Tags Posts tagged with "Chris Boltrek"

Chris Boltrek

Ward Melville’s varsity football team, along with coaches Chris Boltreck and John Sorbera, deliver coloring books and crayons to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy Sharon Philbrick

By Mallie Jane Kim

Patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital this holiday season can enjoy a football-themed activity book, thanks to Ward Melville High School’s rising varsity football team, which is training in the offseason for 2024.

The team worked together to wrap crayon sets to go along with the activity books, entitled “Ward Melville Football Coloring Book,” before delivering them to the hospital together on Sunday, Dec. 10.

“It’s always nice to see our players give back to their community, but it’s especially great to see them work together for a cause,” said head coach Chris Boltrek.

Ward Melville’s varsity football team, along with coaches Chris Boltreck and John Sorbera, deliver coloring books and crayons to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. Photo courtesy Sharon Philbrick

He noted that most team members participate in community service through various clubs, but quarterback Hudson Philbrick, currently a ninth grader at Gelinas Junior High School, had the idea to serve together as a varsity team. The head coach said he and assistant coach John Sorbera were happy to help facilitate after Philbrick approached them.

Philbrick said he wanted to help hospitalized children because he knows firsthand how hard it can be to stay in a hospital — he had to spend part of summer vacation that way when he was 6, due to an allergic reaction.

“It was horrible,” he said, adding, “It is not very fun to be in the hospital for the holidays.”

Philbrick said he initially wanted to arrange a visit to hospitalized children, but when that wasn’t possible, he said, he thought of the activity book and called Stony Brook to see if the hospital would accept the donation. He said he used design software Canva to create the book, which includes coloring pages, as well as activities like a football-themed word search, a design-a-helmet activity and a maze guiding a player to score a touchdown. He then had 100 copies printed through a self-publishing website.

Joan Alpers, director of child life services at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, said in an email that the coloring books will “help hospitalized kids remain calm and relaxed during their hospitalization. Having quiet activities to do fills wait times and provides enjoyment to kids of all ages.”

She added that hospital staff is especially grateful to see young people help other young people through hard times.

For his part, Philbrick initially wasn’t sure if his teammates would buy in. “When they all showed up, it was amazing,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and I’m pretty sure it makes everybody feel good about themselves knowing they get to help out some kids during the holidays.”

Philbrick said he added a section for children to write their goals at the back of the activity books. “Goals give you something to look forward to and work toward like, ‘Hey I’m going to do this someday.’ So it gives them hope.”

As for Philbrick, he said his personal goal is to grow his efforts to help children by making a bigger contribution to the community each year during the holiday season.

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Ward Melville junior running back Nick Troy rushes with the ball during a practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Ward Melville senior running back Nick Messina breaks free of a tackle during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

The stinging loss in the Suffolk County championship game last fall left an open wound on every member of the Ward Melville football team, and the only effective medicine is redemption.

The 2016 season was history making, as the Patriots won three straight games to propel them to the county title game for the first time in 29 years. Trailing William Floyd by a touchdown, the team marched down the field only to be turned away in the red zone in the final minute of the contest.

“Obviously the kids want to get back there again, and these guys this season think they have something to prove,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “They want to show we didn’t just get there because of last year’s seniors, but that they were a big part of it as well.”

Ward Melville is the No. 5 seed in Division I heading into this season, with William Floyd taking the No. 1 spot. Lindenhurst, Longwood and Connetquot are also in the mix, but Boltrek said the Patriots won’t take any team lightly.

“They have a chip on their shoulder going into this season,” the head coach said of his players. “These kids put in the work in the off-season, they have the mentality that nothing is given to you — you have to go out and earn it every year.”

Ward Melville senior wide receiver Liam Davenport makes a catch during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior defensive end and offensive tackle Jimmy Small said reaching the county title game is something he won’t soon forget, taking that experience and applying it to games this year in the hopes of feeling the intensity and enthusiasm again.

