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Ward Melville football’s journey to the Long Island Championship game was an unlikely one, where the Patriots concluded their regular season with a 5-3 record then peaked in post-season play.  

Ward Melville picked off Whitman in the opening round of the playoffs, took down previously unbeaten William Floyd, 14-7, Nov. 12 and eliminated Longwood a week later for their first Suffolk County Championship in 35 years. 

The Patriots in uncharted territory looked to make history at Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium Saturday, Nov. 26, where they faced the Dalers of Farmingdale (11-0) in the Long Island Championship game.

In the opening minute of the second period Ward Melville quarterback Andrew Belli hit Brody Morgan on a diving touchdown catch covering 35 yards to make it a one score game, but Farmingdale surged ahead to take a 28-14 lead into the halftime break.

After two unanswered Farmingdale touchdowns, Belli punched in on short yardage for the score but it was too little too late as the Patriots fell to Farmingdale, 42-20.

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Despite taking a two touchdown lead just four minutes into the game, the Northport Football Tigers were beaten, 35-14, by Bellport in the Suffolk County Conference II final at Stony Brook University last Friday.

Christian Raio returned the open kickoff for a touchdown, and Andrew Miller took a direct snap for a score after a Bellport turnover. After that, there was not a lot to cheer about for the Blue and Gold. 

Donte Phillips ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns for the Clippers, and their defense forced two turnovers and also blocked a punt — all of which led to Bellport touchdowns. Jason Hunt blocked that punt and ran the ball into the end zone three plays later, making the score 14-6 in favor of Northport. 

The Tigers fumbled twice more in the first half, and Bellport led, 20-14, at halftime. The second half was all about Phillips and the Clipper’s stifling defense. Northport generated only 110 yards of total offense for the game. Tiger quarterback Macklin O’Brien was 3 for 18 for 18 yards through the air. 

Phillips, who is also a key member of the Clipper defense, wasn’t worried about the early deficit. 

“After we got down by 14, we all had to take a moment and remember what we set out to do and how and why we got here,” Phillips said. “We never panicked, and in my opinion, we played our best defensive game of the year tonight.” 

The Clippers (10-1) will play the mighty Garden City Trojans (11-0) at Hofstra for the Long Island Championship on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Garden City has won seven straight Nassau Championships and beat Bellport, 14-6, last year to win the LIC. The Trojans have won 29 straight games overall, dating back to 2019. 

Northport overcame much adversity this year in losing their starting quarterback, Owen Johansen, midway through the season and had key members in and out of the lineup throughout the playoffs. They finished 2022 with a record of 8-3.

Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

The Stony Brook football team put forth a valiant battle, but was narrowly edged by Towson, 21-17, on Nov. 12 at LaValle Stadium. The back-and-forth game was decided in the final seconds as the Seawolves nearly found the end zone as time expired, which would have lifted them to a thrilling finish.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Daron Bryden earned his fifth career start for the Seawolves and tossed a career-high 273 passing yards including a career-high two touchdowns. Stony Brook got on the board with 25 seconds left to play in the first quarter when Bryden found redshirt junior wide receiver Shawn Harris Jr. for a 70-yard touchdown pitch and catch. The score tied the game up at 7-7, and was the Seawolves’ longest play from scrimmage this season.

The Seawolves and Tigers were all knotted up at 7-7 after the first 30 minutes of play, which was highlighted by strong defensive efforts on both sides. Stony Brook struck first in the second half as Bryden threw his second touchdown of the day with 7:54 left to go in the third quarter when he found graduate wide receiver Khalil Newton for a 30-yard strike. For Newton, it was his fourth touchdown catch of the season and sixth of his career.

Towson tied the game up on the ensuing drive when Tyrrell Pigrome found Darian Street for a 36-yard touchdown. The game remained tied at 14-14 until redshirt junior kicker Angelo Guglielmello gave the Seawolves a 17-14 advantage when he knocked in a 26-yard field goal with 2:32 to play in the game.

Guglielmello cashed in on a Stony Brook drive that went 11 plays for 42 yards and consumed 7:13 of the clock. Towson responded on its next possession with a three-yard touchdown run that gave it a 21-17 lead, which it held on to down the stretch.

