Newfield’s Riley Firenze tries to score on a wild pitch as Northport pitcher Jamie Gould covers the plate. Photo by Steven Zaitz

By Steven Zaitz

Getting off the bus, deuces were not very wild for the Newfield softball team last Friday.

The Wolverines dropped their first two games by a combined score of 20-6 and were in an early 2-0 hole against Northport on the road. It has been a full trip around the sun of futility for the Lady Wolverines as they had lost 14 games in a row dating back to last season — a streak that started exactly one year prior,  April 5, 2023 with a 12-9 loss to crosstown Centereach.

To make matters worse, the Wolverines ran themselves out of a potential big inning in the first when they had runners on first and third with no outs but failed to score.

But a three-run third, ignited by ninth-place hitter Emily Wall, gave Newfield its first lead of the season. The very long and ugly worm that was this 14-game losing streak was starting to turn. 

Senior starting pitcher Riley Firenze, who wears the number two on her back, shut the Lady Tigers down for the rest of the game, allowing only two hits after the second inning and striking out four. Newfield tacked on four runs late and secured a 7-2 victory – their first since starting the 2023 season 2-0.

“Getting this win was tremendous for our team and for the future of this season,” said Wolverine head coach Amanda Catapano. “Sometimes all it takes is that one win to get back into the groove and back to playing the softball that we know our girls can play.”

In addition to her monumental mound work, Firenze was the hitting star of the game. She had two doubles and a triple against Lady Tiger starting pitcher Jamie Gould. 

“I enjoy watching our team work hard,” said Firenze. “We are growing and improving every day.”

Despite taking the losses against Lindenhurst and Connetquot, Firenze’s stuff was on-point against the Tigers.

“Riley was locked-down on the mound after allowing those two early runs,” said Catapano. “She showed great speed and spin on the mound and she and Teresa Cotty called a wonderful game behind the plate helping to keep Northport batters on their heels using many off-speed pitches at the perfect times.”

Cotty, the cleanup-hitting catcher, had two hits and two RBIs on the day.

For Northport, only two of Gould’s runs allowed were earned, but she dealt with a lot of traffic on the basepaths, giving up 11 hits. 

Left Fielder Lilly McCabe had a two-RBI single that knocked in Jillian Ryan and Gabby Smith-Centero. 

Gabby Weissman had a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning and Kiera Murphy made a sparkling play in right field to end the third inning. 

The Tigers had another setback on Saturday against West Babylon, but they hope to eclipse their three-game skid on Monday against Smithtown East. Newfield plays on Thursday against Sachem North, looking for two wins in a row. 

– Photos by Steven Zaitz

Centereach High School junior Keegan Klein's selected artwork. Photo courtesy MCCSD

Centereach High School is proud to announce that junior Keegan Klein’s artwork has been selected to be featured in the prestigious Long Island’s Best Young Artists Exhibit at The Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. 

Centereach High School junior Keegan Klein with his selected artwork.
Photo courtesy MCCSD

The exhibit will be on display from March 23 to May 5, showcasing the talent and creativity of young artists from across Long Island.

“Keegan’s art being selected for the Long Island Best Young Artists exhibit is a true testament to his talent and dedication,” said Shelby Petruzzo, Centereach High School’s art teacher. “His creativity and passion have truly shone through in his work, and I am excited to see where his artistic journey takes him next.”

Klein’s artwork was chosen from over 450 submissions from high schools all over Long Island. Of all the submissions, only 87 works were selected to be a part of this esteemed exhibit, making Klein’s achievement even more remarkable.

The Long Island’s Best Young Artists Exhibit at The Heckscher Museum celebrates the artistic talent and dedication of young artists in the region. Klein’s selection is a testament to his skill, vision and hard work as a budding artist.

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ achievements, visit the district’s website at

Centereach Civic Association emblem. Photo courtesy Centereach Civic Association

By Nasrin Zahed

Centereach Civic Association’s first meeting of the year Tuesday, Jan. 9, sought to discuss how the civic intends to conduct meetings going forward, ongoing development projects, education funding challenges and initiatives underscored by community well-being. State Assemblymen Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) along with Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden) expressed their commitment to serving Middle Country residents. Their aim to align economic interests with community welfare set the tone for collaborative efforts.

The evening kicked off with civic members addressing the merger of the Centereach Civic Association with the Selden Civic Association meetings going forward. The decision underlines a commitment to inclusivity and a desire to streamline communication channels throughout the Middle Country community. This approach aims at fostering increased participation, particularly for those members who find it challenging to commute to one central location. The dedication of the two civics to creating structured arrangements for joint sessions signifies a commitment to community engagement and a desire to address all areas their influence might reach.

