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Lindenhurst

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Ward Melville set the tone of the game early, nearly shutting out Lindenhurst in the first eight minutes of play as the Patriots found their rhythm and outpaced their visitors, 54-27, in a non-league home game Dec. 2.  

Ward Melville junior Tyler Jean-Noel led the way for the Patriots with four field goals and two free throws for 10 points. Ben Sano added eight, along with Brady Reyling and Luke Chitkara, netting 7 points apiece. 

It was the Patriots’ second victory in as many games to launch their 2022-23 campaign. The team retakes the court when they host Connetquot to begin league play Dec. 12. Game time is scheduled for 5 p.m.

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By Steven Zaitz

If you weren’t sure if the summer was over on Long Island, all you needed to do was step outside your front door this past Saturday. 

Justin Macke (55) blocks Martin Pusey of Lindenhurst. Photo by Gina DeMarco

It was raw, damp, gray, windy and downright nasty, as our region dealt with the remnants of Hurricane Ian.

But for Head Coach Pat Campbell and his men, the Northport Football Tigers — it was one of the most unexpected days at the beach the team has ever had.

After sleepwalking through their first three games and somehow winning two of them, the Tigers faced arch-rival, previously undefeated, and consensus No. 1 team in Suffolk Conference II, Lindenhurst, and took them to the woodshed, blanking the Bulldogs 19-0; and if you can believe it, the game wasn’t even as close as the score would indicate.

The Tigers trounced the Bulldogs in all three phases of the football game, ripping off 287 yards rushing yards, dominating in the trenches on both sides of the ball, unleashing a relentless pass rush, and even winning on special teams. 

Considering that Northport has had lapses in concentration and execution for long stretches of games this year, and Lindenhurst came into the contest having outscored opponents 79-29 in their three wins, a Tiger victory would have been considered a mild to medium-sized surprise. What happened on Saturday however was shocking to everyone as the Tigers ran the ball at will, ringing up 21 first downs. Lindenhurst only had three.

“We hadn’t played well yet as a team,” Campbell said. “We’ve been getting beat on defense with people getting behind us and we’ve have given up too many long runs. Today we played up to our capabilities and played great complimentary football. Our offensive line was great, our D-Line was fantastic. I’m proud of our guys.”

Like every good upset, there is a backstory. The Tigers had a 20-6 lead with 10 minutes to play in last year’s Suffolk semi-final, high-stakes playoff game at Lindenhurst. But in the fourth quarter, the Tigers missed an extra point, committed 75 yards of penalties, and allowed the Bulldogs to score two late touchdowns in less than five minutes to win the game.

“We lost our composure in that game,” Campbell said. “The guys that were here learned a lot from it and the guys that weren’t here, have heard about it from those that were. We never want to have that feeling again.”

Northport Senior Quarterback and Captain Owen Johansen was there — and certainly did not forget.

“It was a big emphasis for me to beat this team,” Johansen said, who had his sixth rushing TD in three weeks and threw the ball beautifully despite the less-than-ideal conditions. “This wasn’t just another game for me, and I don’t want to speak for the rest of the boys, but that loss was in the back of my mind all week and when this game was over, it felt better than just a normal win.”

All of these pent-up thoughts and emotions seemed to come gushing out from every Northport player on Saturday.

Johansen, who has built a reputation as a hard-hitting, run-stuffing linebacker, looked even more ferocious than usual. On the very first play from scrimmage, Johansen knifed into the Bulldog backfield and splattered running back Brady Dolan for a three-yard loss. This play set the tone for the afternoon, as the Tigers would consistently have three, four or five blue helmets surrounding Lindy ball carriers before they even got to the line of scrimmage.

“Besides being a great quarterback, Owen is just a nasty, instinctive football player,” Campbell said.  “That play got us going right away and we were in attack mode — in their quarterback’s face all day and we shut down the running game.”

This gaggle of gang-tacklers, along with Johansen were Tim Cleary, Thomas Krause, Matt Diaz, Andrew Miller, Giancarlo Valenti and Christian Raio, who together made it seem like they stole a copy of Lindenhurst’s playbook, holding the Bulldogs minus seven yards rushing for the game. Lindenhurst’s All Long Island Wide Receiver Chris Carson caught two quasi-desperation bombs for 51 yards but if you remove those, the Bulldogs gained 18 yards on 35 offensive snaps. This is 0.5 yards per play.

Andrew DeMarco (25) and Tim Cleary. Photo by Gina DeMarco

“We knew they wanted revenge from last year but that is no excuse for the way we played” Carson said, who has been a star at Lindenhurst in baseball and football since his sophomore year. “It was just a rough game from top to bottom and our level of effort was not enough. Whatever the reason was, it will not happen again.”

