Jim Ferchland

The Warriors came up short against the cream of the crop for the second time this season, as the No. 2 Comsewogue girls bowling team fell to No.1 East Islip, 3-0. The Redmen clinched the conference title and improve to 9-0 in League III.

“They’re a great team,” Comsewogue 12-year head coach Bo Frimmer said, noting East Islip’s 11 county titles. “They’ve won states before. We are trying to get to that point. This is always who we try to beat every year. Coming into the match, we thought had a shot, and we did. We just didn’t close.”

Colleen McInerney. Photo by Jim Ferchland

The Redmen won each game by over 100 pins, with two bowlers exceeding 225 during the games. Junior Julianna Spina recorded a 256, and classmate Jenny Murphy scored 226 as East Islip took the games 1,043-935; 1,074-939; and 1,028-921.

“They work really, really hard,” East Islip head coach Harold Cooley said of his athletes. “They bowl all year round. They do what’s necessary to maintain where they are.”

Junior All-State bowler Hannah Manetta finished for the Warriors with 227 in Game 1, starting off the match with five strikes, a 234 in Game 2 and 246 in Game 3. Her consistent improvement led her to finish with the highest total score, a 707.

“Hannah bowled great,” Frimmer said. “Her goal for the year is to make the state team, which she did last year. She’s right on the cusp right now, so a day like today really helped her. It was a very important day for her.”

Senior Alex Gallo scored 202 in Game 1, 195 in Game 2 and 175 in Game 3. Sophomore Colleen McInerney bowled a 163, 153 and 163. Before the match, her average was a 177.

Alex Gallo. Photo by Jim Ferchland

“With East Islip, you’ve got to focus on making your spares,” McInerney said. “You have to put your head in the game more. Usually, when we bowl, we’re having more fun, but with East Islip, it becomes real serious.”

While the Comsewogue girls were struggling in the first two games, Frimmer spoke to his team about making the spare opportunities count, saying they can’t miss them in key situations.

“It’s the game of bowling,” Frimmer said. “You’re going to make your runs with your strikes, and if you don’t make your spares, it’s gonna kill your score.”

East Islip has been league champion since 2014. Two years ago, Comsewogue fell to East Islip by just three pins.

“We don’t usually beat them,” Manetta said. “We always come in second place in our league. I wasn’t expecting it to be easy. I wanted to show them that we are second in the league and we weren’t going down without a fight.”

Coming off a loss, Comsewogue has one more match before counties, and Gallo isn’t worried one bit. The Warriors traveled to Islip Jan. 17, but results were not available by press time.

“I have full confidence,” Gallo said. “I have no doubt in my team. If you feel confident, that’s the only way you’re gonna win.”

Comsewogue head coach Bo Frimmer explains to his team the importance of making spares against East Islip. Photo by Jim Ferchland

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