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Lacrosse

Emily LaRosa greets a lacrosse player. Photo by Rita J. Egan

On the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, Three Village community members and athletes from surrounding areas came together to remember a former Ward Melville High School athlete and raise funds for his namesake scholarship.

JoJo LaRosa’s mom, second from left, is joined by friend Kathy Whelan, sister Rose Mastrantoni and friend and one of the jamboree organizers Dawn Gibbons. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The inaugural JoJo Strong Jamboree took place Nov. 27 on three of the WMHS fields with more than 230 lacrosse players from 12 teams competing, some from areas outside of the Three Village community such as Smithtown and Adelphi alumni.

The inaugural champions, the Ward Melville women’s team comprised of Team Hannah/Team Madison, beat the Adelphi women’s team, 7-6, in an incredible come from behind victory, including a last second save by Samantha Tarpey. The Adelphi men’s team beat the Ward Melville 2015/16 team.

The event was held in memory of Joseph “JoJo” LaRosa who graduated from WMHS in 2017 and was part of the state champion lacrosse team that same year. This past August, LaRosa passed away during surgery. He went in for a procedure that would have involved a full abdominal transplant due to complications caused by radiation treatment he had received during his battle with the cancer desmoplastic small round cell tumor sarcoma. The Stony Brook resident had beaten the cancer that started soon after he graduated from WMHS.

David Ratner, one of the event organizers, said while a count has not yet been finalized, thousands of dollars were raised for the Joseph “JoJo” LaRosa Memorial Scholarship Foundation at the first annual event. The goal of the jamboree and scholarship is to assist scholar-athletes for years to come, according to Ratner.

The Nov. 27 event included clinics for young athletes, Ward Melville alumni competing against teams from Adelphi University and Smithtown, an Old Skool men’s tournament and fastest shot competition. After the games on Nov. 27, an awards ceremony was held at The Bench Bar & Grill in Stony Brook.

The hope is for the lacrosse jamboree to become an annual event and next year’s is scheduled for Nov. 26, according to Ratner.

LaRosa’s mother Gina Mastrantoni described the event as “spectacular.”

“It was an amazing show of love, and it was humbling,” the mother said. “It was bittersweet. I didn’t really have much of a dry eye.”

She added her son is her hero and was a warrior.

“He had the highest level of determination, grit, perseverance,” the mother said.

Players hit the field during the JoJo Strong Jamboree. Photo by Rita J. Egan

Mastrantoni attended the event with her daughter Emily, who played on traveling lacrosse teams, husband Bruce Latham, sister Rose Mastrantoni, best friend Dawn Gibbons, who was a jamboree organizer, as well as other friends and family members.

Throughout the day, she saw friends of LaRosa’s that he made during his semester at Adelphi studying and playing lacrosse, and those he had been friends with since his early days in the Three Village school district. Mastrantoni said a group of about a dozen-and-a-half kids from the neighborhood was called the Sluggers.

Among those Sluggers was Dylan Maggio, who played lacrosse for a few years. While Maggio stopped playing in ninth grade, he said on Saturday he played with the 2017 team and even scored a goal.

Maggio described the day as well organized with everyone excited to play. He was impressed with the number of people who attended and said they made the day a rewarding experience.

“We were just surprised with how many people have come to know JoJo where they wouldn’t have before, and how many people he has inspired just by persevering through the things that he was forced to confront,” he said.

LaRosa’s father Joseph LaRosa attended with his wife Gianna and their 12-year-old son James. The younger LaRosa was excited to play with members of the 2017 WMHS team who played with his brother. During the jamboree, Emily LaRosa also played as well as some of JoJo LaRosa’s cousins.

“It was great to see everybody come out and see how many people JoJo touched through his journey and what he has been through,” Joseph LaRosa said.

The father said the organizers “put their hearts and souls into planning this jamboree.”

Dave Purdy, one of the organizers who coached JoJo LaRosa in youth lacrosse for a few years, was on hand Nov. 27 and played in the Old Skool game. He described the lacrosse community as a close-knit one. He added that while the Ward Melville alum only played at Adelphi for a semester due to cancer, the team and coaches always made him feel as if he was a part of them by having him sit on the sidelines with the team during games and fundraising so he can join them on a trip to Tampa, Florida. So, it was no surprise to organizers that former lacrosse players from Adelphi took part in the jamboree.

“It was just a great day to remember JoJo for the game that he loved so much, and see it all come together,” Purdy said.

He added, “Just seeing old friends down there, community members who used to go to travel tournaments together and maybe had not kept in as close contact, they get to see each other down there at Ward Melville High School and The Bench afterward.”

At The Bench at the end of the day, Maggio’s band SWIM played for the attendees. LaRosa’s friend sang the song “Everybody” by rapper Mac Miller. The song is a remake of Love’s “Everybody’s Gotta Live.” LaRosa told Maggio he liked the song during a trip to  Vermont with friends. It was just the two of them in the car at the time.