As the defense enjoyed its finest game of the year, the Tiger offense was reluctant to play second fiddle, and it started with guys up front. 

On the nine-play drive which was their opening offensive series, the Tigers had runs of 18, 10 and 15, slashing and dashing behind blowout blocks of Cleary, newly inserted right guard Justin Macke, Mason Hecht, Conner Hennigman and Matt McGovern. It was both exhilarating and shocking a thing to see — a defense of Lindenhurst’s caliber getting carved up like a Thanksgiving Butterball. Johansen finished the opening drive with a 15-yard touchdown run, squeezing past All-County linebacker Nick Rose at the front left pylon.

Macke, who made a key block on Johansen’s score, was a junior fullback last year and used the heartbreak in Lindy as inspiration. 

“We haven’t beaten them in four years and this win was absolutely amazing,” Macke said. “They ended our season last year and we worked long and hard since then to get to today — and today we played Northport football and showed what we are capable of.”

A 98-yard drive is a pretty good indication of capable. That’s just what Northport did early in the second quarter. 

After losing a yard from their own two, Northport rammed the ball down the Bulldogs’ throat for a 99-yard touchdown march and a 14-point lead.  The highlights of the drive were a 39-yard run by Giancarlo Valenti off left tackle and a play-action pass to his brother Nick for 27 yards. Running back Michael Raio finished off the drive by flipping up and over the tackle attempt of Dolan and into the end zone for a five-yard score. Lindenhurst had no answers for any of this.

“Our offensive line was excellent today,” said Raio, who combined with Giancarlo for 177 rushing yards. “On the touchdown, He (Dolan) came in low, so I tried to jump over him. He got a piece of my foot and I went flying. I’m glad I came down in the end zone.”

After another three and out near their own goal line, Bulldog punter Ian Webb mishandled a snap that rolled through the back of the end zone for a safety, giving Northport a 16-0 lead that they took into the half.

The Tigers continued to dominate territorially after the break but were not able to put up any points in the third quarter.  Even with a 16-point lead, Campbell admits to having flashes of déjà vu of November’s playoff debacle as his teams’ penalties started to accumulate and it remained a two-score game.

 “Lindenhurst is ranked number one in the league for a reason,” Campbell said. “We bogged down a couple of times in the third quarter and we all know what happened last year, so yeah, it crossed my mind.”

Tiger Placekicker Billy Griffiths did his best to put Campbell’s mind at ease when he made a 33-yard field goal with 7:30 remaining in the game. It finally gave the Tigers the three-score lead they craved. 

“I was pretty confident that I’d make it,” said Griffiths, who played on the Tiger soccer team last year and has earned the nickname Billy the Boot. “The weather was a factor throughout the game, but for that kick I had the wind at my back, so I felt pretty good.”

As the soggy Northport crowd came to a crescendo, sensing a win, Chase Sasso, a senior running back, carried the ball for a couple of first downs and the game was officially sealed for Northport. He was thrilled to be on the field for such a big win.

“It was great to be out there and to finish the game,” Sasso. “I ran as hard as I could, making sure I held on to the ball with both hands.”

Northport is now tied with Lindenhurst for first in the Conference II and like Sasso, was not going to let this opportunity slip through its fingers.

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Despite trailing, 10-4, in the opening set on Nov. 4, the Northport Tigers dropped the hammer and swept visiting Lindenhurst in three sets 25-19, 25-15 and 25-20 to advance to the final round of the boys volleyball Division I Suffolk title game.

Zack Zdrojeski set the tone for the Tigers with 17 kills and three service aces. Aidan Flinn killed six as did Brendon Fenlon and John Dwyer. Will Fitzpatrick notched 30 assists, and libero Joe Haubrich had 25 digs. 

Northport faces Smithtown West Nov. 9 at Longwood High School. 

Game time is scheduled 6:30 p.m. Admission is $10 at the door. 

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Matt McNulty and the crowd celebrates Miller Place clinching the league title. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

It was senior night on Friday, Jan. 22, and the Miller Place wrestling team pounced on Islip to win 34-31.

With the victory came something even sweeter: the Panther’s first piece of a League VI title in 36 years.

“We graduated a quality group of seniors last year, and I think people expected us to take a hit as far as our dual-meet team,” Miller Place head coach Matt Kaszubski said. “In the beginning of the season, we took a couple of losses that we shouldn’t have, and then after Christmas we really started rolling and coming together, and the group bought into what we were doing. The league title was a result of a lot of hard work over many years, and it was awesome to achieve that with this group.”