Prior to the game, Stony Brook honored its senior class which is comprised of Seba NekhetEric BlackKhalil NewtonCarthell Flowers-LloydJohn CorpacCarson TebbettsSam HowsonCameron LucasLarry Ross Jr.Matt MirabitoDamien CaffreyDelante Hellams Jr.Reidgee DimancheRandy Pringle, and Kyle Nunez.

The team celebrates their victory last Saturday. Photo from Stony Brook Athletics

Redshirt junior kicker Angelo Guglielmello was the hero on Nov. 5 at LaValle Stadium when he drilled a 37-yard field goal as time expired to lift Stony Brook to a 24-22 victory over Morgan State.

After a 57-yard touchdown by Morgan State’s Andre Crawley, that put the Bears up, 22-21, the Seawolves marched down the field to win the game. They went 56 yards on 12 plays in the final 1:37 of the game and ended victorious. Guglielmello’s game-winner was the first of his career as the 37-yarder was his season-long.

Redshirt sophomore running back Ross Tallarico had a career game in the Seawolves’ backfield. He totaled a career-high 36 rushing attempts, 151 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns.

The Seawolves’ defense had several standout plays that helped secure the victory. They held Morgan State to total just 231 yards, forced a turnover, totaled six sacks, and 12 tackles for loss.

Graduate defensive lineman Eric Black came through in a big way when he took down Morgan State quarterback Duce Taylor as the Bears attempted a two-point conversion, which would have given them a 24-21 lead. With the stop from Black, Stony Brook went on to win the game with a field goal on its final drive.

After falling behind, 7-0, in the first quarter, the Seawolves quickly responded to tie the game up. On the first play of the second quarter, Tallarico rushed for a nine-yard touchdown, his first score of the game.

The Bears took the lead again, late in the first half. With 34 seconds remaining, sophomore kicker Beckett Leary converted a 37-yard field goal to give Morgan State a 10-7 lead before the halftime break.

Stony Brook’s defense played a crucial role in the third quarter. With just over 11 minutes left in the quarter, redshirt junior linebacker De’Aundre Cruz forced Morgan State’s Alfonzo Graham to fumble. Redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Taylor Bolesta recovered the loose ball and the Seawolves took over on Morgan State’s 29-yard line.

On the ensuing possession, the Seawolves’ offense ran five plays, which was capped off with Tallarico’s second rushing touchdown of the game. Stony Brook grabbed its first lead of the game, as it went up 14-10.

On Stony Brook’s next possession, its offense completed an eight-play, 76-yard drive in less than five minutes. Redshirt freshman quarterback Daron Bryden, who came into the game in the second quarter, tossed a four-yard touchdown pass to redshirt junior tight end Tyler Devera to extend the Seawolves’ lead to 21-10.

The Bears scored 12 unanswered points to take the lead in the fourth quarter following Devera’s score. Graham ran for a 44-yard touchdown and Crawley scored his 57-yard touchdown catch and run three offensive drives later. Morgan State failed to convert on a two-point conversion after both touchdowns, which opened the door back up for Stony Brook.

The Seawolves’ defense stood strong and Guglielmello’s heroics led Stony Brook to its second consecutive home win.


Tallarico totaled a career-high 36 rushing attempts, 151 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. He ran for multiple touchdowns in a game for the first time in his career. He now has three rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns, and one passing touchdown. He leads the team in rushing touchdowns and is tied with McKee for the team lead in total touchdowns with six.

Stony Brook’s defense totaled three sacks in the first half with redshirt sophomore linebacker A.J. Roberts, redshirt senior defensive back Isaiah Givens, and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Rushawn Lawrence each accounting for one. Givens and Lawrence each tallied the first sacks of their Stony Brook careers.

The defense finished with six sacks for a total of 40 yards and 12 tackles for loss for a total of 53 yards. The Seawolves had four players account for the six sacks, with Givens and Black totaling two sacks each.