“It just reminds me of that drive with him,” Maggio said. “It just reminds me of hanging out with him one-on-one. I really cherished those times.”

JoJo LaRosa, #18, takes to the field with his fellow Ward Melville High School lacrosse players in 2017. That year, the lacrosse team won the state championship. Photo by John Dielman

The memory of a young man from Stony Brook has inspired a lacrosse jamboree that will raise money for scholarships for Ward Melville High School student-athletes.

Joseph “JoJo” LaRosa

Joseph “JoJo” LaRosa graduated from WMHS in 2017 and left behind an impressive sports legacy, and in the few years after high school, he taught the community about courage.

This past August, LaRosa died after a battle with the cancer desmoplastic small round cell tumor sarcoma. The form of cancer started soon after he graduated from WMHS. While he had beaten DSRCT,  before his passing, LaRosa went in to have surgery that would have involved a full abdominal transplant due to complications caused by radiation treatment he had received. He didn’t survive the surgery.

David Ratner, whose son Dylan has been friends with LaRosa since early elementary school, is part of a five-person committee that is organizing the JoJo Strong Jamboree that will take place Saturday, Nov. 27, at the high school. The proceeds from the benefit lacrosse tournament will go toward the Joseph “JoJo” LaRosa Memorial Scholarship Foundation at WMHS. The goal is to assist scholar-athletes for years to come, according to Ratner.

Lacrosse was chosen for the benefit as LaRosa was part of the 2017 state champion lacrosse team at WMHS. The day will include a tournament and clinic for young athletes as well as Ward Melville alumni competing against teams from Adelphi University and Smithtown. The day also will include an “Old Skool” men’s tournament and fastest shot competition.

Ratner said the relationship that he, his wife Julie and son had with LaRosa and has with his mom Gina Mastrantoni could be described as unbreakable ever since the two moved around the corner from the family.

“He basically lived in my house for the last 17 years, so he was almost like my adopted son,” Ratner said.

For a while, Ratner’s son played lacrosse with LaRosa, until Dylan Ratner switched to tennis. The boys used to play lacrosse on the family’s driveway and street, too.

“The neighborhood was a field of dreams for these kids,” the father said. “They would run around and play in the dark, and it was like the old times.”

In addition to lacrosse, LaRosa was a kicker for Patriots football after playing soccer for years. Ratner described LaRosa as a great sportsman.

“It was really a great role for him, and it really showed his leadership character,” Ratner said. “You can win or lose a game based upon your one kick and nothing got him down — nothing would faze him.”

Mastrantoni said her son’s first word was “ball.”

“He tried every single sport there was to try,” the mother said, adding in addition to lacrosse, football and soccer there was swimming and wrestling.

She said after he started treatment he took up golf, and it became his passion.

“You name the sport he tried it,” she said. “This kid was all about sports and competing, and as much as he’d love to win, he was a good sportsman as well. He was very kind and respectful. The best kind of kid and a very good son, very caring.”

After graduating from Ward Melville in 2017, LaRosa headed to Adelphi University on a scholarship. Ratner said during Christmas break that year, the college student felt stomach pain and went to Stony Brook University Hospital. It was determined he had some type of cancer, even though it couldn’t be ascertained what type at the time. After various tests between the Mayo Clinic and Memorial Sloan Kettering in Manhattan, he was diagnosed with the deadly cancer.

Ratner said LaRosa always stayed positive and talked about future plans, including one day getting married and having a family.

“He was ready to get back to his life,” Ratner said.

“He did not entertain sadness because he thought of it as negativity.” 

Gina Mastrantoni

His mother said he also considered going into health care and contemplated becoming a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner.

“He did not entertain sadness because he thought of it as negativity,” she said.

The mother added that he had hoped to go to Adelphi for another semester and then go to James Madison to be part of its football team as a kicker.

This will be the first lacrosse tournament that the committee hopes to make an annual event to help students, according to Ratner. He said fundraisers were held in the past to support LaRosa and his family during his battle, and the support from the community as well as all over Long Island was tremendous.

Mastrantoni said the tournament is exciting, and she plans to attend. She has been touched by the support of family and friends as well as the community.

“It’s amazing how many people he touched in the last 22 years,” the mother said.

From being on the traveling lacrosse team, LaRosa’s life also touched many in rival school districts, including Smithtown, and former members of the town’s traveling team will be at the tournament to play.

“They’re coming out to show solidarity,” Ratner said.

He added members of the Three Village school district and board of ed have been helpful in making the event happen. Kevin Finnerty, school district executive director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics, said his heart broke for the former student-athlete’s family and friends when he heard of LaRosa’s passing a few months ago. The decision to have the event at the school, he said, was an easy one.

“JoJo was an amazing student-athlete with a heart of gold and a great perspective on life,” Finnerty said. “As his family would say, he was the bravest warrior. During JoJo’s battle with cancer, he inspired so many of his peers, family members and the community with his strength, resiliency and positive attitude.”

Finnerty said the organizers have been putting a lot of work and effort into the event.

