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Cheerleaders

Blue Devils edge Newfield, 21-14

Huntington’s Eric Sands almost single-handedly spoiled a second straight homecoming. After the Blue Devils running back racked up four touchdowns last week in a 28-23 edging of Smithtown West, he tallied two of three Huntington scores in a 21-14 win over Newfield Oct. 14.

“We played hard physically,” Newfield head coach Nick Adler said. “But we made too many mental mistakes and the game comes down to who makes the least mistakes. Today we were not that team and we shot ourselves in the foot.”

The Wolverines got on the board early when senior running back Terrell Thomas broke away with the ball in Newfield territory and covered 64 yards on his way to the end zone. Senior Jacob Newell successfully completed the point-after kick attempt to put his team up 7-0.

Newfield quickly racked up penalties to start the second, and Huntington quarterback John Paci made the Wolverines pay for the costly errors with a 46-yard touchdown run.

“We left everything out on the field; we play really hard, we practice hard, our only concern is we’ve got to fix those mental mistakes, it kills us every game,” senior lineman Zachary Ferrari said.

With the game tied 7-7 heading into the halftime break, Newfield knew it needed to make some adjustments to come away with the homecoming win.

“All we need to do is focus better and we can’t choke like on a fourth-and-5,” Ferrari said. “We really need to improve on that in the next two weeks we are really going to see if we can get it going.”

Unfortunately, Newfield couldn’t get it going against Huntington, and Sands was too much for the Wolverines to handle. He scored on runs of 3 yards and 20 yards in the third quarter to put Huntington out front 21-7. He finished the day with 153 yards on 21 attempts.

“All these teams are good, and we’re not going to be able to overcome and win a game against a team like that when we make that many mistakes,” Adler said. “This is a great team we played, but we have to regain our focus. The season’s not over and I look forward to next week.”

Junior wide receiver Anthony Cabral scored the Wolverines’ only other touchdown late in the third on a 5-yard pass from Newfield’s sophomore quarterback Maxwell Martin.

Newfield fell to 1-5 in the Division II standings while Huntington improved to 4-2 with its third straight win. Newfield hosts North Babylon (5-1) Oct. 20 at 6 p.m. before hosting Smithtown East (1-5) Oct. 27 in the last game of the season.

“We should come out the way we practice, with more energy and more focus,” senior lineman Christopher Vidal said. “I was very confident, and I still am very confident in my team. I know we can make a comeback. It’s just all about how much we really want it.”

Jen Holden contributed reporting

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The Ward Melville cheerleading team poses for a group photo after claiming the top spot at the Empire Regionals for the third consecutive year. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The Ward Melville cheerleading team is heading back to nationals next month.

After placing in the top three at three state competitions this season, the Patriots also finished first for the third year in a row at the Empire Regionals at Hofstra University in December, where the girls earned an automatic bid to attend the national competition in Walt Disney World on Feb. 6 and 7.

“We worked really hard to perform the way we did that day,” senior co-captain Kellyann Egan said of the team’s performance that earned them the right to perform on the big stage for the fourth year in a row. “There was more pressure there because we wanted to do really well at home, and we ended up placing first and taking the automatic bid home and a banner for our gym.”

This was the first season when cheerleading was recognized as a sport by Section XI, and although the state scoring is different than that of the Universal Cheerleaders Association guidelines that the teams are used to, Ward Melville head coach Loren Quitoni said she’s just glad her girls are getting the recognition she feels they should.

“Being declared a sport has been a great way to give all cheerleaders the long overdue respect that they earned and deserve,” she said. “As there is more and more exposure to the sport each year, there is more and more respect and support given. Cheerleaders practice all but two months. It is extremely demanding on the body and requires an endless amount of time spent on proper safety skills, body technique and correct execution, not to mention that they perform during football and basketball season, on top of their own competition season.”

Cheerleading being declared a sport has also helped Ward Melville take part in more competitions, Quitoni said.

“Being a super large team, there weren’t many competitions that were offered that would hold so many girls, so we were never really able to compete that much in the past,” she said. “With each competition they’ve been getting better and better.”

The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni
The Ward Melville cheerleading team performs on the sidelines of a football game. Photo from Loren Quitoni

The girls are in Division I Super Large, and although it’s been challenging for Quitoni to get all 35 of her girls in sync, senior co-captain and three-year varsity competitor Melanie Adams said she’s been surprised by what the team has been able to accomplish.

“I was nervous when I heard that we had so many younger girls, but they’ve really impressed me with their maturity and skill level,” she said of the team’s 15 freshmen and sophomores. “Representing Ward Melville is one of my favorite things. It’s very different from any other sport because you can’t ever just rely on yourself, you have to rely on your teammates, too, and they never let me down.”

Besides all that they do cheering-on their fellow student-athletes and taking part in their own competitions, the Patriots also partake in a myriad of fundraisers and community events, like clinics, family fun night at Minnesauke Elementary School and Stony Brook’s breast cancer walk, while also serving as special helpers at a dinner hosted by the school in honor of a student who is battling cancer, and adopting a family for the holidays.

