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Suffolk

After a long and intensive search, Suffolk County Community College has officially welcomed its new president, Edward Bonahue. 

Now overseeing the college’s three campuses — Ammerman in Selden, Grant in Brentwood and Eastern in Riverhead — Bonahue said he’s excited to come back to Long Island after leaving for his education and career decades ago. 

Bonahue grew up in Setauket and attended Nassakeag Elementary School, Murphy Junior High and then Ward Melville High School, Class of 1983. 

“It was wonderful,” he said. “Growing up in the Three Villages was a wonderful privilege, just because it taught me about the value of education.”

Ed Bonahue graduated from Ward Melville in 1983. Photo from SCCC

As a teen, he taught swimming lessons for the Town of Brookhaven, which he cites as the reason he became so fluent in the different areas of Suffolk County. 

“I had taught swimming everywhere from Cedar Beach to Shoreham,” he said. “I taught at the Centereach pool, Holtsville pool, West Meadow — it was one way of getting a sense that we live in a bigger place.”

Bonahue said he was “one of those kids” who was involved with the arts more than sports — although he did run track during his junior and senior years. 

“Ward Melville was lucky to have a great arts program,” he said. “They have a great jazz program and I was in that generation of kids where I was in the Jazz Ensemble all three years.”

His love of arts and humanities led him to North Carolina upon graduating, where he received his B.A. in English Literature at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. 

After his undergrad, Bonahue took a job in Washington, D.C., working as an editor at the U.S. General Services Administration and then as managing editor for Shakespeare Quarterly at the Folger Shakespeare Library. 

“That convinced me: ‘Oh, yeah, I kind of like this. And I think I’m going to go back to graduate school.’” 

Bonahue enrolled at the University of North Carolina where he received his M.A.  and Ph.D. in English Literature. He then moved with his wife to Gainesville, Florida, to hold the position of visiting assistant professor of humanities at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Florida. 

In 2009, he was a Fulbright Scholar with the U.S. International Education Administrators Program in Germany, and in 2016-2017, he was an Aspen Institute College Excellence Program Presidential Fellow. 

And while in Florida, Bonahue eventually headed to Santa Fe College, also in Gainesville, serving as the provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, along with several other roles. 

But as the years went on, he decided he wanted to head somewhere new and began looking for fresh opportunities. Through networking, he heard about a post back on Long Island – a place he knew very well. 

New appointment at SCCC

Bonahue took on his new role officially on June 28. Under his leadership, he oversees the current enrollment of more than 23,000 credit students and 7,000 continuing education students. 

“One of the one of the opportunities for Suffolk going forward is to think about how we’re serving all of Suffolk County,” he said. “It’s no secret that the number of traditional students graduating from high school is going down every year. Over time, that’s a lot of students.”

While the majority of SCCC students are on the traditional path, Bonahue said that moving forward they need to figure out ways to do better outreach to nontraditional students. 

Bonahue said one of his many goals is to converge with employers and help their workers continue their education through Suffolk or connect them with future employees while still in school. He added that in a post-COVID world where there can be gatherings, he would like high school guidance counselors to come and visit. 

“I think high school students get a lot from recommendations from their teachers and guidance counselors — especially students who are underserved because of the parents haven’t been to college, they don’t have that network of what it’s like to go to college,” Bonahue said. “So, they rely on their teachers and guidance counselors for that information.”

He added that one thing that was learned during the 2020 census is Long Island is becoming a more diverse place. 

“Many have not had the privilege of any exposure to higher education,” he said. “And that’s what community college is for —
 providing access to educational opportunity and access to economic opportunity for folks who, without it, might be stuck in some kind of dead-end, entry-level service sector job.”

Bonahue noted that SCCC as a college needs to internalize its mission is not only to serve 19-year-old students.

Photo from SCCC

“Our mission is also to serve a mom with a baby at home, someone who’s taking care of parents, someone who’s working in a family business, could be a worker who’s already been on the job and has been displaced  — those are all of our students,” he said. “I think our mission is to embrace that larger sense of community, and then on top of that there are areas of Suffolk County that have not been particularly well served, or where services are not as strong as elsewhere.”

Appointed by SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras, the SUNY Board of Trustees and the Suffolk Board of Trustees, Bonahue said that in his new role, he wants the college to be an agent of change. 