“Me and the rest of the guys from last year — we got a taste of playing in front of all those people, that excitement and the whole town having their focus on us, and that hasn’t happened in a long time for football,” the co-captain said.

He said he thinks his team has the right tools to get back to the championship game and take home the title this time around.

“I think by far our brightest spot is our front seven on defense,” he said. “We have a ton of returning starters, but I think the question mark is our special teams, which was a big part of our game.”

Despite the loss of kick returner John Corpac, Small said the Patriots have two kids even faster than the Stony Brook University commit.

“If everything works out, I think we’ll be even better in that aspect,” he said.

Ward Melville senior quarterback Peyton Capizzi carries the ball during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Senior running back Nick Messina, a three-year varsity player, reflected on the amount of work that goes into reaching the championship round.

“Just to reach that goal last year — the people coming back know what it takes to get there and it makes us want it so much more,” the co-captain said. “I think we’re strongest on our offensive and defensive line, but we’re going to have to work on our defensive secondary where we have a lot of new players.”

Senior co-captain Thomas Kutchma said to prove to other teams that last season wasn’t a fluke, and show they aren’t out of gas just yet, the Patriots have their goals set even higher this time.

“If we can do what we’re capable of doing we could win a Long Island championship this year,” the guard and defensive tackle said. “We think about that loss every day in practice and we give it 100 percent. We love the sport of football and we want to take advantage of it before it’s over.”

Ward Melville kicks off the season with a 6:30 p.m. home game against Central Islip Sept. 1. The Patriots will travel to Connetquot Sept. 8 for the second game of the year. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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John Corpac. File photo by Bill Landon

In 21 years, not one Ward Melville football player has been invited to compete in the Empire Challenge. This year three Patriots will get the chance to put on the pads one more time.

John Corpac, Eddie Munoz and Dominic Pryor were chosen by the coaches of the Long Island team, all of which led their squads to county titles this year, to play in the game that pits Long Island all-stars against the best of New York City.

“It feels amazing knowing I’ll be able to suit up once more in a sport that I’ve loved since I was young,” Pryor said. “I couldn’t be more proud to represent Ward Melville, especially after what we accomplished this season.”

Dominic Pryor. File photo by Bill Landon

The three standouts were part of a Patriots team that upset No. 1 Lindenhurst in the Division I semifinals to make it to the county championship for the first time in 30 years.

“After losing in counties,” Corpac said, “this game is a redemption game for me and my teammates that made it, to show that we belonged where we were.”

Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said his three athletes, who were named All-State by the New York State Sportswriters Association, don’t need redemption, because they’ve shown they belong among the best of the best.

“They are just excellent athletes who love football, and combined those attributes with a willingness to go the extra mile — whether it was sacrificing their bodies and taking a big hit, or tackling a larger athlete, it didn’t matter — they laid it all on the line to help our team be successful,” he said. “And they’re a huge part of why we made it to the county championship this season.”

Corpac, a wide receiver and free safety who signed to play for Stony Brook University this fall, finished last season with a team-high 13 touchdowns through 11 games, four of which were on kickoff returns. The All-County and All-State honoree racked up 378 yards on 27 receptions, and rushed for 131 more and one touchdown. In total, he had 1,110 yards thanks to 532 added kickoff return yards. On the defensive side of the ball, Corpac had 58 tackles, 38 solo, and two interceptions.

While Munoz and Pryor will be playing lacrosse next year, at Stony Brook and Hofstra University, respectively, the two have also battled for big numbers at Ward Melville.

Munoz gained 454 yards on 37 receptions as a wide receiver, and rushed for 90, ending the year with eight touchdowns. He intercepted the ball twice as a strong safety, and made 57 total tackles, 37 solo.

“We put in a lot of hard work, but our teammates also helped us stand out, because without a good team we wouldn’t have been selected,” Munoz said. “Football to me is all about being tough and giving it your all on every play.”