The Panthers finished last season 13-4 overall, and were 12-4-1 heading into the senior night dual meet, which was the team’s final match of the regular season.

At 106 pounds, senior David Selg found himself down in a match against a good opponent, but pinned him at the 4:36 mark.

“He’s very strong and his pin was huge for us,” Kaszubski said of Selg. “We also had Eddie Marbot, who is probably one of the scrappiest kids we have on the team, have a nice win for us.”

Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eddie Marbot pins his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

Marbot, a senior who weighed in at 138 pounds, won with a 5-2 decision over his opponent. Needing to win one more match to earn the win and a share of the league title with Elwood-John Glenn and Mount Sinai, sophomore Anthony McNaughton pinned his opponent in 1:25 at 220 pounds to clinch the meet.

“Everyone was celebrating,” Kaszubski said. “The motto of the night was wrestle for each other — wrestle for somebody else other than yourself. The kids really stepped up and it was a cool experience.”

For Marbot, it was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

“It was an almost unbelievable experience to be a part of, and something that none of us will ever forget — especially me being a senior,” he said. “To win the league title on senior night was icing on the cake.”

Selg said the team environment became that of a family from the start of the preseason to the present.

“Everyone did what they needed to do,” he said. “When everybody left last year, nobody expected anything, just like coach said, and this year we came back and we were all a family, we stuck together and we won the league title. I’m really proud of my team.”

Marbot added that the camaraderie couldn’t be matched.

“Everyone dedicated their time to improving — going to open mats, going to camps — everyone really came together to build the team,” he said. “And coach Kaszubski, he’s the best coach and teacher that you could ask for.”

The Panthers made it to the postseason as the No. 12 seed, but fell to No. 5 Lindenhurst, 57-9, in the opening round Jan. 27. No. 1-seeded Rocky Point made it all the way through the bracket to claim the Section XI title.

Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki
Eric Schreck controls his opponent during senior night. Photo from Matt Kaszusbki

As the wrestlers prepare for leagues and counties, Kaszubski said he has two grapplers, 132-pounder Eric Schreck and 160-pound Joe Bartolotto, who are looking to place high in the county. Selg and Marbot, along with seniors 126-pound Dan Curcio and 154-pound Ryan Ammirato, are also looking to make some noise in the postseason by being league champions and placing in the county tournament.

“We knew we had a good crew,” the head coach said. “It’s nice to see all the hard work over the last couple of years come to fruition. Everyone feeds off of each other and they want to win for each other, so it’s been a blessing to coach these kids.”

For wrestlers like Marbot, being a part of the Panthers’ team is something he’ll never forget.

“I’d be lost without wrestling,” he said. “To end the regular season like this, as a senior, it couldn’t have ended any better. We had a good run. Especially being that no one thought we were going to be anything this year, we really showed everyone.”

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Sean O’Shea moves the basketball around the paint. Photo by Joe Galotti

By Joe Galotti

After suffering its first loss of the season on Saturday, the Northport boys’ basketball team wasted little time in getting back to its winning ways. On Tuesday night, the Tigers jumped out to an early 17-2 lead on visiting Lindenhurst, and never looked back, as they came away with a 55-41 victory.

The win improved the Tigers’ record to 15-1 on the year, and clinched a League II regular season championship for the program. While Northport’s players realize they have plenty of work ahead of them still this winter, the achievement was certainly not lost on the club.

Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti
Lukas Jarrett holds possession while looking to make a pass. Photo by Joe Galotti

“This is a really great accomplishment for us, because we play in probably the best league on Long Island,” Northport senior guard Brennan Whelan said.

Northport senior guard Sean O’Shea echoed his teammate’s sentiment.

“This is huge for us,” O’Shea said. “It’s great knowing that we’ll have a banner up on the wall, and that it will hang there forever.”

O’Shea finished with a game-high 15 points in his team’s win over the Bulldogs, while Whelan dished out 10 assists. The club also got nine points apiece from junior guard Kevin Cryer-Hassett and senior guard Rory Schynder.

In total, 11 different players scored for the Tigers in the contest. Ball movement has been a key for Northport all season long, and on Tuesday the team’s passing and court vision was once again on point.

“We’re an unselfish team by nature, and we also work a lot on passing,” Northport’s head coach Andrew D’Eloia said. “Our guys really do understand that if they move the ball, they get an open shot, and they enjoy playing that way.”

Northport’s veteran group seems to have fully bought into this philosophy.

“We’ve all been playing with each other for a couple of years now, and we always look to make the extra pass, because that’s what makes our offense work so well,” Whelan said.