“I think they wanted someone who understands that Suffolk County is a diverse place — that it has many constituencies and that the three campuses have different personalities,” he said. “So, someone used the phrase that I checked a lot of boxes for Suffolk. My hope is that also I can present pictures of best practices that are practiced in high performing community colleges across the country, and if those best practices have not been adopted by Suffolk, then I think we have huge opportunities in terms of best practices that relate to community outreach, to academic and student support services, programming, workforce development, transfers and so forth. I think I think I can make a big contribution to Suffolk in a variety of ways.”

Bonahue said he plans on being not just on Selden’s Ammerman campus, he wants to be active on all three.

“I’m going to try to celebrate Suffolk across the whole county, including being present on all three campuses,” he said. “Each college serves a slightly different demographic, but one of the things I sense is that the college is hungry for a coherent and unified strategy.”

Coming back to Long Island was an exciting moment for Bonahue over the summer, but now it’s time for work. Since school started Sept. 2, he has been busy meeting faculty, staff and students, while focusing on his plans to better the local community college.  

“I loved growing up on Long Island,” he said. “And so, it’s been a pleasure to return here.”

Julianne Mosher is an adjunct professor at Suffolk County Community College.

Photo from Ray Welch

Amongst the Middle Country Public Library’s many historical artifacts are a few that explain just how far the area has come from its pastoral roots. The picture and story below comes courtesy of a collaborative effort among the librarian staff.

On Dec. 18, 1959, the Suffolk County Board of Supervisors approved the establishment of the county’s first community college on the former Suffolk Sanatorium site in Selden. The 1918 building above, which originally served as the Sanatorium’s infirmary, housed faculty office space when the 130-acre site on which it stood was designated as the future home of Suffolk County Community College. 

Although SCCC held its initial year of classes in October of 1960 at Sachem Junior-Senior High School in Ronkonkoma and Riverhead High School, the college took permanent residence of the old Sanatorium site beginning in September of 1961. Initial enrollment included 171 full-time and 355 part-time students. 

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Michael Kessler embrace at a press conference on April 19. Photo by Iryna Shkurhan

By Iryna Shkurhan

Advocates, lawmakers, developers and tenants gathered at ELIJA Farm in South Huntington on Monday morning to announce new inclusive housing opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) reported that an additional $10 million in funding will go to the development of 10 new housing units in Riverhead through the county’s inclusive housing pilot program.

“We’ve now funded more inclusive housing units in Suffolk County than we have seen in the state,” Bellone said. 

He first announced a pilot program in 2019 to fund projects designed to meet the regional need to develop new housing opportunities. After a successful trial run that saw a necessary demand, the program will now be permanent. A sum of $2.5 million dollars will be allocated every year for the next four years to fund inclusive housing projects for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

The announcement came during Autism Acceptance Month, which Debora Thivierge, executive director and founder of The ELIJA Foundation, called “Autism Action Month.” It also falls under Fair Housing Month, celebrated every April. 

Thivierge founded ELIJA Farm as a nonprofit project in 2016. The farm’s Community Supported Agriculture program offers methodical opportunities for diverse populations and integrates members into the life and community of the farm. 

“For us its original purpose was to empower Long Island’s journey through autism and today couldn’t be a more significant day to kind of mark that mission,” Thivierge said at a press conference in Huntington last week. 

According to the New York Housing Resource Center, there are more than 25,000 adults in Suffolk County with intellectual or developmental disabilities and 63% of them live with family caregivers. Of those caregivers, 25% are over the age of 60.

Ten units in Riverhead were completed earlier this year and are now fully occupied by individuals eligible to receive services through the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. 

Gateway Plaza, developed by G2D Group, was bought as a 64-unit apartment building in Huntington Station. Part of those units will be devoted to people on the autism spectrum. 

It is the only apartment building in Huntington with a doorman and its ground floor has about 14,000 feet of commercial space.

“We’re doing everything we can so that all the individuals in our community and across our country have the opportunity to live their best lives, to reach their full potential and that they have equal opportunity to do so,” Bellone said.

Developers believe that the quality of life will be much better for these individuals if they live in an accessible and walkable area of town. With opportunities even on the first floor, residents will be exposed to integration efforts as opposed to living in a remote place and being isolated from their community. 

Jason Harris, 22-year-old son of Thivierge and self-advocate moved to one of the Huntington units in February. 

“It’s been the greatest experience I’ve had so far, and it feels like I have my independence,” he said. “But I’m not feeling alone.”

The ground floor will have a cafe and office space where residents will have an opportunity to work and be integrated in the community as well as the commercial side of Gateway Plaza. 

