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Shoreham-Wading River

Parents listen to learn ways to discuss depression and suicide prevention with their kids during a seminar at Shoreham Wading River High School Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

“We need to change the way we think about mental health and teen depression .. .and we can start in our homes by keeping an open and honest communication and letting our kids know that it’s okay to say that they’re not okay.”

Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

That’s what Ann Morrison, Long Island director for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, told an audience of parents at a seminar at Shoreham-Wading River High School Nov. 30, to help identify warning signs and risk factors for suicide in teens, understand the role of treatment in reducing risk and open a dialogue with their children about the topic.

The school district was impacted by two separate incidents of suicide in October and November. Both were high school freshmen. The school’s administration has been doing all it can to raise awareness and education for both students and parents alike ever since.

The AFSP gives different versions of the seminar throughout the country. Morrison’s presentation spoke specifically to parents. Those in attendance said it was much needed.

“It’s important with all the things that have been going on here,” Thomas McClintock said. “I know they wanted to address it with the children, but it’s good for the parents too, because a lot of us are in the dark on this type of thing. It’s not something you expect or anticipate in your own child.”

Morrison explained suicide has become the second leading cause of death among youth between the ages 10 and 24 in the U.S. after accidental injuries and yet, she said, “we aren’t really talking about it.”

“That’s where a lot of the issue is,” Morrison said. “We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

According to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to monitor health risk behaviors that contribute to causes of death for teens, 17 percent of high school students reported having seriously considered attempting suicide in the previous year — 13.6 percent reported having made a plan for a suicide attempt in the previous year, and eight percent reported having attempted suicide one or more times in the last year.

“We need to be more comfortable talking about one of the leading causes of death and why this is happening and how we can prevent it. This isn’t meant to frighten anybody, but to let you know the scope of the problem.”

— Ann Morrison

Morrison said suicide is a mental health issue and marginally preventable.
The thought comes about when multiple factors come together, so it’s not related to just one cause, but underlying risk signals to look out for in teens are out-of-character bouts of depression, anxiety, aggression and agitation.

She said parents must act if they notice drastic changes in their children’s behavior, which might include withdrawal from activities they normally enjoy, isolation from friends or social media, changes in sleep patterns and appetite, unexplained rage, or giving away their prized possessions — something that commonly happens when someone is preparing to commit suicide.

“It can be very easy sometimes to mistake mental health symptoms for typical adolescent behaviors,” she said.

Also listen for statements like “I should go kill myself,” “I have no reason to live” and “everybody would be better off without me.”

Morrison stressed to the parents the key to helping prevent suicide among teens is to have a strong and supportive home, where it’s okay to reach out for help.

“You have to be a role model and let them know that in your home, it’s okay for open communication no matter what it is that they want to talk about,” she said. “We need to not be afraid to reach out and ask them if they’re okay. … Make sure you talk to them in private, [and] not at the dinner table, in front of siblings or handled very nonchalantly. Listen to their story, get them comfortable to talk to you, express care and concern. Don’t dismiss their feelings. What we think is a small problem to them might be a bigger problem in their mind.”

Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding
Debra Caputo, counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, addresses parents in the Shoreham Wading River school district during a seminar Nov. 30. Photo by Kevin Redding

Debra Caputo, who works as a counselor at the Long Island Crisis Center, echoed the importance of listening. As someone who answers crisis calls on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, she said just simply listening to someone wrestling with mental health issues is helpful to them.

“When people call, we’re basically just listening and validating their feelings,” she said. “What they’re feeling is real. If we listen non-judgmentally and understand what they’re going through, it can make a world of difference. We want to reassure them they’re not alone and help is available.”

Morrison said that if there’s a true feeling that a child may be at risk or having suicidal thoughts, it’s okay to directly ask them if they are.

“It’s a scary question to ask or think about asking, but we know that when we ask, it opens that conversation,” Morrison said. “And should a child actually have those thoughts, in most cases, they’re going to feel comfortable telling you. Thank them for having the courage to talk to you and contact a mental health professional for an evaluation. Take it seriously. Don’t wait to act. Be calm. Listen to them.”

If you or your child is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The hotline is available 24 hours a day.

For more information about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their services, visit afsp.org.

You can watch “More Than Sad,” a film presented by the AFSP that dramatizes four situations of high school depression, at www.afsp.org/our-work/education/more-than-sad/.

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Chris Gray's cutbacks, three touchdowns steal the show

Shoreham-Wading River's football team raises the Long Island championship trophy for the third straight season following a 20-10 win over Seaford Nov. 27. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

What is Shoreham-Wading River’s recipe for success? A rapid running game and domineering defense.

Chris Gray cuts back as he moves the ball downfield. Photo by Bill Landon
Chris Gray cuts back as he moves the ball downfield. Photo by Bill Landon

So it was no surprise that as the football team’s star running back Chris Gray swiveled around Seaford defenders to find the end zone three times on Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium field, the Wildcats would make history, becoming the fourth team to win a third straight Long Island title with a 20-10 win over the previously unbeaten Vikings.