Changes in meeting schedules and the strategic approach to alternating meeting locations between the Centereach Fire Department and the Selden Fire Department were discussed. 

Community member Katherine Yamaguchi took the floor to passionately discuss Contractors for Kids, her heartfelt advocacy painting a poignant picture of the organization’s unwavering commitment to supporting families in their most challenging moments. With a genuine admiration for Contractors for Kids’ mission to provide financial assistance during times of illness, injury or the tragic loss of a child, Yamaguchi eloquently described the impactful initiatives, including upcoming galas and community-driven fundraising efforts. Her narrative highlighted the organization not just as a charitable force but as a symbol of collective empathy and strength. 

The community is eagerly anticipating several upcoming development projects that promise to enhance the overall quality of life in the area. These initiatives span various sectors, including infrastructure, public safety and environmental conservation. Residents can look forward to improved road networks, upgraded drainage systems and the replacement of outdated guardrails, ensuring safer and more efficient travel. 

The commitment to restoring essential services, particularly in education and social services, reflects a dedication to the well-being of families and the broader community. Additionally, the focus on veterans initiatives, mental health services and support for Gold Star families that were discussed underscores a commitment to honoring and assisting those who have served their country. 

The civic association is set to receive a $5,000 refund in relation to the holiday seasons tree-lighting ceremony. The conversation around this financial matter involved deliberations on how to handle the refund, and led to an open discussion with the attending neighbors on how best to redistribute the funds back into the community.

Assemblymen Smith and Flood emphasized the need for increased preservation of Long Island farmland, acquiring development rights and engaging in sustainable aquaculture practices. The upcoming projects align with a vision of responsible growth that prioritizes environmental conservation. 

The assemblymen also discussed their dedication to Long Island schools and the work being done to restore and raise education budgets. With cuts being proposed throughout local school districts by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) 2024-25 budget, Smith and Flood both shared their commitment to representing communities such as Middle Country in their efforts to get state aid reinstated. The assemblymen went on to discuss how the taxes local Long Islanders pay is not proportional to the return received through state funding in necessary areas.

Overall, the Middle Country community is poised for positive transformations that will contribute to a more vibrant and inclusive future.

Shoreham-Wading River senior Alex Makarewicz battles his way to the rim in a road game against Centereach. Photo by Bill Landon

The Cougars of Centereach opened their season when they hosted the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats (0-2) where both teams looked to put a “W” in the win column in a nonleague matchup Tuesday night Dec. 5.

Shoreham-Wading River had lost to Smithtown Christian and Hampton Bays to begin their season. Although the Wildcats had a 10-point advantage in the final minute of play, the Cougars closed the gap in the timeout-riddled final 20 seconds, where Shoreham escaped with a 42-38 victory.

Centereach retakes the court Dec. 9 when they host their crosstown rival Newfield before league play begins Dec. 12.

The win lifts the Wildcats to 1-2 with two more nonleague matchups before they hit the road to take on Port Jefferson to begin league play Dec. 21.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Newfield struck first at home on the second play from scrimmage on a flea-flicker play that went 74-yards on a pass play to Kenny Petit Frere to break the ice against crosstown rival Centereach Saturday, Oct 7. 

It would be Newfield’s only points in the game as the Cougars went to work when LaRawn Robinson punched in from short yardage for the touchdown and finished it running in for the two-point conversion for the lead.

Centereach quarterback T.J. Doyle on a keeper found the end zone and, with a two-point run after, took a 16-7 lead into the locker room. Robinson, a wide receiver, threw to Jason Zaita on a 13-yard touchdown pass-play to open the second half to make it a three-score lead. Centereach senior running back Anthony Prince broke to the outside on a 12-yard run for his touchdown score and finished it by running in the two-pointer after, in the Cougar’s 32-7 victory in the Division II matchup.

— Photos by Bill Landon

Middle Country Public Library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips cuts the ribbon during the grand opening of the library’s new café. Photo by Raymond Janis

Middle Country Public Library, Centereach unveiled its new café Friday, Sept. 8, continuing an ongoing campaign expanding arts, education and cultural opportunities throughout the greater Middle Country area.

The new café offers freshly brewed coffee and craft espresso drinks from TEND Coffee and baked goods from JeJoJo Bagels of Centereach. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Library staff hosted community members and public officials for the grand opening ceremony. Library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips cut the ribbon to the cheers and adulation of the crowd.

“This café is part of a renovation we did for the entire library, which started in 2018,” she said. “We had a soft opening over the summer, but today was the official.”