“This is a game changer for people with autism, and intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Patricia Calandra, master housing navigator at the New York Housing Resource Center. “We are so grateful to be able to start this bigger, better model of acceptance and inclusion for our loved ones in the local community.”

Calandra is the mother of Joey and Jenna, who are both on the autism spectrum, and have lived independently in a community apartment complex in Coram for the last four years. 

She mentioned all the ways her adult children have gained independence and a sense of community from living alone, despite their disabilities. They’ve built relationships with neighbors, taken on work opportunities in the community, and gained the confidence to get out of their comfort zone and venture out on their own, she said. 

“Autism Awareness Month is now Autism Acceptance Month,” Thivierge added. “And ELIJA really feels that it’s ‘Autism Action Month’ because we have to start doing things that are really going to make change.”

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker speaks during a press conference in 2017 about the creation of a permanent panel to address the ever-growing opioid crisis. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Following another year of rising opioid use and overdoses, Suffolk County officials announced legislation that would create a new permanent advisory panel to try to address the issue.

“We have lost people from this [problem],” Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said during a July 25 press conference. “Children have died, adults have died and we’re here to do more.”

The panel would have 24 members, including representatives from health and science groups, members of law enforcement, hospital employees and individuals from the Legislature’s Committees on Health, Education and Human Services and would focus on prevention, education, law enforcement and drug rehabilitation across the county, Anker said. The panel is planned to be broken up into sub-committees, which would tackle a specific area.

“This is an issue that needs all hands on deck,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini said. “We are not going to arrest ourselves out of this — this is a public health issue [of historic proportion], but law enforcement plays a critical role.”

Over 300 people from Suffolk County died from opioid-related overdosess in 2016, according to county medical examiner records. Sini said that in 2016, the police administered Narcan, a nasal spray used as emergency treatment to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, in Suffolk County over 700 times.

A 2010 bill saw the creation of a similar advisory panel with 13 members, many of whom are members of the new proposed panel. The original, impermanent panel ended five years ago, but had made 48 recommendations to the legislature focused mainly on prevention education, treatment and recovery. Two recommendations from this committee that were put in effect were the Ugly Truth videos shown in public schools, and countywide public Narcan training.

Though proud of the work they did on that panel, members agreed the situation has worsened since it was disbanded.

“[Seven] years ago we stood here and announced the initial panel — I had the privilege of co-chairing that group — a lot of the things we recommended actually happened, some things didn’t,” said Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, chief executive officer of the Family and Children’s Association. “Regardless, the problem hasn’t gotten any better, and in fact, it’s gotten progressively worse. Some of the gaps in prevention, access to treatment, recovery and law enforcement haven’t yet been filled. For us to have an ongoing opportunity to have a dialogue together — to brainstorm some new solution to disrupt the patterns here — is very, very valuable.”

On the education side, Islip School District Superintendent of Schools Susan Schnebel said at the press conference that education has to begin at a very young age.

“It’s important that schools take hold of what happens in the beginning,” she said. “That includes educating students at a very early age, educating the parents to know what’s there, what are the repercussions, what is the law. That needs to happen with a 5 or 6-year-old.”

Executive director of the North Shore Youth Council Janene Gentile, and member of the proposed panel, feels that the advisory panel is an important step. She said she hopes that it will be able to do more in helping prevent people, especially young people, from using opioids in the first place, and hopefully help those exiting rehab.

“Implementing a family component when they are in rehab is really crucial, while they are in rehab and when get out,” Gentile said. “There are other agencies like mine — 28 in Suffolk County. If we can reach out to them they can help with re-entry [into society]. They go on the outside and the triggers that started them on opioids are still there, and they need to have places where there are no drugs. We’ve gone through a lot, but we’ve got to do more — and prevention works.”

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Tim Sini speaks about new police cameras at each of the seven precincts during a press conference in Greenlawn. Photo by Kyle Barr

By Kyle Barr

Be careful what actions you take, because the police are watching.

Suffolk County Police Department officials announced the implementation of 12 overt surveillance cameras throughout the county July 10, in an effort to deter crime.

The pilot program began in October 2016 with the implementation of a single camera in both the 1st and 2nd precincts. Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said that cameras were installed in the five other precincts early June.

Two of these cameras were positioned in Huntington Town, with one displayed on top of a telephone pole outside a small shopping center at the corner of Rockne Street and Broadway in Greenlawn.

“We want people to know about it.” Sini said of the camera program. “Local government is doing everything in their power to increase the quality of life in our communities.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) said that the town is dealing with the impact of several recent crimes, specifically recent shootings in Greenlawn that are “all too fresh in our minds.”