“I give all the credit to my line,” Gray said. “I do the easy part — just running — so it’s great teamwork. Having [Ethan Wiederkehr] on the end of the line is just a blessing. It makes my job a hundred times easier, and he’s just a hell of a player and a hell of a competitor.”

Wiederkehr was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the line of scrimmage, as the senior tight end’s blocks led to holes for his classmate up and down the field. He also tackled Seaford’s quarterback for a 13-yard loss, and was involved in nine tackles.

Despite compiling a 34-2 record over the past three years, Shoreham did face its share of adversity, and dropped two of its first five games this season. And the team found itself behind early in the first quarter of the Long Island game.

After a dip-and-dunk passing attack, Seaford drove the ball to Shoreham’s 6-yard line, but couldn’t penetrate the Wildcats’ defense. Facing 4th and three, Seaford chose to kick the field goal with7:42 left, and split the uprights for an early lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Seaford attempted an onside kick, which caught the Wildcats by surprise. The Vikings recovered a short kick and went back to work at the Shoreham-Wading River 47-yard line. Despite the successful move, Shoreham-Wading River’s defensive unit stood its ground, denying Seaford any points.

Kevin Cutinella leaps up and tips the ball before Joe Miller grabs it for the touchback. Photo by Bill Landon
Kevin Cutinella leaps up and tips the ball before Joe Miller grabs it for the touchback. Photo by Bill Landon

During a sustained drive in which the Vikings went to the air to try to move the ball over Shoreham’s defense, senior quarterback Kevin Cutinella proved he’s just as effective defensively as he is offensively, when the safety tipped the ball, and senior cornerback Joe Miller recovered it for a touchback. Miller briefly thought about running the ball out of the end zone, but took a knee, and the Wildcats’ offense went back to work at their own 20-yard line.

“I told them that we have a chance at our third consecutive Long Island Championship, we’ve got a shot at the Rutgers Cup and we have a chance to make Long Island football history,” assistant coach Hans Wiederkehr said he told the team prior to the game. “Other teams try year after year, and don’t make it. This is a once in a life time opportunity.”

It was only a matter of time before Gray broke through the line with a spin-and-run move, and he did so just before being forced out of bounds at the 11-yard line. Gray finished the five-play, 78-yard drive two downs later when he bulled his way straight up the middle six yards. With junior Noah Block on the hold, junior kicker Tyler McAuley drove his kick through the middle of the posts to help Shoreham to a 7-3 lead at halftime.

It was a defensive struggle early in the third, and Shoreham forced Seaford to punt from deep in their own end zone, and the Wildcats returned the ball to the Seaford 46-yard line. From there, Cutinella went back to work under center, handing the ball off to Gray play after play. The running back broke free on a 17-yard run for his second touchdown of the day. Seaford got a piece of the point-after attempt ball that was kicked just wide, giving Shoreham a 13-3 lead.

Chris Sheehan and Kyle Boden tackle Seaford's star running back Danny Roell. Photo by Bill Landon
Chris Sheehan and Kyle Boden tackle Seaford’s star running back Danny Roell. Photo by Bill Landon

Again, the Wildcats’ defense made a statement with a block, and took over on downs at the Seaford 34-yard line. Gray struck again, this time, on a 21-yard run where he executed three swift cutbacks through traffic, seeming to magically appear on the other side of a swarm of players with 39 seconds left in the third quarter.. McAuley’s extra-point kick was good, and Shoreham took a 20-3 advantage.

With eight minutes left in the game, Shoreham Wading River junior corner back Kyle Lutz out-jumped an intended Seaford receiver for an interception on his team’s own 6-yard line.

Cutinella, looking to take time off the clock, huddled and handed the ball off to Gray, and the Wildcats were unable to convert for points. Seaford wouldn’t go down quietly, and scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass.

With the yardage from the game — 205 on 30 carries — Gray has over 2,000 rushing yards on the season. He finished with a total 2,179 on 217 attempts, and is one of six Wildcats to play in all three Long Island wins. Cutinella, Wiederkehr, senior fullbacks Chris Sheehan and Dean Stalzer, and senior tight end Daniel Cassidy were the others.

Head coach Matt Millheiser was presented the championship trophy, and handed it over to Cutinella, who raised it high in the air.

“I just played the last football game of my life,” Cutinella said. “And I couldn’t be more proud to be part of this.”

Shoreham-Wading River is one of just four teams, second in League IV, to win three straight Long Island titles. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River is one of four schools, the second in League IV, to win three straight Long Island championship titles. Photo by Bill Landon

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North Shore residents kick off Shoreham's Thanksgiving Day Races with the 5K. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

While some were busy thinking about what they’re thankful for, hundreds that flocked to Miller Avenue Elementary School, Shoreham were thinking about crossing the finish line.