Eddie Munoz. File photo by Bill Landon

Pryor ended his senior season with a team-high 604 receiving yards, averaging a team-high 16.3 yards per catch on his 37 receptions, rushed for 88 yards, returned kickoffs for 111 and even passed for 167. The wide receiver and defensive back also had two interceptions and made 28 tackles.

“Dom and Eddie are great examples of multi-sport athletes, and demonstrate how competing in multiple sports is a benefit,” Boltrek said. “Both of those guys have played on big stages before in lacrosse, and it was evident that those experiences paid dividends for us throughout the playoffs. I know them playing football has made them better lacrosse players. The toughness and grit that it takes to be successful in football is visible every time they step on the lacrosse field.”

Pryor credits his coaches and teammates, and playing in one of the toughest leagues on Long Island, for making him a better athlete day in and day out, but his head coach said it’s all about what the boys do.

“It’s great for the program to get this sort of recognition, but of course, the program doesn’t receive these honors without the individual efforts of these three players,” he said. “It’s no coincidence that all three of them started in all three facets of the game — offense, defense and special teams — and no matter who the opponent was, they had to game plan for these three.”

New York City opponents will have to make big plans to take down the trio, who said they have been best friends since elementary school. They’ll battle on the gridiron at Hofstra University June 21 at 7 p.m.

“I was hearing rumors that I might get selected, but once I actually got the news, I couldn’t be happier — it’s a dream to be able to play in this game,” Corpac said. “This sport is the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I’d do anything to play the season all over again. I cannot wait to put on the pads and play high school football one last time.”

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Nick Messina rushes the ball upfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The No. 4-seeded Ward Melville football team had waited 30 years for another Suffolk County championship appearance, and despite a tough loss to No. 2 William Floyd Nov. 18, 28-21, the Patriots powered the program to new heights.

Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’re extremely proud of the boys and how far they’ve come this year,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “Over the last three seasons, we have improved upon the prior year’s record and, for the seniors, Friday was the culmination of their dedication and effort. Hopefully, going forward, our trip to the county championship will encourage student-athletes throughout the district to play football and strengthen the program.”

Ward Melville’s first break of the game came on a fumble recovery when William Floyd was driving into the red zone. The Patriots offense went to work on their own 18-yard line, and senior quarterback Wesley Manning hit classmate Andrew McKenna, a wide receiver, over the middle on a 22-yard pass to move the chains to the middle of the field. Amid the drive, Ward Melville was forced to punt the ball away.

On their next possession, the Patriots also fumbled the ball, but the difference was that the Colonials made the Ward Melville pay for its mistake by finding the end zone four plays later for an early 7-0 lead.

The ensuing kickoff gave Ward Melville good field position following William Floyd drawing three consecutive penalties for an out of bounds kick, delay of game and offsides. Backed up on its own 25-yard line, William Floyd finally got the kick away and the Patriots’ return brought them to the Colonials’ 38-yard line with eight minutes remaining until halftime.

Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon
Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville seized the opportunity and Manning found senior wide receiver Eddie Munoz over the middle, to move the chains to the 29-yard line. Manning spread the wealth and dropped the next pass to senior wide receiver Dominic Pryor on the left side for the 35-yard touchdown reception, and with senior kicker Joe LaRosa’s extra-point kick, the team tied the game 7-7.

With just over three minutes left in the half, William Floyd went up 14-7 with a 10-yard touchdown run from James Taitt, but Ward Melville had an answer. The Patriots went deep into the playbook, and Manning hit Pryor on a screen pass who, although running into a wall, flicked the ball to senior wide receiver John Corpac, who raced down the left sideline for the touchdown. LaRosa’s kick made it a new game at 14-14. 

Ward Melville had an opportunity to take a lead into the break, but failed to find the end zone on four consecutive plays from William Floyd’s 5-yard line.

Manning threw an interception to open the second half, and Taitt moved the ball to Ward Melville’s 1-yard line on the next play. Nick Silva finished the drive to put William Floyd out front, 21-14, to open the final quarter.