The Tigers also put together a strong night on their own end of the court, giving up just four points in the opening quarter and 12 points in the first half. This allowed Northport to take a commanding 22-point advantage into halftime, and give rest to its starters down the stretch.

Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti
Ryan Magnuson makes a play. Photo by Joe Galotti

Senior forward Lukas Jarrett was a major catalyst on the defensive end, registering five blocks on the night.

“Our defense started everything tonight,” D’Eloia said. “We just really committed to helping each other, and trying to stay in front of them. We made them take tough shots, and that helped generate our offense early on.”

Lindenhurst outscored the Tigers 29-21 in the game’s final 16 minutes, but was never able to draw within single-digits again. Manny Oyakhilome led the Bulldogs with 14 points in a losing effort.

With a league title now in hand, Northport looks to have a strong finish to what has been a memorable regular season campaign to this point.

“We definitely want to go undefeated [in league play],” O’Shea said. “But we also know that we have to take it one game at a time.”

The Tigers, now 10-0 in League II, will next travel to face off against Walt Whitman on Friday, Feb. 5, at 6:30 p.m. The Wildcats have struggled of late, but D’Eloia is not overlooking the league rival.

“They’re a very well coached and disciplined team, and they would like nothing more than to knock us off,” D’Eloia said. “So we’re going to prepare for that game the same way we’ve prepared for all the other games.”

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Smithtown East's Ceili Williams drives the lane in the Bulls' 54-50 Jan. 2 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East's Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Haley Anderson fights for a rebound while Alexis Perdue reaches to block in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague win over Lindenhurst. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Smithtown East’s girls’ basketball team trailed from the opening tipoff, and fell behind by as much as 11 points, but the Bulls were able to rally back against Lindenhurst in a nonleague contest that was decided in the final seconds of the game, when Smithtown East junior guard Haley Anderson nailed two free throws to break a tie with 14 seconds left to play to give her team a 52-50 edge.

Junior guard Victoria Redmond added two free throws to help her team to a 54-50 win Saturday.

Smithtown East, trailing by 10 to open the second half, rattled off three unanswered field goals to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to four. Lindenhurst scored next to extend its lead to 40-34 with just over a minute left in the third quarter, and Smithtown East sophomore guard Ceili Williams hit her second three-pointer of the afternoon to again make it a four-point game, 41-37, to open the final quarter.

Having played the Bulldogs twice last season, Williams said her team spent a lot of time in practice preparing for the matchup.

“Our coaches prepared us — and our shots were on today,” Williams said, adding that that hasn’t been the case lately.

Smithtown East's Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls' 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East’s Victoria Redmond scores in the Bulls’ 54-50 nonleague victory over Lindenhurst on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Both teams traded points at the free-throw line and Anderson swished both of her attempts to make it a three-point game, as the Bulls trimmed the deficit to 44-41.

Jordan DeBernardo had just one basket in the game, but it was a big one, as the junior guard drained a long distance trey to tie the game 44-44 with five minutes left to play.

“I thought we were prepared for them, but they really pushed us,” DeBernardo said. “Haley [Anderson] wasn’t playing in the beginning, but when she did come in, we played with more energy.”

Sophomore point guard Abby Zeitsiff answered next when her shot found the rim to put the Bulls out front for the first time, 49-48.

In a foul-riddled final two minutes of play, both teams tried to best each other at the free-throw line.

Redmond split the difference in her appearance at the charity stripe, and the Bulls edged ahead 50-48 with less than a minute left in regulation.

“We knew who their better players were and we worked in practice at stopping them,” Redmond said. With 27 seconds left, Lindenhurst went to the free-throw line and sank both to retie the game a 50-50, before the Bulls put the last four points on the scoreboard.

Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls' 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon
Smithtown East Abby Zeitsiff scores a layup in the Bulls’ 54-50 win over Lindenhurst in a nonleague matchup on Jan. 2. Photo by Bill Landon

Anderson said her team had to key on Lindenhurst’s Alexis Perdue, but couldn’t contain her, as the senior point guard led the game in scoring with 27 points.

“They have a really good player in No. 12, she’s hard to guard,” Anderson said. “But we picked it up there in the second half and played really well.”

Redmond led her team in scoring with 16 points, followed by Williams with 13, Zeitsiff with 10 and Anderson with eight.

“We made a few adjustments at halftime — we tried to do a better job of slipping those screens and switching and not give them a wide open look,” Smithtown East head coach Tom Vulin said. “We came out on them more in the second half.”

Smithtown East remains atop the League III leaderboard, tied with Riverhead, but that will change on Tuesday when the Bulls travel to take on the Blue Waves for the top spot. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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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.”