In cool, dry conditions, more than 400 athletes dashed through the 1-mile, 5K and 5-mile events during the 36th annual Thanksgiving Day Races.

Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia crosses the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon
Shoreham-Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia crosses the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon

The gun for the main 5K event sounded at 8 a.m., and for the men, 2014 Shoreham- Wading River graduate Ryan Udvadia was the first-place finisher, with a time of 16 minutes, 39.99 seconds. He competes now for the University at Albany’s track-and-field and cross-country teams.

The first female to cross the finish line was Maegan Gorman of Wading River in 20:38. Danelle Rose, a Miller Place freshman from Sound Beach, finished second for the women with a time of 20:42.

Udvadia has competed in the event 13 times and was thankful for the race and the weather during it.

“Running this race is kind of a tradition,” he said. “But it’s fun to come out here and get a good workout.”

A two-time All-State selection in cross country at Shoreham-Wading River, Udvadia still holds the school records in the 3,200-meter and 2-mile events.

Proceeds, which came in the way of $15 preregistration and $20 day-of-the-event entry fees, went to the senior scholarship fund. This past June, $10,000 in scholarship money was granted to Shoreham-Wading River’s Class of 2015. In 2014, $11,500 was awarded.

The total raised from this year’s race was not available by press time, but proceeds are combined with the annual July 4 Shoreham-Wading River Foot Races, to create the grand total given to graduates.

This version correctly identifies the first-place female finisher.

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By Bill Landon

On the back of senior Chris Gray, who rushed for 341 yards with four touchdowns for Shoreham-Wading River’s football team, the Wildcats brought home their third consecutive county championship, with a 36-21 win over Babylon Nov. 19.

“I’ve just gotta thank my linemen, they got me to the second level,” Gray said. “I was able to shake off some defensemen. I was just doing my job.”

The running back helped his team seal the deal when he followed blocks from senior tight end Ethan Wiederkehr and senior tackle Dean Stalzer into the second, before spinning around a Babylon defensive back to score a 15-yard touchdown with 7:26 left to play in the game.

His fourth touchdown gave Shoreham-Wading River a 13-point lead before a crowd of more than 2,600 at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.

The two-time defending Long Island champion Wildcats (9-2) move on to face Seaford (11-0) for the Long Island title at LaValle Stadium Nov. 27 at 4:30 p.m.

“This was a long, hard-fought year. We had a lot of ups and downs.”

—Matt Millheiser

Gray said there was some extra motivation for the team to take home the win after Babylon snapped Shoreham-Wading River’s 25-game win streak.

“That one’s been hanging over our heads,” Gray said.

He got the game started when he found the end zone on a 32-yard run six minutes into the Division IV matchup against previously undefeated Babylon. Junior kicker Tyler McAuley’s extra point was good.

Babylon answered with a 65-yard kickoff return to Shoreham-Wading River’s 28-yard line, and scored a touchdown on the next play. Babylon quarterback Scott Sasso threw a strike to wide receiver Shaun Kaminski in stride with just over four minutes remaining in the opening quarter. The extra-point attempt failed, leaving the Wildcats up 7-6.

Shoreham-Wading River senior quarterback Kevin Cutinella, on a keeper, ran the ball in from 11 yards out for the Wildcats’ next score, and with McAuley’s foot, the team edged ahead 14-6.

But the lead didn’t last long. Babylon’s Kaminski stretched out into the end zone next with a one-handed catch, and a hurry-up offense helped the Panthers complete a 2-point conversion that tied the game heading into halftime.

“This was a long, hard-fought year,” Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser said. “We had a lot of ups and downs with Babylon breaking the streak earlier in the year. Two weeks later we lose to Elwood-John Glenn, and to be honest, the guys were down.”

But the team used that loss as motivation to make a statement when it counted most.

Despite Babylon opening the second half with a 51-yard kickoff return, taking the ball to the Wildcats’ 39-yard line, the team fumbled the ball on the second play from scrimmage, and Shoreham-Wading River recovered it.

Gray got the call, bounced off would-be tacklers, broke free down the right sideline and went 40 yards for a touchdown on his team’s first possession of the third quarter, to give the Wildcats the lead.

Babylon got the ball deep in its own territory, and went to work in the air, but senior wingback Joe Miller stepped in front of Sasso’s pass for an interception and 13-yard return. Gray scored on a 10-yard run to extend the lead, 28-14.

“It’s unbelievable — it’s just a blessing to be in this situation …We came out here with something to prove.

—Ethan Wiederkehr

“Chris Gray has phenomenal athletic ability with a great sense of where he is on the field and he’s got the heart of a lion,” Millheiser said. “He carried us in some of those moments in the middle of the season when were down. As we got better, Kevin Cutinella stepped up and was a second threat for us, which took a little pressure off Chris and I can’t say enough about the two of them.”