Stony Brook had nine defenders combine for the 12 tackles for loss: Cruz (2), Givens (2), Black (2), Carthell Flowers-Lloyd (2), Lawrence (1), Roberts (1), Quenton Porter (1), Bolesta (0.5), and Rodney Faulk (0.5).

Bryden’s four-yard touchdown pass to Devera gave the tight end his third receiving touchdown of the season, which is his most in a single-season at Stony Brook.

Cruz also had a career game. He totaled a career-high eight tackles, two tackles for loss, and forced a fumble.

Seawolves went 4-for-4 in the red zone.

Saturday’s matchup marked the first meeting all-time between Stony Brook and Morgan State.

Since the 2011 season, Stony Brook has compiled a 52-6 record when scoring 24 or more points in a game.

The team is back on the gridiron on Saturday, Nov. 12, when it hosts Towson on Senior Day. It will be Stony Brook’s final home game of the 2022 season.

Visit www.stonybrookathletics.com for tickets and any last minute cancellations.

When a guy makes a costly error on the baseball diamond and comes up to bat in the ninth inning and gets a big hit to win the game, the broadcaster will invariably say that baseball is a game of redeeming features.

We don’t hear that phrase used in football very much.

Northport senior defensive back Nick Valenti found out on Saturday that the gridiron also can be a place for redemption.

With a minute left in the third quarter of the Tigers opening round playoff game against Connetquot, Valenti was burned in man-to-man coverage for an 80-yard touchdown by Thunderbird wide receiver Tommy Malvagno. It cut the Tiger lead to 28-21 and sent an inconsolable Valenti to his bench to stew.

“I was pretty upset about giving up that TD,” said Valenti, who the week before, returned an interception for a touchdown in the regular season finale against West Babylon. “We just made a huge play to go up by 14, and I gave it right back to them.”

That huge play was an 84-interception yard return for touchdown by Tiger linebacker Matthew Lugo who plucked a pass out of the air that was deflected by teammate Andrew Miller. The momentum was with the Tigers and their roaring fans. After Malvagno’s explosive play, that momentum flipped right back to the Silver and Red, down by only one score heading to the fourth quarter. 

“Nick was being aggressive there and jumped in,” said Northport head coach Pat Campbell. “He (Malvagno) gave him a little juke, got past him and they made a play. But Nick makes plays for us too.”

Valenti has made plays all year. He has 13 catches for 185 yards as a receiver, has been very stingy in coverage and also had that game-changing pick against the Eagles on the road in North Babylon. Would he get another opportunity to help his team advance? 

Connetquot would tie the score midway through the fourth by the end of regulation, both teams had overcome 14-point deficits. The game would need to go to overtime; the winner advancing to the semi-final round of the Suffolk II playoffs. The loser’s season would die on the Tiger Stadium turf. 

Overtime rules dictate that the teams trade possessions until one team outscores the other in the exchange. Each possession starts 20 yards from the end zone.

Northport got the ball first and mustered only a Billy Griffiths’ field goal to take a rickety 31-28 lead. The Thunderbirds could now win the game with a touchdown. 

“I wasn’t exactly comfortable with only getting three points there,” Campbell said. 

With the way Connetquot moved the ball, the coach’s concern was justified. The T-birds had 366 yards of total offense on the day and only needed another 20.

Pepitone started his counterattack by pitching the ball left to running back Michael Buttino. Buttino was hit immediately by Tiger safety Christian Raio, and Valenti looped around Buttino’s back and batted the ball out of his hand. Northport linebacker Thomas Kraus fell on the ball and the game was over. 

But the celebration had just begun. 

Led by Valenti and Kraus, the entire Tiger team stormed down the field towards the scoreboard, in a wild, jubilant display — a massive and jumping sea of blue and white. Legendary Lacrosse Coach Carol Rainson-Rose, who also serves as occasional public address announcer, was gleefully saying something over the microphone but was being drowned out by the raucous crowd and blaring marching band.

Valenti was redeemed.

“I really did some thinking on the sidelines and my teammates told me to keep my head straight and make the next play,” said the relieved Valenti. “So, it felt great to force that fumble and send them home.”