“I know it will be a great success and a great way to rally our community to remember and honor JoJo,” he said.

After the games on Nov. 27, an awards ceremony will be held at The Bench in
Stony Brook.

Photo from the Reh family

Rocky Point native Troy Reh, who is a member of the “Chaos” that recently won the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship, said it was a “great experience.”

“It’s always awesome to play with my brother on the high school and college level of competition,” he said. “Not everyone has this opportunity, and this was extremely special for our family.”

Lacrosse runs deep within this local family that has seen generations of Reh’s dominate high school, college and professional competition. Since the fifth grade, Troy, and his twin brother Justin, have strengthened their family name in lacrosse by displaying a unique expertise in lacrosse. The love of this game began under the guidance of their father and uncles, and through the early coaching that they received in the junior Rocky Point Police Athletic Teams league.  

Photo from the Reh family

For many years, Troy was smaller in physical stature, and he did not fully grow until his first year in college. Justin recalled that he had a limited understanding of the game as a kid who would usually follow the ball on the field. He eventually demonstrated stick handling skills and coordination at an early age by catching lefty and throwing righty. 

The brothers paid their dues in playing time, as Justin did not make the varsity until his sophomore year and Troy started as a senior. Being on the varsity at an earlier age, Justin had moments of excellence and challenges. During his sophomore year, he played well against tough teams like Shoreham Wading River and Comsewogue, and he scored 50 points. 

As Justin began to make a name for himself through his school and travel lacrosse teams, in the last moments of a practice during his junior season within the old “pit” field, he broke his foot. It was a difficult injury, as Justin looked forward to playing Mount Sinai, where his father is the athletic director, and he wanted to play against the difficult competition of this local team. 

With treating a “Jones Fracture” for several months, Justin was unable to have any type of mobility, and was away from a game that he loved. Every day, this injured player still worked on his skills through the aid of a “pitch-back.” He sat in a chair and used both hands to throw the ball over a hundred times righty and lefty.  

The Class of 2014 were an extremely close group of student-athletes that all began playing lacrosse at the same time. They watched the 2008 Rocky Point Eagles win the state championship and since they were in middle school, the Reh’s, along with their friends Pat Dallon, Brendan McGovern, Chris Johnson, Jake Clark and Chris McGreevy, all were confident that they would have a similar success in lacrosse once they became seniors.  

And this estimation was fulfilled in 2014, after an early loss to Babylon, the team was reminded by the Reh boys that they always had to play hard, and Babylon was a “wake up call” that motivated this team to win the county title.

Scott Reh was an assistant coach during his son’s senior year and identified their leadership qualities as “being great teammates, that always put the needs of their team first.”

In the play-offs against Miller Place, Justin broke his ribs, but kept playing to guide the team towards victory. Against Lynbrook, Rocky Point did not play its finest game and while they were still battered from Miller Place, they lost the Long Island Championship 10-9. 

Former Rocky Point goalie Patrick Dallon vividly recalled that the Reh brothers always “made you feel more confident about the outcome of a game, and as a goalie, that’s all you could ask for. They had a way of taking a lot of pressure off other players because of what they were capable of doing on the field.  I miss being on the same team as them, these were some of the best memories that I have.”  

Another buddy, who played with the Reh’s for many years was Brendan McGovern. He played many games with these brothers and observed that they had the “ability to always be one step ahead of everyone else, and they understood exactly where to be on the field.”

The Reh boys followed up their family’s tradition of being dominant players under the guidance of Coach Michael P. Bowler. Justin saw Bowler as one of the “greatest people that he had ever known” and that this long-time coach always stressed the need for his players to be “respectful, carry yourself in a positive manner and to be productive citizens.”   

Photo from the Reh family

Helene Bowler recalled the immense affection of her late husband towards Justin, Troy, their father Scott, and his two brothers, that were all dominant athletes. She remembered the “unique opportunity and privilege” that her late husband had in coaching Troy and Justin, and having his former player in Scott, be next to him as an assistant coach during this successful season.  

“Justin was hurt during the play-offs, that he performed at a high level to help this team win and that Troy was an excellent motivator to get the boys moving in the right direction,” she said. “And most importantly, they always carried themselves in a good manner, were excellent team first players, and they have developed into outstanding young men.”

After graduating from Rocky Point High School in 2014, the brothers were recruited and signed by the University of Albany. This was an ideal fit, as they gained a quality education, competed on a Division I team, and were close enough for their parents and family members to attend Albany lacrosse games.  

Starting at Albany, Justin had poor luck, as he was sick with mono, and he re-aggravated his foot injury.  Troy saw limited time in fall and spring lacrosse, but he realized that Albany had been a good fit for him and Justin. 

Like that of Bowler’s tutelage, who was a father figure to his teams over the last several decades, the same type of support was presented to these boys at Albany. It was observed that their college coach Scott Marr team ran his team like a family, as they were expected to put in their work on the field, but they had a great deal of fun on this team.  