Babylon showed why it was the No.1-seeded team this postseason when Kaminski jetted down the right sideline, caught a pass in stride and ran the ball into the end zone untouched. With the point after, Babylon trailed 28-21 heading into the final quarter.

After a sustained drive, Gray completed his spin move leading to the touchdown, and with McAuley’s extra-point attempt missing, the Wildcats maintained a 34-21 lead.

Gray, a threat on both sides of the ball, jumped in front of a Babylon pass play as an outside linebacker for the pick, and the Wildcats went back on offense with 4:23 left in regulation.

Shoreham Wading River marched the ball downfield to Babylon’s 8-yard line for a first and goal, but turned the ball over on downs. On the ensuing play from scrimmage, Sasso dropped back to pass, but was overwhelmed by a Wildcats blitz. He was tackled in his own end zone by senior fullback Chris Sheehan for a safety to fall behind 36-21.

“It’s unbelievable — it’s just a blessing to be in this situation,” Wiederkehr said of the win. “We came out here with something to prove … we knew we were going to get their best fight, so it’s just awesome to get the ‘W.’”

Immediately following the safety, Babylon kicked off with 48 seconds on the clock, and Shoreham-Wading River held on as the clock wound down.

“It’s different every time we win, but this one was more surreal because it’s my senior year,” Cutinella said. “It was a crazy experience to come out here for the third time. We’re all grateful for it, and proud of what we’ve done all season.”

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District hires outside company to gather community input

Community residents speak up about what characteristics they're looking for in a new superintendent for the Shoreham-Wading River school district. Photo by Kevin Redding

Shoreham-Wading River turns to the community for guidance in its nationwide search for a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Steven Cohen, who retired over the summer after holding the position for five years.

On Monday night, Bob Freier and Joann Kaplan of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next full-time superintendent, a position the district aims to fill by July 1 of next year.

Currently, the district has an interim superintendent in Neil Lederer, who took on the job in August and signed a 10-month contract that ends June 30. The school’s district clerk said Lederer has made no comments in regards to applying for the full-time superintendent position himself, but that it’s a “moot point” as the board of education has hired the superintendent search committee and is now actively looking for someone new.

Joann Kaplan and Bob Freier of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next superintendent. Photo by Kevin Redding
Joann Kaplan and Bob Freier of District Wise Search Consultants led a community forum at Shoreham-Wading River High School to gauge the public’s opinion on what kind of characteristics and credentials they seek in the district’s next superintendent. Photo by Kevin Redding

When the question was raised by a member of the community forum as to why Cohen — who is currently serving as interim assistant superintendent at Sachem Central School District — left Shoreham-Wading River, Freier and Kaplan said the reason was unknown.

The search consultants explained that the two major factors that play a role in superintendents leaving are money and the changing of school boards. But taking on interim positions is quite common when somebody retires, said Kaplan. Usually if they’re not quite ready to stay home full-time, they serve as interim until a district gets back on its feet.

At that, the room full of parents was in complete agreement that the district should try to find somebody who’s “not retiring.”

“The purpose of this conversation is to get your feedback,” Freier said. “As parents, what do you think are some of the important characteristics that you’re looking for in the next superintendent of the school district?”

Those in attendance were vocal that whoever serves as educational leader in the district should be well-versed in New York State’s political climate, the Annual Professional Performance Review, Common Core, and state testing. The parents also said they’re looking for someone who is organized on a business level, considering they’ll be in charge of a school budget of roughly $60,000,000; has classroom experience; and has climbed the ladder from teacher to administrator. The parents also stressed thinking out of the box and being creative, and most importantly, they want someone who has students’ best interests — and not the superintendent’s own — in mind.

“I guess we’re saying we want everything,” said Chris Blake, from Shoreham.

He said it’s important that the next superintendent has an overall appreciation of the environment he or she is in, and has a good relationship with the community.

“I think it’s very important that we’re not looking at curriculum, standards and tests … that we’re really looking at what kids need and what’s best for kids.”

— Jeannine Smith

“It’s very important to make the community feel comfortable with you … to be able to approach you,” Blake said. “Not come in and just have one message and then the curtain closes and we’re just waiting for the next appearance.”

Blake said the district has had that happen in the past.

“They should be vested in the district,” he said. “It’s not just a stop-over and come in with all these preconceived notions on how they’re going to do things.”

Jeannine Smith, from Shoreham, said she wants someone who puts the kids first.

“I think it’s very important that we’re not looking at curriculum, standards and tests … that we’re really looking at what kids need and what’s best for kids,” Smith said. “I want my children to go to school every day and have teachers know that they can do what they need to do to get them from one point to another. I want that flexibility.”