Serlis-McPhillips highlighted the considerable public demand for a café space through the years, suggesting that the recent library renovations offer a suitable opportunity to embark upon the undertaking.

“We wanted to do that because it seemed like what the patrons and the community wanted,” the MCPL director said. “It is nice for people just to sit down and relax.”

She continued, “Unlike some other places, we are manning the staff. So we hire the staff and train them,” adding that the partnership with JeJoJo’s represents an ongoing effort by the library “to keep everything local.”

Along with the new café, MCPL offers a new maker space and a recording studio. Serlis-McPhillips noted how these innovations have “become part of our everyday operation.”

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa and Middle Country Public Library director Sophia Serlis-McPhillips celebrate the grand opening of the library’s café. Photo by Raymond Janis

Suffolk County Legislator Nick Caracappa (C-Selden), the majority leader of the county Legislature whose 4th District includes Centereach, congratulated library staff and patrons alike.

“This is just an exciting day for the residents of Middle County to have a facility like this,” he said. “We’ve always had beautiful libraries, but this just takes it up a notch.”

The majority leader highlighted how the new café plays into ongoing community revitalization efforts, with proposals for greater public investments and sewers. He maintained arts and cultural institutions such as MCPL as “vital” to the health and future prosperity of the community. 

“We should never overlook arts — whether they be from paintings to theatrics to … 3D printing,” he added. “The capabilities are unlimited for what we can do, and we have to keep that alive and well in our community.”

Town of Brookhaven Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden), who represents Centereach on the Town Board, was once a part-time employee at MCPL. He underscored the several transformations the facility has undergone since his departure.

“It’s just so heartwarming to see how much it’s growing and adapting to the times,” he said. “To see how much it’s growing and everything they do, it’s just amazing.”

Manzella expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities of sewers and for further community revitalization and commercial redevelopment. But as local government works toward those objectives, he said institutions like MCPL remain a “cornerstone” for residents.

“Anything that helps provide the arts, that helps provide outlets for any kind of entertainment or fun, the library is something that provides that,” the councilman said.

Adding to these sentiments, Serlis-McPhillips regarded the library as “central.”

“I definitely feel that we are in the heart of the community,” she said. “Our community supports the library a lot,” adding, “When we work together collectively, I think that makes a difference.”

By Aramis Khosronejad

At the historic Bethel Hobbs Community Farm, the last standing farm in Centereach, the 9th annual 4-mile Run the Farm event was held Saturday, Aug. 12. 

The run, initially created to help support the farm and its mission of supplying organic food to food pantries, has become an eclectic event for the local area, featuring participants who are competitive runners to casual strollers. 

Ann Pellegrino, president of the community farm, took pride in the success of the farm and the run. “The more hands we have, the more mouths we can feed,” she said. “It’s a community effort. Every year we’re just growing and growing.”

The run was originally an idea introduced by Brookhaven Town Clerk Kevin LaValle (R), who represented the area in District 3 on the Town Board from 2013 to 2023. Amid some financial struggles nine years ago, LaValle proposed organizing a run to raise money and introduced it to Pellegrino.

The farm “isn’t just something to remember our history by, but also something the community can rally behind and the mission of Hobbs Farm,” LaValle said. 

As a native of the hamlet, LaValle referred to Hobbs Farm as “the centerpiece of Centereach.” The run has been growing in popularity with each passing year. Now, it’s become a local staple.

“The run brings more awareness,” Pellegrino said. “It helps spread the word of what we’re doing, and people get interested.”

Town Councilman Neil Manzella (R-Selden) added to this sentiment. He attended the family-friendly event with his two children, who participated in the fun-run race. “For me, it’s about showing my kids what a community should be,” he said.

The event was replete with food stands and other activities. Suffolk County Comptroller John M. Kennedy (R) and his wife, county Legislator Leslie Kennedy (R-Nesconset), also joined the fun.

“We’ve attended many of the runs and also been here for some of the other events they host,” John Kennedy said, noting how much he and his family appreciate community events such as the run. He added that Hobbs Farm represents a “hidden jewel here in Centereach.”

Since 2008, Peter Castorano has been a member of Hobbs Farm as a volunteer, caretaker and tenant. Pellegrino considers him part of the farm family. 

“To work with Ann is great,” Castorano said. “She’s a superwoman, always doing something.” 

While reminiscing over how Hobbs Farm started, they began talking of the Rev. Gregory Leonard. While trying to persuade the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which owns the property, to let her use the land for farming, Pellegrino got help from Leonard. 

“We all just became family,” Pellegrino remembered. She said she became very close with him and his late wife, Sandra Leonard. 