“These incidents of crime take away the feeling of safety,” Spencer said. “We will not tolerate violence in our community. These cameras put criminals on notice to say, ‘Don’t come here.’”

The cameras are full color and full motion, and can be accessed remotely through any officer or SCPD official that has access to Wi-Fi. The camera equipment was purchased for about $130,000 in a program funded by SCPD asset forfeiture dollars. However, the plan for a new real-time crime center, part of which will be to monitor the overt security cameras, will be created using SCPD’s normal operating budget.

The cameras are additions to a surveillance system that includes a number of license-plate readers along intersections and hidden cameras placed in areas such as local public parks.

“While the discreet cameras catch crime, the overt cameras do the same but they deter crime as well,” Sini said.

SCPD officials said that depending on community feedback, the cameras could be moved into different positions or to different areas.

On the topic of privacy, Sini responded that people should not expect privacy in a public space.

“The message we want to send is think twice before doing something illegal — think twice before doing something that demotes the quality of life for our residents, because we are watching,” Sini said.

Several nearby residents were happy to have the new camera system in their community.

“It’s a blessing,” said Greenlawn resident Earline Robinson about the implementation of the camera. She said she was concerned about crime, including gang activity, in the area and especially those of several shootings that happened in the community just in the past month.

President of Greenlawn Civic Association, Dick Holmes, said he had high expectations for the cameras and the police department.

“I think it’s a great idea,” he said. “We’ll see what it does and I guess we’ll see how it goes from there.”

The cameras are meant to be hung from telephone poles and are colored bright white and wrapped with a blue stripe that reads “police.” The camera positioned outside the shopping center in Greenlawn looks down at a strip that has been the site of a number of crimes, including several robberies.

One Stop Deli owner Mohammad Afzaal said that in the nine years he’s owned his store, it had been raided four times. Once, robbers broke into the safe behind the counter, and several times he had walked in to find the store in disarray. From those robberies, he estimates he lost about $11,000.

“Sometimes my camera doesn’t work,” Afzaal said, pointing to the camera hanging in the corner of his store. “But the camera out there, it will work.”

Summer kicks off in Shoreham with a scenic stroll through the five senses.

After two years of planning and construction, a new, community-built sensory garden at the Shoreham facility of Suffolk County’s Association for Habilitation and Residential Care, a non-profit that assists people with special needs and disabilities, officially opened to the public May 24.

What was once an underdeveloped stretch of woods and concrete is now a vibrant haven where visitors of all ages and abilities can excite their sight, smell, touch, taste and sound through various interactive materials and installations donated and put in by dozens of businesses and organizations. Local Girl and Boy Scout troops also volunteered throughout the past year to make the dream project a reality.

It was a dream that came from a passionate AHRC employee.

Christine Gallo, who serves as a behavior intervention specialist at the organization’s Intermediate Care Facility at 283 Route 25A in Shoreham, said ever since she started working there, she’d dreamt about utilizing the location’s natural resources to help the 96 people living on campus — many of whom deal with sensory-processing disorders, in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to what comes in through the senses.

While a number of AHRC locations are sensory-based, all of them are indoors.

“I thought, ‘wouldn’t that be great to bring all the science and knowledge we’re so good at at AHRC outside?’ because nature impacts the residents greatly,” said Gallo, who went on to research other sensory gardens throughout Long Island and the world and combined the best aspects of them when it came to designing her own.

She brought the idea to the higher-ups, including the facility’s director, Linda Bruno, and director of development, J Andreassi, who started a donation process and reached out to companies, architects, engineers, contractors and suppliers about pitching in. Island Steel & Detailing Corp. in Manorville, Precision Tree Services in Ronkonkoma, Shoreham-Wading River Teacher’s Association, the Riverhead Central Faculty and Reliable Garden & Fence Co. in Middle Island are among the participating companies that donated, cleared the area, set up fences, gardened, mulched and made installations.

The total project cost approximately $315,000, according to Andreassi.

“It was amazing the amount of people that it took to get this job done, but it was so worthwhile and it’s only going to get better,” he said. “Next year, that garden is going to be so lush and beautiful.”

Upon entering the expansive, oval-shaped garden, which is broken into different areas according to the senses, visitors can use a mallet to bang on big plastic drums and rainbow xylophones in the sound section. Along the decorated pathway, visitors pass wheelchair-accessible garden beds filled with vegetables for picking and eating and herbs scientifically-proven to aid with memory and concentration, a large-scale checkerboard on the lawn, a quiet sitting area to accommodate those who might be hyper-sensitive, and a barefoot labyrinth made up of river rocks.