“Obviously we are very upset we didn’t reach our goal of winning the LIC, but I’m very proud to be able to say I helped lead the team to the county championship [final], which we haven’t been to in 29 years,” Manning said. “It’s been a great season and we all made memories and have a bond that will last a lifetime.”

The Patriots struggled with the Colonials’ defensive line, and with 6:54 left to play, Silva tacked on his third touchdown run of the game, to extend the advantage, 28-14.

Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

On the ensuing kickoff, Ward Melville’s junior running back Nick Messina made a statement, when he returned the ball 74 yards and into the end zone, to pull the Patriots back within one touchdown with 6:32 remaining.

The Patriots’ final push brought them to the Colonials’ red zone with just over a minute left on the clock, but after four chances Ward Melville just couldn’t break through.

“This is a group of kids that are fighters — they don’t quit no matter what was going on,” Boltrek said. “They fought through adversity at all points of the season. They were never out of any game and that’s just the attitude they have. At one point we were 2-4, and for them to show the fortitude and character to believe in one another and believe in the process and keep fighting all the way to the county championship speaks volumes about them as young men. We’re going to miss our seniors, and I hope their Herculean effort has inspired the underclassmen to work even harder for next season — off-season workouts begin after Thanksgiving.”

Ward Melville’s ascent to the finals may have seemed unlikely, needing to win the final two games of the season to make a postseason appearance, and shutting out Connetquot and dethroning previously undefeated No. 1 Lindenhurst. But in his third year leading the team, Boltrek was able to continue the turnaround for the program.

“I have good athletes and I have good coaches, so I give them a lot of credit,” Boltrek said. “And the kids have bought into the idea that Ward Melville could be a football school.”

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

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John Corpac wasted no time taking one to the house on homecoming game day.

The Ward Melville football team’s senior wide receiver, defensive back and kick returner knew if his team’s homecoming opponent, Patchogue-Medford, watched any film of his Patriots, they weren’t going to let him get his hands on the opening kickoff during their Sept. 24 contest.

“I was expecting a squib kick,” he said. “And that’s what I got.”

As the two teams collided on the opening play, Corpac picked up the ball, which the Raiders were trying to keep away from the dangerous return man, on the far right side of the field, jolted left to avoid a tackle, and, like running down an open highway, cruised all the way to the end zone for an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“I scooped the ball up, the hole was there and I only had to beat one guy,” Corpac said. “Kick returns are my favorite thing to do. It was the best feeling.”

The Ward Melville football team benefitted from a fast start during its homecoming matchup, but a strong finish proved the Patriots are ready to put up a fight this season. The team bested the Raiders 35-22 to avenge its 2015 homecoming loss.

“Last year Northport came in here and beat up a little bit on us — we lost — so for these seniors this was big for them,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “There were definitely some things that we have to clean up for the next game, but when we really needed them to step up the kids did a nice job.”

Patchogue-Medford mounted a charge up the field on its first drive following Corpac’s return touchdown, and bulled into the end zone on a 1-yard run to even the score.

“Last year Northport came in here and beat up a little bit on us — we lost — so for these seniors this was big for them.”

— Chris Bolterk

Ward Melville responded by moving the ball on its next possession, but a fumble recovered by Patchogue-Medford changed the tide. The Patriots’ defense made up for its offenses mistake, and forced Patchogue-Medford to settle for a field goal attempt, which was missed.

To open the second quarter, Ward Melville wide receiver and strong safety Eddie Munoz, who also recorded an interception, received a 29-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Wesley Manning. Munoz helped set up the score with gains of 28 yards and four yards earlier in the drive.

Manning tossed his next touchdown pass to junior running back Nick Messina. The play wouldn’t have been possible without senior cornerback and wide receiver Andrew McKenna’s second interception of the game. He also chipped in 35 yards on the ensuing drive. Messina’s 13-yard catch and senior kicker Joe LaRosa’s point after brought the score to 21-7 before halftime.