Freier and Kaplan told the forum that as a company, they don’t intend on rushing to find just anybody who will take the position. The two said that they take the community’s feedback very seriously. They will even use it to shape the questions that will ultimately be asked to candidates in preliminary interviews for the position.

“We’re not just filling a position … we’re finding the right person for Shoreham-Wading River,” said Kaplan. “Meeting with all of you is crucial.”

If you have any input on characteristics or qualities for the next Shoreham-Wading River superintendent, contact District Wise Search Consultants at shorehamwrsup@districtwisesearch.com.

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By Bill Landon

As senior quarterback Kevin Cutinella walked onto his home field, his heart weighed heavy.

Although his Shoreham-Wading River football team picked it back up where the Wildcats left off last season, extending their winning streak to 25 games with a 56-0 win over Center Moriches, things looked a bit different this time.

Down the field, between the 35-yard lines on both sides of the field, read “Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.”

On the evening of Sept. 9, in front of a standing room only crowd, the field was dedicated to the former Wildcat who died in October 2014 from a head injury sustained during a game at John Glenn.

“A lot was going through my mind,” Cutinella said. “It’s extremely sentimental that this field, in a football game, is officially dedicated to Tom. This is a team sport and we leaned on everyone to make a contribution, and that’s what Tom would do and that’s what Tom would want.”

Kevin Cutinella sprints through an opening on a keeper play during the home opener against Center Moriches on Sept. 9 on the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo by Bill Landon
Kevin Cutinella sprints through an opening on a keeper play during the home opener against Center Moriches on Sept. 9 on the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo by Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River senior running back Chris Gray struck first on a muffed punt by Center Moriches, scooping up the ball and going the distance. Three plays later, freshman cornerback Xavier Arline intercepted a pass and took the ball to the end zone for the Wildcats’ second score. Unable to move the chains, the Red Devils punted the ball away, and again mishandled the kick. Shoreham-Wading River senior fullback Chris Sheehan scooped up the live ball and zig zagged across the field until he too reached the end zone. Kyle Boden, a junior running back, answered next on a handoff, bouncing outside and racing toward the finish line. The point-after attempt by junior kicker Tyler McAuley was good in three our of the four attempts, to make it a 27-0 game just eight minutes into the contest.

Senior quarterback and captain, Cutinella, struck next on a keeper play. He scored on a 54-yard run, his brother’s jersey number, along the left sideline, and McAuley’s kick put the Wildcats out in front 34-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter..

“I had no expectations, but we practiced hard all week and we came out flying,” Cutinella said. “Because we came out playing 150 percent, the score was a result of that.”

“It’s extremely sentimental that this field, in a football game, is officially dedicated to Tom. This is a team sport and we leaned on everyone to make a contribution, and that’s what Tom would do and that’s what Tom would want.”

—Kevin Cutinella

Gray scored again 90 seconds into the second when he shot through a hole up the middle and strode into the end zone untouched. He said despite big losses from last season, his new team, including the players who didn’t know Tom, have been dedicated to keeping their winning ways and “Tommy Tough” motto alive.

“We came out hard and maintained that momentum the whole game, and that really helped us,” he said. “Yeah, we lost 18 seniors to graduation — [Chris] Rosati, [Dean] Stalzer [Jimmy] Puckey [and Jon] Constant — but we have players that’ve been waiting their turn and they work hard in practice and that shows on the field.”

The Red Devils’ running game was extinguished by the Wildcats’ swarming defense. As a result, Center Moriches endured multiple three-and-out situations, and Shoreham-Wading River head coach Matt Millheiser leaned on his bench the rest of the way.

“With tonight’s atmosphere, the kids just came out ready to play and this team wasn’t going to let anyone stand in their way on this field tonight,” he said. “The breaks went our way early with the blocked kick and the good field position, and Xavier with that interception and took it back to the house, and after that, the kids relaxed a little bit and they played very loose, so it was a perfect storm for us.”

After a touchdown from senior running back Christian Aliperi, the Wildcats took a 47-0 lead into the halftime break.

Unable to mount any kind of a running game, the Red Devils were forced to throw deep, and Shoreham-Wading River junior cornerback Kyle Lutz intercepted a second-half pass. There was buzz along the sideline that another touchdown and extra-point kick would bring the Wildcats’ lead to 54, but a bad snap by Center Moriches left the quarterback chasing the loose ball into the end zone, where he was tackled for a safety that put Shoreham-Wading River out in front 49-0.

A memorial plaque rests in front of the extrance to the gate of the new Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo by Bill Landon
A memorial plaque rests in front of the extrance to the gate of the new Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Photo by Bill Landon

Sheehan fielded a free kick cleanly and plowed his way to the goal post for six more points, McAuley’s foot made it seven, for the 56-0 win.

Shoreham-Wading River hasn’t lost a game since November 2013, when the team fell to Babylon in the second round of the playoffs. Last season, the Wildcats claimed their second consecutive Long Island championship title.