As a sophomore, Troy cracked the starting line-up as a long stick mid-fielder and was a team leader until his final senior season. Justin had a tremendous season as a junior, where he was one of the highest scorers in the nation. 

He gained over 50% of his shots on net as goals, where he garnered all division and conference award for his stellar play and was also honored as an academic All-American. 

While they made the play-offs during their junior season, the Reh boys had a similar final year like that at Rocky Point. They were surrounded by great players that worked well together and had set their goals to being one of the finest teams in the entire nation. 

Albany made it to the semi-finals and lost in the Final Four to the eventual National Champions in Yale at Gillette Stadium in Massachusetts. Both Troy and Justin describe this game as if it was yesterday, and they are immensely proud of their teammates in making it only steps away from gaining a championship.  

Whereas they came up a bit short, during the playing tenure of the Reh’s, this university won three American East titles and always played well against rivals like that of Hartford, Vermont and Stony Brook University. Through their sheer determination to excel, the Reh’s helped Albany reach its highest lacrosse achievements that this college ever earned.

For a once smaller player in physical stature, Troy grew into an outstanding athlete that was three time all conference player, recognized as a 3rd team All-American, and was an Academic All-American.  Staying consistent with their ability to perform at different athletic levels of play, both boys would again be united, as they were both drafted by the New York Lizards.  

Again, they played with some of the finest talent in the nation and had games against opponents in Dallas, Baltimore, Atlanta, Boston and Denver. Justin believed that it was an honor to learn from his former professional teammate in Rob Pannell who was a wealth of lacrosse information and expertise.  This athlete was one of the most respected players in nation on the college level at Cornell and for the Lizards.  

Like that of high school and college, Troy marveled at the chance that him and Justin had to play for the Lizards and play on the same fields that they visited as kids.  

As a four-year veteran of playing professional lacrosse, Troy has the unique insight in helping the creator Paul Rabil of the Premier Lacrosse League expand this sport.  

According to Troy, the PLL has eight teams, where players drive or fly to various cities to attend meetings, practices, and games. With a championship under his belt, Troy has also been a key figure in helping the founder of this league grow this sport across America. Troy has become an early pioneer to expand this league through his ability to run camps, organizing sales and emails to garner wide-scale interest. When they are not playing professionally or working their own jobs, the Reh boys can be seen within the fields of Rocky Point High School giving lessons, breaking down this sport and always flashing a big smile as they mentor our local players.

Since they picked up a stick in the fifth grade, these local North Shore athletes have surely made a name for themselves within lacrosse. Through drive, determination, and making it through adversity, the Reh boys are not only true ambassadors to this game, but they are genuine role models to our youth.  

While they have gained a tremendous amount of success over the years, these young men always were driven to succeed and put in all of the work through a team first mentality. Rocky Point Lacrosse Coach Tom Walsh said “our current players look up to their success and visualize the possibilities of what is out there to achieve within the sport of lacrosse through hard work and dedication.”

Port Jeff junior John Sheils drives on a Center Moriches defender in the Royal’s 8-7 victory in the class D championship game at home Jun 15. Photo by Bill Landon

After falling behind three goals in the Suffolk County class D championship game Port Jefferson on their home turf rallied when senior Daniel Koban scored the equalizer to retie the game at five all, late in the 3rd quarter.

Brady DeWitt stretched the net for the go-ahead goal in opening minute of the final quarter, followed by teammates Kyle Scandale and John Sheils who both found the cage to take an 8-5 lead with just under five minutes left in regulation in the June 15 contest.

But Center Moriches wouldn’t go quietly scoring twice more to make it a one goal game at the 2:52 mark keeping Port Jeff goalie Peter Murphy busy who had 12 stops in net in the 8-7 win.

Koban and Kyle Scandale the junior topped the scoring chart for the Royals with three goals apiece.

With the win Port Jeff punched their ticket for the recently announced Long Island Championship game and will square off against Nassau class D winner Friends Academy June 19 at East Islip high school. Game time is at 10 a.m.

Photos by Bill Landon

Mt. Sinai sophomore Lea Flobeck reversed direction for the Mustangs Jun. 16. Bill Landon photo

The Mount Sinai Mustangs No. 3 took a one goal lead into the halftime break in the girl’s class C lacrosse championship finals against Bayport No. 1 June 16, but the Phantom’s peppered the scoreboard with four un-answered goals to open the second half to lead by three. The Mustang’s arrested their scoring drought on a Kylie Budke penalty shot to trail by two with 9:47 left in regulation.

Bayport was dominant at the draw position and dominated the time of possession clock the rest of the way to hold off Mount Sinai for a 7-5 victory to advance to the Long Island championship round.

Mount Sinai junior Nicole Phillips scored twice as Kylie Budke, Lea Flobeck and Kayli Carannante each scored in the Mustang’s season finale.

With the win Bayport remains perfect on the season at 16-0 entering the Long Island Championship final as the Mustang’s conclude their 2021 campaign at 10-5. 