“People can take off their shoes and just walk through, [like reflexology],” Gallo said. “It’s my favorite area.”

Gallo is hoping the new garden can further help with the sensory and developmental process.

“I just want it to become a meaningful, beautiful place for people to go,” she said. “But also where clinicians and specialists and training staff can use these really amazing features.”

Gallo said members of the Girl and Boy Scouts were involved in plant research and even building some of the structures, like the sensory wheel, which is filled with rocks of varying textures people can touch and spin. The wheel, she said, is designed for those in wheelchairs who can’t utilize the sensory input from the labyrinth.

She and Bruno hope to eventually host school and camp field trips, as well as community gatherings, at the garden.

“So far, every individual who we’ve brought through there has loved every aspect of it,” Bruno said. “It’s a peaceful place — it’s really magical. I think it’s exciting to be living and working out here, and to see something positive happening, and people contributing from the community.”

When asked how it felt to be standing in the garden of her dreams, Gallo said, “When I think about this piece of land, although it may seem like a small part of the world, it’s really monumental in how it can change people’s lives and be a place for the community to come.”

The growth Long Island could see in renewable energy resources if the project is approved. Image from Invenergy

By Rebecca Anzel

The largest renewable energy project ever proposed for Long Island has near unanimous support

Clean Energy Link, introduced by Chicago-based private energy developer Invenergy, LLC, would produce 701 megawatts across 55,671 acres — about the size of Long Island’s North Fork.

Four wind farms and two solar farms would be privately funded and built in rural areas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, and the power generated would be transferred to a substation in central New Jersey and converted from AC to DC. Then, it would be shipped 80 miles underground and underwater by a transmission line and connect to the Long Island Power Authority’s grid at a 3.5-acre facility on Ruland Road in Melville.

A spokeswoman from Invenergy said the company submitted a proposal to LIPA, and is hoping it will be granted a contract. It is unclear how much money LIPA is willing to pay for the electricity Clean Energy Link will generate, but if the power authority approves the project, it is expected to be operational by the end of 2020.

“I’ve been in this business since 2003 and this is probably one of the most, if not the most exciting project we’ve done,” Mike Polsky, Invenergy’s CEO, said at a press conference on Oct. 24. “It’s a very remarkable, bold and transformational step for New York State, and despite some naysayers, whatever they may say, it will happen.”

Clean Energy Link is a step toward achieving a mandate set by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in August that 50 percent of New York’s electricity needs to come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030. The first checkpoint is a requirement that utilities need to purchase energy from nuclear power plants in the state by April 2017 in an effort to prevent the facilities from closing.

“New York has taken bold action to become a national leader in the clean energy economy and is taking concrete, cost-effective steps today to safeguard this state’s environment for decades to come,” Cuomo said in a press release. “This Clean Energy Standard shows you can generate the power necessary for supporting the modern economy while combating climate change.”

According to Invenergy, about 9.5 million megawatt hours per year need to be produced by renewable energy sources statewide by 2030, and the Clean Energy Link project would produce about 1.6 megawatt hours per year.

How the wind and solar energy would make its way to Long Island. Image from Invenergy
How the wind and solar energy would make its way to Long Island. Image from Invenergy

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said because Nassau and Suffolk counties have about 3 million residents, it is a “notoriously very difficult place” to build anything. He expressed his support of the renewable energy project at a press conference in part, he said, because Long Island has experienced extreme weather and other impacts from increased carbon dioxide emissions.

“We have to be leaders on this issue — Long Island has to be out front,” he said. “… Part of that leadership means identifying what makes sense and maximizing the potential of the things that make sense. We are more at threat from climate change than just about any other region in the country.”

Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) said the most important aspect of the project must be its affordability for residents. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, New York had the seventh highest electricity prices in the country in 2015.

“The residents need to benefit. Period,” Anker said. “Energy costs are too high and we need to come up with a way to make it affordable for Long Island residents.”

One of her other concerns is if local communities are able to give feedback before LIPA officials decide whether to grant Invenergy a contract for the Clean Energy Link project.

For Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R), Clean Energy Link makes environmental sense because by increasing New York’s use of renewable energy, the state’s reliance on foreign fuel lessens, and therefore its carbon dioxide emissions will decrease. He also said the proposal is economically sound because the project would be constructed in states where land is cheaper and in more abundance than on Long Island, a point echoed by other local politicians.