One of those teammates was running back Michael Campoli who broke off another huge run — a 54 yard touchdown late in the first half to get Northport on the board. The Tigers trailed in this game 14-0, the second week in a row they were in such an early hole.

“I gave him (Valenti) a little tough love,” said Campoli, who finished with 112 yards on the ground. “I told him to not let that play define who he is and that he is still a great player.”

With Connetquot still leading 14-7 late in the second quarter after Campoli’s TD burst, T-bird quarterback Nick Pepitone, who threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns, floated a long pass against a heavy wind into a crowd of blue shirts. Tiger DB Evan Gaumont picked it off and returned it to midfield. RB Andrew DeMarco scored moments later, tying the game at the half. Miller had a big 30-yard catch and run to set up the score.

“Andrew Miller was flat out dominant on both sides of the ball,” Campbell said. “He was the best player on the field today and I would say it was the best game of his career. He’s just a great, great player and one of the best kids I’ve ever had the pleasure to coach.”

Miller had 103 yards receiving, including a touchdown, sprung Campoli with a kick-out block on his touchdown run, led the way on Lugo’s pick-six, and terrorized Pepitone all day long from his defensive end spot.

“I think this game was one of my personal bests,” said team captain Miller, who will attend West Point Military Academy in September of 2023. “It fills me with joy to continue playing with this group of guys and we have a lot more to give. We have a great opportunity this week against Lindenhurst.”

Ah, yes, Lindenhurst. One of Northport’s oldest and most heated rivalries, this will be a case where both teams will have revenge on their mind. Last year, on a cold, misty night in Lindenhurst, the Bulldogs scored two touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game to stun Northport and deprive the Tigers of a chance to play for the county championships. The Tigers are still bitter about this loss.

This bitterness sweetened somewhat six weeks ago when Northport blanked the Dogs, and their all-purpose superstar Chris Carson, 19-0, at Northport.

“Lindenhurst is a very tough team, they are well-coached, and Chris Carson is one of the best players in our league,” Campbell said. “I’ve heard all the talk about how they want payback on us because we shut them out, but we haven’t forgotten what happened in the playoffs last year either. I’m not going to say anything more about that. We’ll let what happens on the field decide it.”

In the Div. IV quarterfinal round of the postseason, the 4-3 Miller Place Panthers came knocking on the door of the 4-3 Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats on Friday, Nov. 4.

Miller Place, the fifth seed, looked to avenge its season-opening 3-point defeat at the hands of the Wildcats back in early September. And avenge it they did.

Miller Place running back Joell Spagnuolo rose to the occasion with a four-touchdown, 248-yard performance that powered the Panthers to victory, 35-28, while on the road.

Shoreham-Wading River wide receiver Will Hart caught two touchdown passes — one for 45 and the other for 23 yards — from quarterback Dylan Zahn.

The victory sends the Panthers to the semifinal round, where the team will face undefeated Bayport-Blue Point in another road game on Friday, Nov. 11. Admission tickets can be purchased here: https://gofan.co/app/school/NYSPHSAAXI.

The Cougars of Centereach had their hands full when they hosted Newfield, their cross-town rival, trailing 22-0 at the halftime break. 

Newfield’s JJ Deliat punched in from short yardage, as did Kenny Petit-Frere, then Payne Weinhauer picked off a pass for the interception and went 43 yards for the score. 

Centereach senior quarterback Riddick Drab broke the ice for the Cougars on the opening play of the third quarter, finding the endzone to remove the goose egg from the scoreboard. 

Newfield receiver Dylan Smith answered back, catching an 8-yard pass from quarterback Matt Evers followed by an 11-yarder to take a commanding lead.

In this Div. II matchup on Saturday, Oct. 29, Drab scored on a 31-yard run in the 4th quarter. But that was all the Cougars could muster, falling 35-12 to conclude both teams’ 2022 campaigns.

— Photos by Bill Landon

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The Patriots of Ward Melville (5-2) seemed to control the tempo of the game against Pat-Med on senior night, protecting their 21-15 lead at the half.