By Steven Zaitz

The Northport Tigers Boys Lacrosse team advanced to the Suffolk County Division I championship game with a hard-fought 9-6 win over Smithtown West this past Monday. They faced Ward Melville at Northport on Wednesday (results not available at press time). A win will give them a chance to take on the Nassau County Champion — Syosset or Farmingdale on June 19.

The Tigers were led by midfielders Tristan Triolo and Casey Fortunato both of whom had two goals, and got outstanding goaltending by Andrew Tittman, who recorded 15 saves on 21 shots. Troy Riley had two goals for the Bulls.

After Smithtown took a 2-1 lead midway through the first quarter, Northport exploded for three consecutive goals in a three-minute span to earn a 4-2 halftime lead.

“Our midfielders stepped up today,” Triolo said. “Against Smithtown East, our attackers scored most of the goals, but today it was the middies.”

Midfielder Jack Helrigel also chipped in with a goal, as did attackers Mike Meyer, Jim Atkinson, Ryan McCarthy and Drew Miller. Miller’s goal came midway through the fourth quarter and restored a two goal lead for Northport after the Bulls had two quick ones within a minute of each other, to cut the lead to one.

After Miller’s goal, Smithtown West asked the officials to check faceoff specialist Tyler Kuprianchik’s stick for illegal pocket depth — a rare challenge that turned out to be successful.  The Bulls were awarded a two-minute man-up situation. 

They failed to capitalize.

“That was a little disrespectful to the game, in my opinion,” Triolo said. “Tyler has been taking face-offs all game. Of course, his stick is going to be messed up. It didn’t really matter because they didn’t score anyway.”

Kuprianchik won 67% of his face-offs on the evening, providing precious extra possession time for the Tigers.

“Tyler was great, and Andrew (Tittman) was unbelievable in goal for us. He made all kinds of great saves,” Triolo said. “It was a great team win and now we get to play a home game for the County Championship. It’s crazy.”

The stakes get higher from here with county and Long Island Championship games in the offing, and with them, a new level of crazy.

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The Bulls of Smithtown East came to Ward Melville May 13 looking to keep their 4-0 undefeated season alive. They had after all outscored their opponents, 63-44, through four games, but the Patriots also at 4-0 scored 55 goals allowing only 14.

Ward Melville had the upper hand through three quarters of play when the Bulls rallied scoring four unanswered goals in the fourth quarter, but the Patriots prevailed to win the Division I matchup 12-7.

The win lifts the Patriots into second place in their division behind Huntington through five games.

Junior attack Xavier Arline drives to the cage for the Wildcats in the Suffolk Class C county final against Mount Sinai last year. With spring season cancelled, there will be no chance for a rematch. File photo by Bill Landon

High School seniors are normally under a lot of pressure come their last year of classes. It’s a time where students have to be thinking about where they want to go after graduation, what they want to do, all mixed in with a sense of finality to their grade school careers. For students involved in sports, it means the last season and the last chance they will have to take their team to county championships or maybe even states. 

Ward Melville second baseman Matt Maurer makes the scoop in a League I matchup against Central Islip last year. The team was hoping for even better this year, before the spring season was cancelled. File photo by Bill Landon

Then on April 22, Section XI made the announcement cancelling the spring sports season.

“After much discussion and consideration, the Athletic Council of Suffolk County has voted unanimously to cancel the spring sports season for 2020 at all levels,” Tom Combs, the Section XI executive director wrote in a statement. “The decision was not an easy one to make, however in what the world is experiencing at this time, it is the most prudent decision to make.”

With the cancellation of the spring sports season due to the ongoing pandemic, those same students now see any hopes of making it to playoffs dashed. Some teams, like the Ward Melville baseball team, might have been looking at their best season yet after making it to Suffolk County championships last year.

“Though we lost in the Suffolk County championship, the juniors were a big reason why they got there in the first place,” said Ward Melville baseball coach Lou Petrucci. “When we heard the news I talked to all the captains, and we talked to the seniors and juniors. They’re upset, but the spin we have to put on it is every time you play a baseball team you have to play it like it’s your last.”

Scott Reh, the Mount Sinai director of athletics, echoed the sentiment that the decision is going to most impact seniors, who he said the decision was “totally out of their control.” Though he and other athletic directors understood why it was done.

“At the end of the day, it’s very important because people are losing their lives, their jobs and the list goes on and on, “ Reh said. 

Mount Sinai girls lacrosse head coach Al Bertolone said his team has been “training every day since school closed,” and that he hosts video meetings with the team and individual groups daily. 

Though the news was hard, Bertolone said they had already participated in a car parade that ran past Mather and St Charles hospitals, which included the entire varsity team, parents, a fire truck, local police and some alumni as well.

“As far as we are concerned the games might have been canceled but our team is still going strong,” he said.

They are planning another car parade for Senior Day, May 14. 

Charles Delargey, the director of PE, health and athletics at the Rocky Point school district, said the girls lacrosse team hosted a senior parade for their 10 seniors last Saturday, and the boys lacrosse has plans to do something similar this weekend. 

