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Nick Cervone

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Quarterback Matt O’Hea looks to make a pass downfield. Photo from Chris Boltrek

By Joseph Wolkin

Quarterback Matt O’Hea looks to make a pass downfield. Photo from Chris Boltrek
Quarterback Matt O’Hea looks to make a pass downfield. Photo from Chris Boltrek

Ward Melville has recently made headlines for having another pitcher drafted to the New York Mets, following in the footsteps of Steven Matz.

But for the second year in a row, the high school is sending multiple football players to the collegiate level. In 2015, five Patriots were sent to either Division II or III schools, highlighted by former All-County quarterback Jeff Towle, who set the standard by making the jump to Pace University.

Quarterback Matt O’Hea, linebacker Patrick Morelli, defensive end Tom Lorusso and running back Nick Cervone will each be playing college football come this fall.

Led by second-year head coach Chris Boltrek, the Patriots finished the year 5-3, sixth out of 14 teams in Division I Section 11, ending with a playoff loss at Connetquot.

While the team usually makes headlines for baseball or lacrosse, Boltrek hopes to continue the recent trend of sending football players to that next level.

“I think it’s a reflection of their hard work and dedication to the sport, the team and the program,” Boltrek said. “You can see what football does for student-athletes. It provides them with opportunities. We’re talking about helping students get into a Division III school with great academics, and it helps them get into that school they might not have gotten into before. When you have that, it really gives you the ability to have more options when high school is over.”

And that was one of Boltrek’s main goals when he took over the program.

“It’s about continuing this process and hopefully getting them into larger schools,” he said. “One kid has been in Division II, and the other eight are all Division III. There’s a difference in competitiveness and the level of competition as you go from division to division. There is definitely more Long Island football out there in recent memory, and I’m trying to get the Ward Melville guys to be a part of that as well.”

With each of this year’s recruits being sent to Division III teams, Boltrek feels there will be more opportunities for future players, and he wants to get the attention of the bigger schools.

“I think it just comes with success, and hopefully, the work the coaches and kids put in turns into success on the field,” he said. “We’ve been trending in the right direction. The longer you can keep that up, the better chance you have at becoming [like] the lacrosse program or the baseball program because they’ve been consistently successful for years.”

O’Hea threw for 1,933 yards in nine games his last season, giving him the 11th most passing yards in New York. With a 119.2 passer rating, he was named to the second team All-Long Island, along with the first team All-Division, offensive MVP, and was Ward Melville’s Male Athlete of the Year.

Running back Nick Cervone moves the ball. Photo from Chris Boltrek
Running back Nick Cervone moves the ball. Photo from Chris Boltrek

O’Hea is heading off to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he will fight to become a starter. Looking to continue his success off the field, he plans on majoring in mechanical engineering.

“I’m going to have to go there and work for it,” O’Hea said. “My high mechanics throughout high school haven’t been up to par, so I need to work more on my mechanics when I go to college.”

Playing quarterback his whole life, O’Hea made the transition to wide receiver last year. However, he returned to his original position during the 2015-16 season, tossing 20 touchdowns in his final year with the Patriots. He grew up playing basketball and baseball, but evidently decided football was his focus because of what he calls “a college year.”

“A lot of it is about attracting kids to come out for football,” Boltrek said, using O’Hea as an example. “The good lacrosse athletes do not specialize. We have to get them to play football and make them recognize that playing football will actually help them with their other sports.”

Morelli will be going to Hamilton College in the fall, and Lorusso is traveling to Endicott College in Massachusetts.

Named one of the captains of the Patriots, Lorusso emerged as a team leader in his sophomore year, and started every year after, at defensive end and tackle, along with playing fullback and offensive tackle. Leading Ward Melville with three sacks, Lorusso also had a team-high nine quarterback hurries. He became a second team All-Division honoree this year, and was named the team MVP.

Cervone is joining the Allegheny College Gators in Pennsylvania this fall. Serving as one of the team’s captains this past season, he received the team leadership MVP, along with leading the team with 680 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

As a result of Boltrek’s dedication and drive to push his players, his athletes are now off to college, attempting to build on what they started with the Patriots.

The Ward Melville football team got on the scoreboard first Saturday in a battle on the gridiron against visiting Northport, but the Tigers ultimately spoiled the Patriots’ homecoming celebration, winning 35-21.

Ward Melville (1-2) opened the scoring with an impressive 16-play, 82-yard drive, capped by senior running back Nick Cervone’s 7-yard touchdown run and junior kicker Joe LaRosa’s point after, to give the Patriots a 7-0 lead.

But Northport responded with a touchdown run of its own to tie it up.

With 1:57 left in the quarter, Ryan Elliot punctuated a nine-play, 65-yard march with a 13-yard touchdown run. With the point-after attempt successful by Ryan Tromblee, the game was tied, 7-7.

On the next possession, Northport intercepted senior quarterback Matthew O’Hea’s pass over the middle. The pass, which was intercepted by Northport safety Dan Preston, was returned 70 yards for the tiebreaking score.

Northport continued to light up the scoreboard, and took advantage of two turnovers, scoring three touchdowns to end the first half leading 35-7.

The Tigers didn’t score after the halftime break, while Ward Melville capitalized on two opportunities in the fourth to close the gap, 35-21.

First, junior wide receiver John Corpac scored on a 15-yard pass from O’Hea, who finished the game going 10-for-16 with 101 yards and two interceptions, and after, senior wide receiver Vincent Negri scored off a 1-yard pass from junior quarterback Wesley Manning.

Ward Melville looks to bounce back from the loss when the Patriots travel to Sachem North Friday, with the hopes of spoiling their opponent’s homecoming festivities. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 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.”