“I love helping out,” senior three-year varsity cheerleader and co-captain Katarina Ramos said. “It’s really nice to gather together as a team to support the community and support our friends and our classmates.”

The squad also added a new teammate in sophomore Kim Yuknis, who is in a wheelchair.

“The girls have adopted her as one of their own,” Quitoni said. “She comes to every practice.”

Yuknis said she’s had a lot of fun fulfilling her dream of being on the varsity team, and hopes the Patriots can excel at nationals.

“I want them to do their best and I’m always going to be supporting them because they’ve always done that for me,” she said. “Loren was my gym teacher and helped me achieve this goal of mine. She’s always been supportive and she’s always believed in me. I’m very grateful, and I hope to be able to give back to them what they’ve given to me.”

Now that the big day is fast approaching, senior co-captain Katrina Henry said her squad is focused on next weekend’s event.

“We’re just working hard on competing at nationals and trying to do the best that we can do,” she said.

The girls have one more competition on Saturday before nationals, and Adams said her team’s goal is to outdo last year’s feat, where the girls placed 11th, coming just one or two points shy of breaking the top 10.

“We practice so much and we’re just so good this year,” she said. “We struggled at times in previous years, but I only see good things in the future. The practices haven’t been all that hard, and I know the girls listen very well and they take direction. I want to do even better than Top 10. I want to make the Top 5 this year, and I really think my team can make it.”

By Bill Landon

Cheerleading squads from all over Suffolk County converged on the mats of Rocky Point High School Sunday for the Suffolk County cheerleading sectionals, where Rocky Point and Comsewogue ran away with first-place finishes.

Cheerleading officially became a recognized sport in the 2015-16 school year, making this sectional event the first time that the competition is overseen and sanctioned by the New York State Public High School Athletics Association.

Rocky Point was the first of 31 teams to take to the mat first in Small School Division I “A,” and the squad wowed the crowd with a two-and-a-half minute routine, despite head coach Anna Spallina feeling less impressed with her Eagles, which are 12-time regional and three-time national champions.

“You have two and a half minutes to prove yourself out on the mat — if you don’t prove yourself in those two and a half minutes, you don’t get a second chance,” Spallina said. “You can’t go to the net again with a ball, or throw that pass one more time, so one little slip, an inch this way or an inch that way, and you can throw it away.”

Pleased or not Spallina’s squad earned first place in the division followed by Longwood and East Islip came in third.

With a squad of consisting of mainly eighth and ninth-graders, and only three seniors, Rocky Point senior Courtney Kelly said the Eagles’ only competition was themselves.

“We don’t worry about any other teams, we just worry about ourselves because the only routine we have to beat is ours,” she said.

Brittany Reh said there are some other challenges now that cheerleading is recognized as a sport, such as a different scoring sheet and new rules, but thought her team performed well despite the changes.

“We had a pretty good performance,” she said. “We stayed positive.”

Claire Johannesen said her team has had better execution on the mat, but will continue to work hard to remain at the team’s standards.

“Today was an okay performance, so we definitely have things we have to go to work on in practice,” she said. “But we did many things well that we’ll build on going forward.”

Northport hit the mat next looking to give Rocky Point a run for first place, and after a performance that impressed the judges, the Tigers’ head coach Danielle Milazzo talked about the adjustment her team has had to adjust to the scoring changes.

“The whole scoring rubric is completely different from last year, so we’re trying to get used to that,” Milazzo said. “We’ve reworked routines to align them with the scoring sheets to try to make sure we get the maximum number of points from New York State.”

Comsewogue hit the mat in the second session, as did Kings Park, competing in the Small School Division I “B.” The Warriors put on a flawless performance as the crowd exploded in applause with their finish, but head coach Stefanie Breitfeller was just relieved that the routine was behind her, as the team had yet another hurdle to jump prior to a competition.

“We had a major change this morning as I found out last night one of the girls came down with pink eye,” Breitfeller said. “We had to replace a starter, so we came into this thinking this could go badly or it could go very well.”

Comsewogue senior Samantha Donlon was thrilled with her team’s first-place finish.

“We did absolutely amazing — we have worked so hard for this day and I’m really proud,” she said. “I’m so happy and this will make us perform even harder next week.”

Comsewogue senior Rachel Steck said she thought her Warriors team also performed well, but thinks that like always, there is room for improvement.

“It could’ve been a little tighter, but I’m just so proud of my team,” she said.”We did our best today. We’ll practice our routine; we’ll make it harder and we’ll make it cleaner.”

For junior Brittany Dein, she thought her team performed beyond its expectations with the last-minute change.

“All week we’ve been running the routine a whole bunch of times and I can’t fault any part of our performance,” Dein said.

The teams will reconvene on Sunday Jan. 24 at Hauppauge High School for the second round of competition.

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.