Mount Sinai sophomore, then freshman Mackenzie Celauro slides home in game last year. File photo by Bill Landon

At 8:20 (20:20 military time) on Friday, May 1, districts will be turning on the lights and score board of their school football fields. The event is supposed to celebrate the sports teams in their 2020 season, with several schools planning live streams including comments from coaches.

In addition to several videos that coaches and students have put together, homes throughout the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District are displaying ‘Home of a Wildcat Senior 2020’ lawn signs to share in the school spirit. The district is also promoting the NYSPHSAA Mental Health Awareness Week from May 4-8 with social media messages. Plans are also in progress to honor all athletes at the annual athletic awards event which will be held virtually in the coming weeks. 

“Our coaches are in contact with our athletes to help to maintain optimistic attitudes and keep physically active during this time,” said SWR Director of Physical Education, Health, Athletics and Nurses Mark Passamonte.

School sports directors have been doing their best to keep spirits high. Adam Sherrard, the Port Jefferson School District athletic director, shared a video to his Twitter showcasing baseball players practicing, intercutting the video so it seemed the players were tossing the ball to each other.

Port Jeff is planning to host its regular sports ceremonies, including pictures of seniors in their uniforms in May and the signing ceremonies in June, but this time having to bring up each player individually for photos.

Indeed, practicing at home has become the new norm. Players have taken videos and pictures of themselves in their workouts and practices and posted such things to their coaches and teammates in phone messages and online.

Still, many students mourn the loss of their lost season — for some their last. As the bearer of bad news, coaches have done their best to offer consolation and hope for the future.

Matt DeVincenzo, the athletic director at Comsewogue School District, helped craft a video that was released Friday, April 24, on the district’s Facebook going through all the spring sports teams and specifically mentioning the graduating players, thanking them for all their hard work.

“Everyone’s pretty devastated,” DeVincenzo said. “Everyone saw the writing on the wall, and all the kids are affected, but our hearts really go out to the senior class. Unfortunately, they were robbed of last season in high school.” 

Port Jefferson senior Aidan Kaminski, then a junior, looks for an open lane last year during the Class D county final. He will not be able to finish his final senior season. File photo by Bill Landon

The unanimous decision from the Section XI board was a tough one, DeVincenzo said, but all acknowledged the impossibility of hosting sports during the ongoing pandemic.

But beyond the spring season, many still question what will happen in the summer, fall and winter.  All agree it’s still too early to tell.

For students participating in college sports, the National College Athletic Association said students graduating in spring will be eligible for collegiate scholarships as long as they still meet the course number requirements and show a 2.3 or higher GPA in those courses. The NCAA’s evaluations will not look at separate reviews of spring or summer distance learning during COVID-19 closures.

The question whether the coronavirus will impact sports in summer and fall is still up in the air, but with coaches not even aware if students will be back in school by the end of May, that question is leaning heavy on the minds of school athletics. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said April 24 he would later be announcing whether schools would remain closed, but as of press time has not yet made the decision. 

Delargey said when the news arrived last week, students were of course disappointed. On the other end, it was also a showcase of how students can show compassion.

“On a call with the softball team where the coach broke the news, after everyone spoke, one of our youngest kids on the team said to the seniors, ‘just want to let you know what an inspiration you’ve been to me.’” he said. “For a young kid to do that that’s amazing says what sports is all about.”

Locals Look Back on RP Teacher, Coach, Administrator and Icon

Michael Bowler, middle, was renowned as a RP lacrosse coach. Photos from Rich Acritelli

By Rich Acritelli

Just recently, Rocky Point Union Free School District lost the wonderful presence of longtime teacher, coach, advisor and administrator Michael Bowler, who passed away Dec. 1.  This legendary coach of 47 years had accumulated 447 wins as the only lacrosse coach Rocky Point had ever known. While Bowler was always a notable figure who taught, coached and mentored the students of the school, his unique background of honor, service, kindness and loyalty was established some 72 years ago.

Michael Bowler in his early days. Photo from Rich Acritelli.

Bowler was born Feb. 14, 1947, to Paul and Marie Bowler. He was raised in Hicksville with his brother Kevin and his two sisters Meg and Stephanie. During World War II, his dad was a Marine Corps fighter pilot who fought in the Pacific, where he was able to fly near one of the greatest baseball hitters of all time, Boston Red Sox icon Ted Williams. After the war, the senior Bowler was involved in business and his mother was an elementary school teacher. As a kid, Bowler attended Catholic school, where he loved playing football and basketball. Since religion has been a cornerstone of this family, Bowler served as an alter boy at St. Ignatius Elementary School. Later, Bowler attended St. Dominic’s High School in Oyster Bay. He was a four-year honor student, a featured running back on the football team and a major leader on the golf squad. His most crowning achievement was meeting his high school sweetheart and later wife, Helene, at the age of 16. Just recently, they renewed their wedding vows for their 50th wedding anniversary.