“Our special teams was excellent, our defense really came up big causing a lot of turnovers in key moments,” Boltrek said. “And offensively we did some nice things. When we got nice blocks and we scored, we threw the ball well, so there was some good and some bad, but we have to improve.”

Patchogue-Medford added seven points following another 1-yard run with 20 seconds to go in the third to pull closer, but Messina rushed the ball 52 yards for a touchdown with 6.5 seconds on the clock to re-extend the Patriots’ advantage.

Shortly into the final stanza, Messina rushed home another touchdown, this time taking the ball 22 yards to help his team jump out in front, 35-14.

“On those few plays the line did exactly what they needed to do,” Messina said. “If we could do that more often we could go far, and score more touchdowns.”

Boltrek said his team needs to clean up the blocking up front going forward, though he was impressed with his running back’s performance.

“Nick is a kid we all depend on because of his speed and his athleticism, and it’s warranted,” Boltrek said. “He had two breakaway touchdowns, he did a nice job catching along the backfield, so he did really well for us.”

Manning completed 15 of 22 passes for 240 yards, including two touchdowns. He said all the players were confident coming into the homecoming game after a strong week of practice. He said he enjoyed showing the team could get the job done through the air, and in the second half, on the ground, too.

“The feeling kept getting better and better as the game went on,” he said. “It’s great to win on your senior homecoming. There’s really nothing better. I think we’re really going to carry on momentum. We had a tough loss against Longwood and now we just have to keep the momentum going next week against Floyd.”

Ward Melville travels to William Floyd Oct. 1 for a 2 p.m. kickoff.

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Eddie Munoz leads the pack as he gains yards during a game last season. File photo by Mark D'Angio

By Joseph Wolkin

Ward Melville’s football team lost four key members during the offseason, each departing for collegiate play at a Division II or Division III school.

The Patriots will be without quarterback Matt O’Hea, linebacker Patrick Morelli, defensive end Tom Lorusso and running back Nick Cervone in 2016, leaving major holes in the team’s roster.

Wesley Manning evades a tackle and moves the ball up the field in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
Wesley Manning evades a tackle and moves the ball up the field in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

However, for head coach Chris Boltrek, who enters his third year at the helm of the Patriots, improving on last year’s 5-3 record is the goal.

“Our expectations are pretty high,” Boltrek said. “We received the No. 3 seed out of 14 teams in the division. That shows everybody that the coaches in our league see us as being a pretty good team. Our expectations are to live up to those standards.”

Despite losing four seniors, 22 seniors return to the Patriots this year, making them a title contender after finishing 2015 tied for third in the division with Northport and Connetquot.

With O’Hea’s departure, Ward Melville looks to replace the young man who threw for 1,933 yards last year, good enough for 11th in New York.

“We return a lot of out skill players — key players from last year’s team after getting a year of experience under their belt,” the coach said. “I think this is a team with a lot of potential.”

Senior Wesley Manning will receive the majority of playing time at quarterback, with junior Peyton Capizzi beginning to show off his skills in preparation for his senior year. Manning enters this season with six pass attempts on his resume, featuring four completions for 79 yards, including a 19-yard pass for a touchdown against Northport.

In addition to a new quarterback, Boltrek is prepared to evaluate the team’s surplus of returning players.

John Corpac carries the ball across the gridiron in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon
John Corpac carries the ball across the gridiron in a game last season. File photo by Bill Landon

“Our biggest strength, really, is we’re returning real football kids, even though they might play other sports,” he said. “They just love football, and when you have that mentality, coupled with their skill and athleticism, that’s a real strength and asset.”

The team’s wide receiver core remains largely unchanged for 2016.

Senior Eddie Munoz, an All-State honorable mention, is coming off a year that featured eight touchdown catches along with a total of 516 receiving yards. He will also continue to be a safety for the team after intercepting three passes last year in addition to piling up 41 tackles.

Fellow senior John Corpac is back as a wideout for the Patriots. After catching seven touchdown passes last year, the first-time All-Division receiver looks to lead the team’s offense.

