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Matt Murphy

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Nine players score points in total team win

They may be small and they may be young, but the Royals can score.

Teamwork was the name of the game on Thursday for Port Jefferson: Freshman midfielder Matt Murphy tallied four of his team’s 19 goals on the way to a near shutout of Mercy, 19-1, as senior attack Marco Scarda and junior attack Brian Mark added hat tricks, and six other Royals scored or assisted in the team’s win.

“They work hard together,” Port Jefferson head coach Taylor Forstell said. “The more offensive threats you have in any game, the more it’s going to help your team out. A lot of these guys don’t necessarily get a lot of game time, so it’s good that they can come out here and be offensive presences and compete.”

Senior midfielder Max Scandale started the scoring off just over a minute into the first quarter after he swiveled around defenders and shot through traffic for a 1-0 lead. Seconds later, freshman attack Nick Koban scooped up a turnover off the draw and passed to senior midfielder Shane Bruno in front, who found the back of the cage. Scarda scored unassisted next, and then sophomore midfielder Thomas Mark looped around the cage and faked a pass outside to confuse the defense, instead feeding the ball to junior midfielder Chandler Sciara, who scored to give the team a 4-0 advantage.

Next was where Murphy stepped in, taking the ball to goal off a turnover at midfield, and with the goalkeeper hugging the left post, raced past while shooting the ball toward the far open corner.

“The teamwork was there, there was good passing and it wasn’t any singular guy,” he said of the team’s total effort. “We worked together.”

Murphy shot again seconds later and it was deflected in by Brian Mark, ending the first quarter with the Royals leading 6-0. Port Jefferson dominated the time of possession despite struggling at faceoff, as the team’s midfield and defense was able to force multiple turnovers all evening. Mercy held the ball in the final minute, racing into the Royals’ zone to try to get on the board, but Murphy stayed on a Mercy midfielder’s back, knocking the ball out of his stick and out of bounds for a turnover.

“The guys played hard,” Forstell said. “They came out from the first whistle, and to the last whistle they played hard. They stayed true to the game plan.”

The elder Mark scored unassisted to start off the second, and capped off the quarter with his hat trick goal. Murphy also added his second and third goals of the game in the second, as did Scarda.

“We put in a new offense the other day so that’s been helping get the ball around and get it to everybody so that we don’t have to rely on one or two people to carry the team,” Mark said. “Getting everyone else involved makes it more even and makes it harder for other teams to defend against us.”

By the end of the first half, Port Jefferson had a 15-0 lead on Mercy, which scored its first and only goal at the 10:48 mark of the third stanza.

“We did a good job of possessing the ball on offense, keeping it in our end, keeping it away from them so they couldn’t score — and then when it did go over there our defense did a good job of turning it over and getting it back to us,” Mark said. “It was a good job of keeping it on the offensive side and keeping it out of their hands.”

Mark said that despite the team not getting off to a strong offensive start in the beginning of the season, the team has began to click in the last couple of games. Although his Royals (3-6 overall, 3-3 in Division III) had four straight losses prior to their current three-game winning streak, the matchups were close battles, with two of the four being two-goal games.

Port Jefferson is looking to maintain a .500 league record to be in a good position for the playoffs. The Royals have five games left this season, with the next three matchups being against the top three teams in the division. Port Jefferson made it to the first round last year, despite still being a new program, and lost to Mattituck/Greenport/Southold, 16-8, in the Class C semifinals. The Mattituck team is currently at 5-1, while Babylon remains undefeated at 5-0.

“Last year it didn’t feel too good losing in the first round, so we’re looking to get to the county championship,” Mark said. “Once you get there, you never know what could happen.”

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Vin Miceli sizes up his opponent this past season. Photo from Mike Maletta

Although the Port Jefferson wrestling team once again fell short of its goal of a League VII title, plenty of Royals will still see action this weekend — and stepping onto the podium would mean a trip up to Albany at the end of the month for a chance at an individual state crown.

“We have a group of seniors that have been working hard all season,” head coach Mike Maletta said. “It’s still yet to be seen where they’ll end this season, and it all comes down to the next two weeks.”

Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district
Matteo DeVincenzo stands atop the podium after his first-place finish at the Eastern States tournament. Photo from Port Jefferson school district

The Royals squad ended the year at 5-2 in conference play, suffering a loss to undefeated Mattituck/Greenport/Southold on Jan. 6 and a close 37-36 loss to Bayport-Blue Point in the final league dual meet of the regular season on Jan. 22. The team also beat Hampton Bays, 64-15, in a nonleague meet that didn’t count toward that record.

“We didn’t go 8-0 because we’re missing some of our heavier guys,” Maletta said about the team’s run.

But the team did have success in multiple tournaments.

On Jan. 9, the team took first place by outscoring 14 opponents at the David Sorenson Memorial Invitational held at Long Island Lutheran in Brookville. At the same tournament, teammates Vin Miceli, Joe Evangelista and Matteo DeVincenzo took first-place wins in their individual weight classes.

A week afterward, DeVincenzo took his second first-place crown at the Eastern States Classic, held at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake. To earn his latest title, DeVincenzo defeated three other state champions from a field of 60 wrestlers. Simultaneously, he was voted Champion of Champions by his peers.

The Royals also won the LuHi Tournament, a separate tournament at Long Island Lutheran High School, in mid-January.

“We don’t fill out all of our weight classes, so for us to win a tournament means that our guys who were in the tournament wrestled real solid,” Maletta said. “We’ve had steady wrestling all year from guys like sophomore returning county champion Vin Miceli [and] sophomore returning All-County wrestler Joe Evangelista, and seniors Sterling Nenninger, Dallas Brett and Alex Frohnen have done a great job winning and placing in tournaments.”

Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta
Joe Evangelista controls his opponent. Photo from Mike Maletta

Jack Collins also placed in two tournaments and freshman 99-pounder Ricky D’Elia won a tournament, while 106-pounder Robby Williams placed in four this season.

“We’re pretty solid from 99 up to 152 pounds,” Maletta said. “The biggest happy surprise has been Rick D’Elia at 99 pounds, how he has over 20 wins as a ninth-grader. He’s gotten valuable experience, he’s undefeated in the league, so the goal is for him to be heading upstate and getting some even more valuable experience in Albany.”

DeVincenzo’s winning season continued when the graduating senior, who will be attending Princeton University in the fall, set a school record of 141 career wins during the Armstrong Cup, held in Port Jefferson on Jan. 30.

DeVincenzo is now a four-time Armstrong Cup champion, which according to Maletta has never been done before by any wrestler. He surpassed brother Tristin DeVincenzo’s win record of 137 wins in his first match there. He’s undefeated right now with a 29-0 record, and plans to remain undefeated at the end of the month, stepping atop the podium at the state championship.

Matteo DeVincenzo may have a unique trip upstate. According to Maletta, his senior star, who is a three-time county champion, state champion and All-State wrestler, may see a familiar face in his weight class — a wrestler who defeated him in the 99-pound final in his freshman year.

“It would be fitting if they meet in the finals this year, and I have all the confidence that Matteo can top him,” Maletta said. “Coach Ian Schneider and Coach Nick Miceli and myself are just enjoying the ride right now. Very few coaches get to coach an athlete like Matteo, so we’re aware of it, and we’re going to enjoy the next month.”

Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta
Rick D’Elia competes in his final match of the LuHi Tournament. Photo from Mike Maletta

For now, Port Jefferson is sending numerous athletes to the Section XI Division II championship on Feb. 13 at Center Moriches High School.

Other wrestlers competing will be Brendan Rogers, James Laffey, Shane DeVincenzo, Joe Longo, Dylan Berger, Brian Webb, Matt Murphy, Joe Collins, Pedro Nobrega, Chris Lepore, Ryan Walsh and Harry Cona.

“We might not be able to outpace some of the other teams that can fill up the brackets with their athletes, but we’re looking to come away with a group of champions that’s going to make Port Jeff proud,” Maletta said.

Two years ago, Port Jefferson sent a record five wrestlers to the state tournament. Last year, the team dropped back a little, sending three, but the head coach is looking to send another handful of guys back to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Championship on Feb. 26 and 27.

“We’re excited about moving forward,” Maletta said. “We countdown in practice because we have to enjoy the time together, because we don’t have much longer. They’ll always be my boys, my athletes, my kids. I’m looking forward to enjoying the next week and hopefully extending it further into the end of February. It’s been a good journey.”