In 1965, Bowler graduated from high school and moved on to King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He studied history and education and was later a vice president of the student council and the president of the senior class. Shortly after graduating, he married Helene on Aug. 23, 1969, and was quickly hired as a social studies teacher at St. John the Baptist High School in West Islip where he taught history and theology. It was there Bowler began his lifelong passion of coaching, starting with the  junior varsity football team. In this rather busy time, Bowler enlisted in the New York Army National Guard for six years. Since his youth he was always in leadership positions, so it was no surprise that Bowler became a heavy truck operator and a platoon sergeant within a motor company. It was at this time Bowler and his wife welcomed their oldest son Brendan into the family Aug. 19, 1972.

In 1973, Bowler was hired at Rocky Point High School,where he continued teaching social studies and was offered a coaching position in lacrosse, a position that would shape the rest of his life. While Bowler was a well-rounded athlete, lacrosse was a new game for him. For the rest of his life, Bowler was always a student of a sport that saw him evolve into one of the finest high school coaches in New York. Bowler grew into a major faculty member that was in charge of the social studies department and was a senior class adviser who organized major trips to Montreal, Canada, and to Walt Disney World in Florida. He ran school dances, the battle of the classes, the senior picnic, prom and dinner from 1976 to 1995 and 2002 to 2003. For a decade, he also coached the varsity girls cross-country team. Bowler ran with his team and demonstrated a strong flair for pushing his students to do well at long-distance running. Like that of lacrosse, he was a devoted leader that had won several league titles and a coach of the year award from 1978 to 1988.

Michael Bowler, middle, was renowned as a RP lacrosse coach. Photos from Rich Acritelli

By 1985, the Bowler family grew to three more boys through the addition of Sean, Kevan and Michael All of them attended school at Infant Jesus in Port Jefferson before moving onto St. Anthony’s in Huntington. On top of his busy teaching and coaching schedule, to earn extra money for his family Bowler delivered beer, moved people’s homes and even transported libraries within the city and Long Island to different locations. At night, Bowler went back to school at C.W. Post to earn his administrative degree. He was quickly promoted as an assistant principal at Rocky Point middle and high schools. Armed with a big smile and a can-do attitude, Bowler was responsible for discipline, hiring teachers, scheduling staff and students and being a constant presence at all school functions.  He mentored teachers like Brooke Bonomi to constantly support the students around him within every imaginable task and activity.  Often, when one observed Bowler’s desk, it was often messy and full of papers dealing with every possible concern that can occur within a school. Even as he held an administration position, Bowler continued to coach the lacrosse team, where he had a positive impact inside and outside of this school.  

After several years of working with younger athletes, establishing intramural programs, and coaching the junior varsity team, by 1978 his squad had its first full varsity season. With an energetic demeanor, Bowler instructed a green group of athletes toward attaining an 11-8 record. This was the start of many outstanding decades that saw the Rocky Point Eagles be one of the finest programs within their league, county and on Long Island. In 1985, after several years of hard work, the Eagles captured their first county title. Bowler reached the pinnacle of success within the sport, as he eventually guided his players to a 2008 New York State Championship. For all of his devotion, Bowler was awarded numerous coaches of the year awards through his league and county and he was honored with being the Man of the Year in sports through Times Beacon Record and the local Rotary Club. 

In 2014, Rocky Point lost a hard fought game to Lynbrook, where the team came extremely close to making it to the state tournament. Ever the master communicator, Bowler made a detailed speech about the strengths of this group and the importance of giving their all to a contest and still being proud of themselves, even when some goals are not achieved. John Fernandez was a 1996 graduate of Rocky Point, a member of the West Point lacrosse team and close confidant of Bowler. He was severely wounded during the Second Gulf War in Iraq. This talented player openly recalled Bowler “never screamed or belittled a player, lost his cool or uttered profanity on the field. His success in coaching has come from his ability to encourage and get players to ask the most from themselves, not from others.”

Over the years the incredibly personable man established solid relationships with college coaches all over this nation. His “boys” played on every athletic college level at schools like Albany, Adelphi, Brown, Colgate, Dartmouth, Delaware, Hofstra, Manhattan, Stony Brook, Towson, Trinity, Wagner and Wesleyan. In larger numbers, his players served in the armed forces as they played within every service academy team. It is said Rocky Point has more captains that lead the West Point team than any other high school in America. Rocky Point guidance counselors Matt Poole and Jimmy Jordan always marveled at Bowler’s ability to fully understand the college recruiting and admissions process. For decades, Bowler drove his students on numerous trips in New England and the East Coast. Often the case, he quietly took money out of his own pocket for the sake of his players. Just this past year alone, former Rocky Point standout Peter LaSalla was a freshman and faceoff man on the University of Virginia lacrosse team. This local kid that just played for Bowler was a key member of a team that recently won the 2019 National Championship.