As the Patriots look to move from being a solid playoff contender to one that’s in the title hunt, Boltrek said he believes there is still work that needs to be done to bring Ward Melville to the next level.

“I think the biggest thing is we need our offensive line to gel at the beginning of the season,” Boltrek said. “Last year, our offensive line was young. We had a junior playing center and two other linemen who were sophomores. The two other guys were seniors, but they were both first-year starters. This year, we’re sort of lucky that we get our center back to have a senior at the middle of the line. Stability and continuity is what we’re doing up front. It’ll be huge for us during the season.”

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Three Village booster club hosts eighth annual outing

Golfers take practice shots prior to the start of the the eighth annual golf outing at St. George’s Golf and Country Club. Photo by Kevin Redding

By Kevin Redding

Feeding upwards of 50 hungry, growing boys is a gigantic undertaking.

According to head coach Chris Boltrek, the Ward Melville football team receives a meal before each game.

“Before every game, we give them a meal, so that they don’t go through school all day without eating, and then have to play a game at night,” he said.

The school also provides the team with new equipment to make sure the players are properly suited up and stay safe each game.

None of that would be possible if not for the school’s booster club, and on Aug. 1, the Three Village community grabbed their golf clubs once more in an effort to raise money for the Patriots.

Golfers tee off in support of the Patriots. Photo by Kevin Redding
Golfers tee off in support of the Patriots. Photo by Kevin Redding

“It’s a great fundraiser for the kids,” said Boltrek, who is one of the event’s main organizers. “This helps provide us with things that we otherwise wouldn’t receive, whether it’s uniforms or meals or whatever else the athletes might need.”

The eighth annual golf outing at St. George’s Golf and Country Club commenced at 10 a.m., as roughly 100 parents, educators and community members hopped in their carts for a day of golfing, fundraising and friendly competition. They were all there with one thing in mind: supporting the football team.

“Football is a sport I think few people understand unless they’re in it,” the head coach said. “They might not realize just how big a deal it is when we talk about practice equipment, or how much a sled costs, and how much a shoe costs. Those are huge expenses. It’s about trying to give these [athletes] the best possible experience they can have.”

Last year’s fundraising efforts bought the team new uniforms and practice equipment, and it’s a huge advantage. This year, the outing raised over $10,000, which will go toward sideline replay equiptment.

Before Boltrek took over the team, the Three Village Football booster club had been running the outing for six years with the previous coaches at the helm. For Boltrek, it’s important to build a football-friendly environment in an area that isn’t traditionally known as a football community, and this event shows Three Village’s strides to be a little more gridiron-oriented. It brings everybody together to rally behind a common bond.

Christina Stavropoulos, director of the booster club, couldn’t agree more. Doing everything under the sun to help benefit the football team, she loves seeing the community rally behind them in whatever way they can.

“What’s even better is so many alumni are here — some that played, and some that didn’t, but had friends who did,” she said. “It’s wonderful to see the kids all coming back from college just to play golf and help their school out.”

Gift certificates and bottles of wine donated from local businesses were raffled off.

Ward Melville head football coach Chris Boltrek gets in the zone during the golf tournament. Photo by Kevin Redding
Ward Melville head football coach Chris Boltrek gets in the zone during the golf tournament. Photo by Kevin Redding

“There are corporate sponsors here and, of course, we love all the corporate sponsors, but there are local businesses as well,” Stavropoulos said. “They have the 50/50 raffle; the Chinese auction baskets. We have donations from different restaurants, parents. It’s all part of the fundraising effort. Everything is for the kids.”

Before hitting the green, the golfers, donning Ward Melville’s green and gold logo on their hats and shirts, took some practice swings and shots in the warm-up section. Many talked football and the importance of playing multiple sports in school, and how the golf outing helps with that.

“My kids are in the district and one plays football,” said resident John Treder. “This is good for the school. I think the better teams the high school can put out, like with more money to buy equipment and extra coaches, the greater things will be for the kids. It will bring [them] more spirit, you’ll get more people at the games. It gives them the tools to win.”