But the Raiders trailing by five with seven minutes left in regulation connected on a 34-yard pass play in the closing minutes of the game to lead the Patriots, 28-27. With time running out, the Raiders held off the Patriots late game surge snatching the victory in the final game of the Division 1 regular season Friday night Oct 28. The win lifts the Raiders to 4-4 while the Patriots drop to 5-3 heading into post season play.

Ward Melville the No. 4 seed will look to resume their winning ways in the opening round of the playoffs when they host Walt Whitman No. 5 seed Friday night, Nov. 4. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

After a deadlocked score at halftime, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats rattled off three unanswered scores in the third quarter, surging ahead at home against the Mustangs of Mount Sinai on Friday, Oct. 21. 

Senior quarterback Dylan Zahn hit wide receiver Kieran Clifford on a 63-yard pass for the touchdown at the 8:27 mark. Zahn then connected with Liam Kershis for the 33-yard play that went the distance for the score six minutes later. 

With 0:17 left in the quarter, Kershis punched in on short yardage to put the Wildcats out front 38-17. Shoreham-Wading River kicker Sean Palmer was perfect on the night, splitting the uprights seven times, one of which was a 24-yard field goal attempt. 

Mount Sinai senior running back Jake Spallina answered back, finding the endzone on short yardage to cut the deficit to 38-23 with eight minutes left. Kershis, who rushed for 121 yards on 14 carries, broke free, covering 27 yards for the score to put his team ahead 45-23 with 3 minutes left in regulation. 

Mount Sinai senior quarterback Jaden Rotella threw deep to wide receiver Drew Feinstein for a 73-yard pass for the score. Feinstein then capped off the drive by running it in on the two-point conversion to trail 45-31, which was the final score. 

Zahn completed 22 of 30 passes for 298 yards and three touchdowns. 

The win lifts the Wildcats to 4-3 on the season, with postseason play kicking off Friday, Nov. 4.

— Photos by Bill Landon

This past week, the Northport High School football team showed the world that their credo — Class, Commitment, and Character — isn’t just a trio of noble-sounding words.

They embodied it.

Two Saturdays ago, the Tigers not only lost a game to top-ranked Bellport and a share of first place in Suffolk County Division II, but also the services of their all-star quarterback, linebacker, and field general on both sides of the ball, senior Owen Johansen. He is out for the season with a broken ankle.

Johansen was injured early in the game against the Clippers when their star player, Donte Phillips, ripped Johansen down by his facemask and the Northport quarterback got his ankle rolled over and broken by Phillips, who never let go of the mask throughout the course of the play. It was an over-the-top, dirty tackle. 

Phillips was called for unnecessary roughness, and Bellport lost 15 yards. But Northport lost its heart, soul and leader as Johansen’s brilliant high school football career was now over.

As the misery of that Saturday afternoon faded into the next week, there was not a single member of the Tiger football family that outwardly expressed any malice towards Phillips or Bellport.  There was no complaint filed with Section XI about the flagrancy of the foul or the severity of the injury. Instead, there was a lot of talk of ‘it’s football, injuries happen, and we have to move on.’

That’s class — and it starts from the top.

“Owen is a fantastic football player,” said Northport Head Coach Pat Campbell. “He’s a phenomenal quarterback, probably one of the best defensive players I have ever coached, and he’s a great teammate and leader. It [stinks] that he got hurt, but it’s a team game. Guys are going to have to step up.”

Senior Macklin O’Brien took over as quarterback in Bellport and showed flashes of competence. He directed a long, first-half drive that he finished himself with a 14-yard touchdown scramble. But the Tigers would lose, 21-7, and next up on their schedule on Oct. 22 were the always powerful and well-coached West Islip Lions, who like the Tigers have a record of 4-2.

“Mack has been taking snaps with the first team in practice since August and he works his butt off,” Campbell said. “Nobody on the outside has really ever gotten the chance to see it, but everybody in our locker room knows that he’s a great quarterback.”

It was now time for O’Brien to prove it in a game against a quality opponent.