It is with a heavy heart that Rocky Point school district mourns the difficult loss of an individual that always made time for his family, friends, students and players. Even as he retired from his administrative position in 2004, Bowler continued to coach lacrosse until his declining health conditions forced him to retire from this position. Bowler leaves behind the love of his best friend Helene who spent countless hours at the school rooting for his teams, along with his three boys Brendan, Kevan and Michael. There is undoubtedly a special place in heaven for Bowler who is surely united with his second oldest son Sean, who passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease, otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2005. The family loved Sean’s girlfriend Adena Herskovitz, who as she was attending Yale Law School had taken care of him after he was diagnosed with ALS. While the Bowler’s are dominated by all boys, Adena truly represented the lone daughter of this family. As with Sean, Adena was recently at the bedside of Bowler to ensure that he was properly receiving the correct medical attention at Sloan Kettering in Manhattan.

Like that of Brooklyn native and Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi, who was a devout Catholic, teacher, coach, mentor and loyal member of his church, Bowler truly resembled the traits of this historic figure, of living his life for the love of his family, God and the Rocky Point Eagles. For decades, Bowler was a major member of the Infant Jesus Parish in Port Jefferson where he could be seen assisting with the weekly and Sunday Masses. At times, it is my custom to speak with Father Francis Pizzarelli of Hope House and Infant Jesus. With a big smile, Father Frank always described the devotion of Bowler who always enhanced others within his church and team. The priest recalled how Bowler even coached his family members. Always with a hectic schedule, Bowler and his wife took care of a special needs young man and his home over the last several years. Never did the Bowlers ever seek any type of attention for always putting others first — it was not their way. From his youngest moments, Bowler and his family “selflessly” aided others with a tremendous smile, kindness and heart.

Up until his death, Bowler dearly loved his family, team, community and church. He leaves behind a “tribe” of six grandsons, who he was immensely proud of seeing during his visits to Massachusetts and Colorado. Like that of his players, he followed their every lacrosse movements and was happy that they were all well-rounded student-athletes. In the summers, the family vacationed on Block Island where they looked forward to being together. While lacrosse was always a passion for Bowler, the athletic tradition has been passed onto all of his sons, who were all tough college players that later became high school coaches. His two older grandsons are devoted students who are currently playing for Duke University and Marist College. At a gathering that was held at the Bowler home after the cemetery services, the younger grandsons were running around the house with their football helmets on. They were catching passes from Bowler’s brother Kevin in the backyard of his home.  Like their grandfather, they flashed a brilliant smile as they were running around and tackling each other.  

At this sad time, as the Bowler family came together and at several points during this trying week, they could be heard laughing at colorful memories of this unique man.  At the church service at Infant Jesus Church in Port Jeffeson, his younger son, Michael, soundly recalled the dynamic ways and “quirks” of his father that had given so much to all those around him. It was hard to find a seat or place to stand as family members, neighbors, friends, current and former teachers, players and coaches all gave a final goodbye to a person that garnered so much affection. And these accounts that were creatively stated by Michael produced a large roar of laughter from the crowd. Each in turn  easily recalled the genuine ways of this former husband, parent, family member, educator, coach, church member, neighbor and veteran.

At the final wake services, where there were close to a thousand people that stood on line to share the numerous positive qualities of Bowler, 2010 high school graduate Michael Muller addressed the true meaning of this man. In front of a packed house, Muller, a graduate and a lacrosse player from Dartmouth College, said his life would have been vastly differently if it was not for the constant presence and guidance of “Coach Bowler.” Muller echoed the sentiments of this North Shore community that truly appreciated the dedication of Michael P. Bowler, who always looked to enhance the school district. 

The life of this “Renaissance man” could be summed up through the words of Lombardi who told his own players, “Once a man has made a commitment to a way of life, he puts the greatest strength in the world behind him.  It’s something we call heart power.  Once a man has made this commitment, nothing will stop short of success.”  

Through all of his amazing deeds to his family and school, Bowler has surely lived up to a high benchmark of excellence on and off the field.

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

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The Northport girls lacrosse team flash their bling after winning state championship title.

The Northport High School varsity girls lacrosse team proudly flashed new hardware: their New York state championship rings Sept. 10.

Upon receiving their rings, the student-athletes reminisced with their teammates over a “dominating” season. Having earned second place to Middle Country with a record of 13-1 in the regular Division I season, the team qualified for playoffs in May.

In the opening round, the Tigers beat Commack, 15-5, and advanced to the semifinals where they beat Ward Melville, 13-7, to qualify for the Suffolk County championship.

Northport won, 13-7, against Middle Country to earn the county title and proceeded to beat Farmingdale, 15-4, for the Long Island championship. Hard on the heels of these victories, the team dominated over Pittsford, 13-3, in the New York state semifinals, and defeated Baldwinsville, 10-8, in June to win their first state championship since 2011. The Tigers overall record was 21-1.

“They dominated the competition,” Mark Dantuono, the district’s director of heath, physical education and athletics, said.

Congratulations to the entire team, as well as head coach Carol Rainson-Rose, assistant coach Alton Rose, and volunteer assistant coaches Alexis Curcio and Cortney Fortunato.