A representative from Endzone Sports, a Seaford-based football equipment store and proud sponsor of the event, was especially supportive of the team.

“We’re for Melville football,” said Anthony Polo, a representative with the organization. “They have a good coach, nice people involved, and we’re excited for the kids. We’ll do anything for the kids. We want to give back to the school and make sure they’re well-equipped, well-supported in the program and encourage their extracurricular activities. It gives them something to look forward to.”

Beyond the football field, there’s a consistent overall feeling of unity among Three Village because of the team’s growing success.

Charlie Fernandez, coach of the girls’ varsity volleyball team at Ward Melville, wouldn’t have missed the outing for anything, extending his support for Boltrek and the team.

“The best thing that happens at Ward Melville is when we have a good football team,” said Fernandez. “It makes everything better for everybody. It just fires the school up, gets everybody excited. You start seeing all the green and gold around and as the coach of another team, it’s good for us, too.”

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Ward Melville junior wide receiver John Corpac cuts up the middle in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The Ward Melville football team was able to stay within striking distance through two quarters of play in its season opener, but visiting Lindenhurst broke the game open in the second half to defeat the Patriots 28-13 in League I gridiron action Friday night.

After a slow start, the Bulldogs struck first three minutes into the second quarter when senior quarterback Ryan Hofmann connected with junior wide receiver Steven Ramirez for the score, and with the extra point good, the team led 7-0.

With just over a minute left in the half, Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea found junior wide receiver John Corpac, who turned the corner and flew down the right sideline to go the distance for the touchdown. It was a 61-yard pass play that put the Patriots on the scoreboard, but when the point after attempt pushed wide left, Ward Melville trailed 7-6.

Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone draws a crowd as he rushes with the ball in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone draws a crowd as he rushes with the ball in the Patriots’ 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

It became a game riddled with cramps and penalties, and the Patriots led the way in both categories.

“You can’t let officiating determine a games [outcome], it’s got to be decided on the field by the players,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “And unfortunately, our guys didn’t do what we asked them to do [tonight].”

The Hofmann–Ramirez tandem answered back on the last play of the half for another touchdown. After a failed point after, the Bulldogs took a 13-6 lead into the halftime break.

Boltrek said that going into the third quarter being one score down to the reigning county champions wasn’t a bad thing.

“I thought we had a chance the entire time, but between penalties and cramped players, we don’t have the depth to pull that off,” he said.

Lindenhurst looked to put the game away on the second play from scrimmage to open the second half, and it did. Senior running back Joe Barber pushed his way up the middle, breaking several tackles, and made his way 65 yards downfield for the score to put the Bulldogs out in front, 19-6. Junior quarterback Austin Perri scored next for the Bulldogs, as he plowed his way into the end zone for a two-point conversion, to help his team break out to a 21-6 lead.

Ward Melville was unable to answer, and again fell victim to the Hofmann–Ramirez combination. The two paired up on a pass play and Lindenhurst took a commanding 28-6 advantage.

Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O-Hea makes a deep pass in the Patriots' 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon
Ward Melville senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea makes a deep pass in the Patriots’ 28-13 loss to Lindenhurst Friday. Photo by Bill Landon

Deep in their own territory, Ward Melville senior running back Nick Cervone provided the spark to make it a two-score game when he broke outside and cut to the middle of the field. After the dust settled, he went 81 yards for the score to trim the Ward Melville deficit, and sophomore kicker Joe LaRosa split the uprights to trail 28-13.

The Bulldogs threatened again deep into the Patriots’ territory but on a rare miscue, coughed up the ball as Ward Melville recovered the fumble on their own 15-yard line.

With just under five minutes remaining in the game, the Patriots ran the hurry-up offense as O’Hea aired the ball out the rest of the way, but no open receiver could be found.

“I thought we let it get away from us,” Boltrek said. “We’ve got to fix the mistakes, but it was great that we hung with the defending county champs.”