He would start the day spectacularly, engineering a 75-yard touchdown drive that included two nice throws and an off-schedule scramble for 15 yards that was reminiscent of his fallen friend and teammate Johansen.

“I’ve been working hard in practice behind Owen all year,” said O’Brien. “It’s just my nature to compete and try hard for my teammates and myself. I thought I played okay today, but now I just have to get better.”

Christian Raio would finish the drive with a four-yard touchdown run on his only carry of the day, and Northport would lead 7-0 with six minutes left in the first quarter and would take 7-6 lead into halftime. Johansen was on the Tiger sideline in a boot and waved his crutches around whenever the Tigers and O’Brien did well. In turn, the team wore a #8 decal on their helmets, Johansen’s number, to honor him. This is Tiger class now blended with a commitment to one another.

Lest we forget, the West Islip football program is as successful as there is on Long Island. They are also mixed up in this Conference II dogfight and needed this game just as much as Northport.

To start the second half, they ripped off a 16 play, 85-yard drive for a touchdown. Bruising running back Chris Piropato had 29 of those 85 yards, and he capped it off with a two-yard blast up the middle. West Islip took the lead for the first time, burning most of the third quarter and wresting momentum in doing so.

On Senior Day for Northport, the stands were packed, the state champion field hockey team had won a playoff game earlier in the day, and the 300-piece marching band, sounded like it was 600 during their halftime performance. But the stadium was now stunned into silence.

With a Tiger loss, West Islip would leapfrog Northport and at 4-3, the Tigers would be scrambling just to make the playoffs with only a road game against West Babylon left on its schedule.  The Tigers would need to answer.

Tiger running back Michael Campoli would do just that. He ran off right tackle and followed a devastating lead block from fullback/linebacker Thomas Kraus. Fifty-seven yards later and 57 seconds after they lost the lead, Campoli gave it right back to them. It was now 14-13 Northport.

“I just try to help the team any way I can,” said the junior Campoli, who also contributes on defense and special team. “Kraus made a great block, and I saw a lot of green in front of me. He was the reason I scored on the play.”

“Lead blocking is always a fun time for me,” Kraus said. “I had a feeling we were going to get Campoli in the end zone on that play and we did.”

Michael Raio would get in the end zone again for the Tigers from four yards out with 5:29 left in the game. The senior halfback electrified the crowd with a 28-yard run and two plays later, would close the deal and give Northport a 20-13 lead. The party was on.

It was Raio’s third rushing TD of the year and after the Tigers got the ball back on downs, was looking for his fourth with the ball deep in West Islip territory.  He ran behind Tiger tight end Andrew Miller and had enough yardage for a first down to seal the win. But linebacker Jordan Fileti got a desperation right hand on the ball as Raio ran by him. Lion Safety Dan Klein fell on it at the West Islip 10-yard line and down by only seven points, the Lions had new life in a now dead-silent stadium.

“I was sick to my stomach when I lost that ball,” Raio said, “One guy (Fileti) grabbed my arm as he was falling, and it came out. I should have had both hands on it.”

All Raio could do now was watch and root for his teammates on defense, as West Islip was 90 yards from tying the game with 2:15 remaining. 

They would get a huge chunk of that 90 when Lion quarterback Patrick Keenan ran for 17 yards to start the drive and things started to get dicey for Northport. The Lions had all their timeouts remaining.

But Northport defensive lineman Justin Macke sacked Keenan on the next play and Tim Cleary, who is the de facto leader of the Tiger defense in Johansen’s absence, ended the threat with a leaping interception at the Tiger five-yard line. The Tigers had themselves an exhilarating and perhaps season-saving win, and they celebrated like it.

“That was a statement game,” said the senior linebacker Cleary, who had 13 tackles on the day. “We made some adjustments in the second half on defense, and we stopped them when we needed to.”

So, in the first game in the post-Johansen era, the Tigers rolled up 256 yards of offense, overcame a second half deficit — however brief — and withstood a late charge after a costly turnover to gut out a victory in a very important game.

This was a character win in the truest sense, and it was a great time for all three of Northport football’s principles to not just exist as painted words on a locker room wall, but really have them come to life.