The Rev. Leonard retired in 2021 from the Bethel AME Church in Setauket. He remarked on what Hobbs Farm symbolizes for him. “It’s the church and the community working together to create something,” he said.

Bethel Hobbs Farm holds a rich history. The previous owner was Alfred Hobbs, and the farm had been passed down through his family for generations. According to Leonard, who knew Hobbs passingly, he was “a man involved with his community.” 

Castorano spoke of Hobbs’ passion for his family land and how defiant he was against the farm being sold. As a result, the farmland lay dormant and unused for a few years until Pellegrino began her mission. 

“Years ago, I was a single mom with three kids,” Pellegrino explained, reflecting upon her incentives for beginning this project. “I was working two jobs. … There were times when I had to go to food pantries to feed my kids.” 

Now, Hobbs Farm itself supports and supplies over 15 food pantries with nutritious and organic produce, feeding local families in need.

Dawnwood Middle School student of the month, My’Kell Durham, with Assistant Principal Bruno Bernardino and teacher Margaret Porcelli, left photo. Selden Middle School student of the month, Logan Haberstroh, with Principal Andrew Bennett, right photo. Photos courtesy MCCSD

The Middle Country Central School District recently named My’Kell Durham and Logan Haberstoh as middle school students of the month for May, honoring the two students at a recent Board of Education meeting. 

Dawnwood Middle School student My’Kell Durham is an energetic student with a vibrant energy, smile and welcoming personality. He is eager to help those around him, listen to his teachers and put in extra effort in all subject areas. 

Throughout his years at Dawnwood Middle School, My’Kell’s growth as a student and individual has been recognized by teachers and peers. My’Kell has blossomed into a youngster exuding self-confidence and congeniality. Recently, My’Kell went around to students in his school to help raise awareness for the school’s dance and yoga fundraising event, culminating in the raising of $800. 

Selden Middle School student Logan Haberstroh excels academically. He has maintained impressive grades throughout middle school, with grades regularly averaging 95 or higher. As a member of the National Junior Honor Society, Logan has done community service at a local home for disabled adults and has worked to improve the gardens at New Lane Elementary School, where he attended elementary school. 

Logan enjoys being involved in the National Junior Honor Society, which provides him skills and knowledge to become a responsible local and global citizen.  

For more information regarding the Middle Country Central School District and its students’ many achievements, please visit the district’s website:

Photo courtesy O.B. Davis Funeral Homes
Prepared by the Eng Family

Joseph D. Eng Sr., of South Setauket, passed peacefully on May 4. He was 91. 

Joseph emigrated from Toisan, China — near Macao and Hong Kong — on his own at 14, joining his father in British Columbia, Canada. After his father died, Joseph made his way to New York, where he worked briefly as a waiter, then went on to interior design school.

He made a small fortune on the stock market. Shortly thereafter he developed a concept for a new restaurant, which he founded with partners in 1970. For many years, the Dragon Island was an iconic restaurant in Centereach, serving Chinese cuisine and tropical drinks in a lush setting.

Joseph’s design, with waterfalls, koi ponds and footbridges, and featuring live Hawaiian culture entertainment on the weekends, offered catering as well. The venue was the scene of epic New Year’s Eve parties and hundreds of special events, including weddings, sweet sixteens, showers, prom dinners and company galas.

Joseph was predeceased by his devoted wife, Kit-Mei, who passed in 2019. He is survived by the children from his first marriage, Audrey, Suzie and George; and from his second marriage, Catherine, Joseph, Vivian and Carl. He was a loving grandfather to Ryley, Henry, Ryker, Lucas, Robert, Max, Matthew, Brian, Caden and Dylan Grace.

A service was held at O.B. Davis Funeral Homes in Centereach on Saturday, May 20. Interment followed at Pinelawn cemetery in Farmingdale.

Middle Country, the seventh seed, entered postseason play hosting tenth-seeded Sachem East in the opening round of the playoffs, leading the Arrows by five goals to open the second half of the Div. I matchup on Tuesday, May 16.

It was the trio of Kate Timarky, Juliana Speziale and Olivia Annunziata who dominated the scoreboard for the Mad Dogs, keeping Sachem East at bay in this contest.

Seniors Speziale and Annunziata, both of whom will play lacrosse for Long Island University next season, notched four goals apiece and three assists between them. 

Senior Kate Timarky, the Notre Dame-bound midfielder, netted five goals along with one assist in the 13-5 victory. Senior goalie Jamie Cuozzo had a quiet day in net with three saves.

Middle County travels to the quarterfinal round on Friday, May 19, when the Mad Dogs face second-seeded Northport. Game time is 4 p.m

– Photos by Bill Landon