Although it’s a new season with a new field, the expectations within the team remain the same.

“We’ve talked about ‘Tommy Tough’ for years now — what it means by how we play and how we carry ourselves,” Millheiser said. “So I think it was important, especially tonight, to play with that intensity and play with that execution and play with heart — and they did that from the opening play.”

For Kelli Cutinella, Thomas and Kevin’s mother, she felt both exhilarated and heartbroken during the first game on the newly-dedicated field.

“Emotionally I felt excitement for them, but it makes me sad that the field is named after my son,” she said. ”I wish that he was here with us, but Kevin is an amazing person — he made us feel excited for tonight — he has that kind of influence on us. I’m humbled by how the community came out, supported us and supported the football team and for the beautiful tribute to my son.”

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Junior running back Jason Guevara rushes up the field during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Shoreham-Wading River hasn’t lost a football game since November 2013 when the Wildcats fell to their then-nemesis Babylon. Now, the team begins the 2016 campaign protecting a 24-game winning streak. The Wildcats’ winning ways will be tested after losing 18 seniors to graduation, and will have to lean on some unproven talent to keep the streak alive.

Junior quarterback Noah Block hurls the ball up the field during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Junior quarterback Noah Block hurls the ball up the field during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

Matt Millheiser is entering his seventh year as the head coach of the Wildcats, which have amassed a 44-17 record through six seasons of play, even despite his first season at the helm resulting in an 0-8 finish. In his second year, Millheiser turned his team around, posting a winning 6-3 season and helping send his team to the playoffs the very next year.

“From the beginning, the idea was to just play good football and not worry about wins and losses, but we as coaches go out and coach, teach the kids to love the game,” Millheiser said. “That caught on and that bled over into the offseason by [the kids] working out and coming into summer practices. The more they enjoyed the game, the more they played the game and got better.”

From there, he led the Wildcats to consecutive winning seasons with 7-3 records in 2012 and 2013 before his team ran the table with a pair undefeated seasons, as well as back-to-back Long Island championships, making history along the way.

The Wildcats will lean on senior Kevin Cutinella, the returning starting quarterback, who will have to survey the field to see who will be stepping up to fill the void left by the 18 departed players.

“There’s a lot more team bonding that has to be done this season because we lost so many seniors who were big impact players,” Cutinella said. “We have to get the chemistry to where it was last year with those players.”

Dean Stalzer, a senior tackle on both sides of the line of scrimmage, said the preparation was not all that different from last season.

Junior running back and defensive back Kyle Boden breaks up a play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon
Junior running back and defensive back Kyle Boden breaks up a play during practice. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’re putting in the same amount of work as we did last year; the new seniors this year have got to step it up and to be the captains that they were,” Stalzer said regarding this season’s and last year’s leadership. “It’s early yet, and we’re not coming out like a championship team, but I like what I see. I think we’re looking good.”

The team’s 24 consecutive victories is not openly discussed, according to senior running back and defense back Chris Gray.

“The coaches aren’t talking to us about this win streak, but it’s definitely in the backs of our minds so we want to keep it going as long as we can,” he said, “Preparing for this season there’s a lot of stress on doing the little things correctly. We’re putting 100 percent effort into everything we do — that’s what the coaches have been stressing throughout practice.”

Cutinella said he’s looking forward to the league season opener at home on Sept. 9 under the lights on the new field that bears his brother’s name — the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Kickoff for that game against Center Moriches is scheduled for 7 p.m.

“I can’t wait,” he said. “Two weeks from now we’ll be on the new field, and it’ll be great to play with all of the players that I’ve played with since I was 4 years old.”

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Glen, Zachary and Renée Cote are receiving a new home on Helme Avenue in Miller Place as part of the homes for returning veterans. Photo from Renée Cote

By Desirée Keegan

After a series of unfortunate events, a string of fortunate ones led the Cote family to their soon-to-be new home in Miller Place.

Glen and Renée Cote, and their 7-year-old son Zachary, were chosen to be the receivers of the 11th home for returning veterans, a program put in place by Rocky Point VFW Fischer/Hewins Post 6249 Commander Joe Cognitore and developer and owner of Landmark Properties in Rocky Point Mark Baisch.

Renée Cote said to be chosen for the home on Helme Avenue is a dream come true.

“It’s extremely overwhelming — we feel extremely blessed,” she said. “I’m just happy that my son is going to have a home and that my husband and I are going to be able to live in a community that’s done nothing but support us.”

The framing is up for the new home on Helme Avenue in Miller Place, which the Cote family will receive as part of the homes for returning veterans. Photo by Desirée Keegan
The framing is up for the new home on Helme Avenue in Miller Place, which the Cote family will receive as part of the homes for returning veterans. Photo by Desirée Keegan

The family has, until recently, lived in a rental home in Sound Beach, but found out in March that it was being evicted because the landlord had let the home fall into foreclosure. But that’s not where the hardships began.

Glen Cote, who was a U.S. Army combat medic from 1988 to 1992 and specialized in deployment training and immunization for a bulk of army medics in the Gulf War, met and married his wife following his service. In 2002, Renée Cote was diagnosed with a rare and painful metabolic disorder called acute intermittent porphyria, which requires expensive biweekly treatments that she has undergone for 14 years at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital. As a result of her illness, which there is no known cure for, she has suffered three strokes.

In 2009, the couple welcomed Zachary into their lives, who in June 2014 was diagnosed with Grade 4 medulloblastoma, brain cancer, and has since endured 42 rounds of radiation and nine months of intense chemotherapy. His treatment had to be halted when he was also diagnosed with acute intermittent porphyria.

“We’ve had the most horrific circumstances happen to us, but in every event there’s been such a huge blessing that’s come out of it,” Renée Cote said. Two years ago, the family was chosen to be recipients of a fundraising effort during Shoreham-Wading River’s Lax Out Cancer fundraiser, which supports local children with cancer. The family was chosen again as the beneficiaries of this year’s event.

“This isn’t a free movie ticket or a handbag. This is a home that we otherwise would not have been able to afford. We’re still trying to process it.”

—Renée Cote

“We’ve mad a lot of friends, a lot of contacts,” Zachary’s mother said. “There are so many people in this area that genuinely want to help people, and it’s so amazing to be on the receiving end of it. It’s awkward, but it’s very humbling. My husband and I just look at each other and feel extremely blessed.”

Due to his illness, Zachary had to start kindergarten a year late, and his parents were worried about how he would manage school, but Miller Place school district has also been supportive of the family, and their fears melted into appreciation.

“The way that the teachers and faculty have personally taken to Zachary on a whole different level, it’s just incredible to see the love, and it’s a very humbling feeling to know that strangers are so willing to help,” his father said. “It was tremendously important that we stay in the district, and for this to become available, so we can set roots here and Zachary can be stable and make friends in the neighborhood. I couldn’t ask for much more at this point in time.”

Glen Cote also suffered a serious incapacitating injury on the job, to the point where he qualified for Social Security disability. Testing showed that his injuries led to a diagnosis of degenerative disk disease and shoulder and knee arthritis.

Following the eviction notice, the Landmark Properties owner was connected with the family when a friend of the Cote family contacted the vice president of Bridgehampton National Bank, who sent out an email to the chain. The manager of the Rocky Point branch knew what Baisch does for veterans, and immediately contacted him on their behalf.

That’s when Baisch asked to meet them.

Zachary Cote enjoys a day at the beach. Photo from Renée Cote
Zachary Cote enjoys a day at the beach. Photo from Renée Cote

“When they came in her, I didn’t know them from Adam, but they were very forthcoming and told me their story. It was a little overwhelming to take in,” he said.

He told them he’d contact Cognitore and get back to them, but the family wasn’t going to get their hopes up.

“We left thinking that there was just no way that we’ll be able to get this to go in our favor,” Renée Cote said, but the following week they were asked to come back to his office and were told the good news. “I honestly never thought something like this would happen to us. This isn’t a free movie ticket or a handbag. This is a home that we otherwise would not have been able to afford. We’re still trying to process it.”

The family will be moved in by Christmas, which Baisch is thrilled about, after he found out that the Make-A-Wish Foundation couldn’t send Zachary to LEGOLAND until next year.

“The happenstance of this is incredible,” he said. “Can you think of anyone else more deserving? I feel privileged to do what I do. It’s been a very good year for me. I’m on cloud nine.”

Knowing that they’ll never have to move again is what excites the family most.

“My son will make marks on the walls and I’ll tell him you did that when you were 8, you did that when you were 9,” the mother said. “Now knowing that no one is going to come knocking on my door telling me ‘you need to get out’ because of somebody else is mind blowing.”

Shoreham-Wading River high school held its Class of 2016 commencement ceremony Saturday morning, June 25.

After listening to speeches from valedictorian Kelvin Ma and salutatorian Nicholas Maritato, students were all smiles as they walked up onto the stage and received their diplomas.

Doves were released in honor of Thomas Cutinella after all the graduates’ names were called, and as the ceremony commenced, students turned their tassels before tossing their caps into the air.

The Miller Place, Mount Sinai, Rocky Point and Shoreham-Wading River school districts have named the students who reached maximum potential at the high school level.

“I am extremely proud of all that the Class of 2016 has accomplished in the classroom, on the stage, on our athletic fields and in the community,” Rocky Point Principal Susann Crossan said. “They are a class who came together and generously raised money for many charities and continuously contributed positive energy to build school spirit. I wish the Class of 2016 a rewarding journey and ask that they remember to dream big.”

In Miller Place, with a whopping weighted GPA of 99.6, Elizabeth Whitlow was named the valedictorian. Whitlow, who plans to attend Northeastern University in the fall and major in American sign language, was a captain on the varsity softball team while also a member of the volleyball team, drama club, Foreign Language National Honor Society, National Thespian Society, mathletes and athletes helping athletes.

Joining the advanced placement scholar with honor at the top of the list is salutatorian Clara Tucker. With a weighted GPA of 99.5, she said she plans to attend Stony Brook University and major in biology. Tucker got her start at Stony Brook in the science research club on campus and was part of the school’s science club, art club and varsity track and field and cross country teams, while also being a member of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra, Intel Talent Search, Foreign Language National Honor Society and National Honor Society.

In Mount Sinai, Patrick Hanaj, with a weighed GPA of 105.2, was named class valedictorian. A class president his sophomore year and secretary his junior year, Hanaj was a member of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, was on the math team and was a member of chamber orchestra all four years of high school, and was the National Honor Society president this year. A national AP scholar and National Merit Scholarship finalist who was a member of the Columbia Science Honors Program, he will be attending Harvard University in the fall, majoring in applied mathematics with a minor in computer science.

Justine Quan, with a weighted GPA of 104.3, was named the salutatorian. The student council president and peer leader, who was a part of the history club and environmental action club, was also a member of the Mount Sinai Sunshine Fund and National Honor Society. Receiving the U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop Civil Service award, Quan will be attending New York University in the fall and majoring in political science.

“Justine is an integral member of her class; she is one of the most active and charismatic leaders that we have ever had in our building,” her district said. “Her participation is truly authentic, as she immerses herself fully in her activities for the benefit of others and for the good of her school and community. Justine is highly intelligent, one of the kindest individuals you will ever meet, extremely polite, always positive, efficient and highly organized. She is a representation of the best anyone can ask for from a high school student.”

James Gohn was named the valedictorian at Rocky Point. With a weighted GPA of 106.2, he is an AP scholar with distinction, member of the National Honor Society and New York State Mathematics Honor Society. Outside of the classroom, Gohn performed with the school’s orchestra, was the captain of the varsity soccer team and a member of the varsity lacrosse team. He is a dedicated volunteer, serving as a math and chemistry tutor and altar server, and dedicates many hours to several other charitable organizations. He will be attending Stony Brook University this fall to major in mechanical engineering.

“James is an exceptional student who has devoted himself to being the best he can be,” Crossan said. “He is a student with strong values and character and is gifted in the classroom as well as in his many extracurricular activities.”

Matthew Brewer, with a weighted GPA of 104.9, was named the class’ salutatorian.

An AP scholar with distinction, Brewer is also a member of the National Honor Society, New York State Math Honor Society and is president of the Class of 2016. He was a member of the high school’s mock trial and math teams and was secretary of the school’s science club. Team manager for both the varsity wresting and baseball teams, Brewer has also worked as a senior counselor for the North Shore Youth Council Summer Buddies Program since 2014, and previously was a junior counselor. He will be attending Fordham University in the fall to major in economics.

“Matthew is a bright, articulate and ambitious student who flourishes in an intellectually demanding setting,” Crossan said. “He has a gift of sharing his many talents with others by participating in many volunteer activities.”

Over in Shoreham-Wading River, Kelvin Ma, with a weighted GPA of 102.7, was named valedictorian. Graduating with an advanced regents diploma with mastery in math and science, Ma is a self-taught graphic designer and code designer who volunteered at Brookhaven National Lab during the past two summers. He was sponsored by Wikimedia Foundation to attend the Libre Graphics Meeting, where he gave a lecture on vector graphics and was awarded second place at the 2015 Long Island Junior Science and Engineering Fair.

A member of Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, he was accepted into the Institute of Creative Problem Solving for Gifted and Talented Students as a freshman. He is a National Merit Scholarship finalist, and awarded the Suffolk County Math Teachers Association Award several times. Ma, who earned the New York State Merit Scholarship for Academic Excellence, will be attending the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and major in engineering.

Nick Maritato also reached a peak performance level. With a weighted GPA of 101.2, he was named salutatorian and will be attending John Hopkins University in the fall, majoring in biomedical engineering.

An Eagle Scout, Maritato volunteered as a camp counselor, performed in summer pit orchestra and interned at St. Charles Hospital in the biomedical department. A member of the Nexus club, Moody’s Mega Math Challenge team, jazz band and varsity volleyball and track and field teams, he received a New York State Merit Scholarship for Academic Excellence, the Science Teachers’ Association of New York State 2015-16 outstanding senior science award, and Shoreham’s Ralph Gilorenzo humanitarian award.

“As a class, their leadership and commitment to public service and community, as well as personal, athletic, and academic successes are unparalleled,” Shoreham-Wading River principal Dan Holtzman said of the top of the class. “It is these attributes that make our school, district, and community the special place it is.”