State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) said he’s opposed Invenergy’s other project on Long Island — a 24.9 megawatt solar farm in Shoreham on the former Tallgrass Golf Course. It was approved by LIPA in May and is supported by other Brookhaven officials, who recently passed changes to the solar code prohibiting trees from being cut down for the construction of solar arrays.

“I don’t like the idea of solar farms on Long Island that impinge upon or displace green space,” Englebright said.

He added that transporting the power the Clean Energy Link project would provide underground is smart, because it would not be subject to disruptions due to weather.

“LIPA would be wise to move in the direction that this offers, which is the renewable direction,” Englebright said. “We’re an oceanic island, and putting more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ultimately drowns us.”

To Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), the most impressive aspect of Invenergy’s Clean Energy Link proposal is its “multipronged” approach. Renewable energy should not be produced by just wind or solar individually. The project’s potential impact is greater because it would make use of both.

She also said lower energy bills would go a long way toward generating community support. According to Invenergy, the project’s proposed start date was chosen to make full use of federal incentives for solar and wind energy production, a savings that would be passed along to residents.

Pine Barrens Society Executive Director Dick Amper agreed that community support is imperative for the success of the project.

“If the people who produce solar cut down forests for it, or put it in residential neighborhoods or replace farms that produce food for it, the public is going to turn against solar,” he said. “It took 25 years for everybody to come along and agree we need renewables. They’re not going to like them if we put it in bad places, and we can’t afford to have the backlash because we need solar.”

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Nick Messina rushes the ball upfield. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

The No. 4-seeded Ward Melville football team had waited 30 years for another Suffolk County championship appearance, and despite a tough loss to No. 2 William Floyd Nov. 18, 28-21, the Patriots powered the program to new heights.

Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon
Dominic Pryor jumps up to make a catch. Photo by Bill Landon

“We’re extremely proud of the boys and how far they’ve come this year,” Ward Melville head coach Chris Boltrek said. “Over the last three seasons, we have improved upon the prior year’s record and, for the seniors, Friday was the culmination of their dedication and effort. Hopefully, going forward, our trip to the county championship will encourage student-athletes throughout the district to play football and strengthen the program.”

Ward Melville’s first break of the game came on a fumble recovery when William Floyd was driving into the red zone. The Patriots offense went to work on their own 18-yard line, and senior quarterback Wesley Manning hit classmate Andrew McKenna, a wide receiver, over the middle on a 22-yard pass to move the chains to the middle of the field. Amid the drive, Ward Melville was forced to punt the ball away.

On their next possession, the Patriots also fumbled the ball, but the difference was that the Colonials made the Ward Melville pay for its mistake by finding the end zone four plays later for an early 7-0 lead.

The ensuing kickoff gave Ward Melville good field position following William Floyd drawing three consecutive penalties for an out of bounds kick, delay of game and offsides. Backed up on its own 25-yard line, William Floyd finally got the kick away and the Patriots’ return brought them to the Colonials’ 38-yard line with eight minutes remaining until halftime.

Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon
Wesley Manning tosses a pass over the middle. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville seized the opportunity and Manning found senior wide receiver Eddie Munoz over the middle, to move the chains to the 29-yard line. Manning spread the wealth and dropped the next pass to senior wide receiver Dominic Pryor on the left side for the 35-yard touchdown reception, and with senior kicker Joe LaRosa’s extra-point kick, the team tied the game 7-7.

With just over three minutes left in the half, William Floyd went up 14-7 with a 10-yard touchdown run from James Taitt, but Ward Melville had an answer. The Patriots went deep into the playbook, and Manning hit Pryor on a screen pass who, although running into a wall, flicked the ball to senior wide receiver John Corpac, who raced down the left sideline for the touchdown. LaRosa’s kick made it a new game at 14-14. 

Ward Melville had an opportunity to take a lead into the break, but failed to find the end zone on four consecutive plays from William Floyd’s 5-yard line.

Manning threw an interception to open the second half, and Taitt moved the ball to Ward Melville’s 1-yard line on the next play. Nick Silva finished the drive to put William Floyd out front, 21-14, to open the final quarter.

“Obviously we are very upset we didn’t reach our goal of winning the LIC, but I’m very proud to be able to say I helped lead the team to the county championship [final], which we haven’t been to in 29 years,” Manning said. “It’s been a great season and we all made memories and have a bond that will last a lifetime.”

The Patriots struggled with the Colonials’ defensive line, and with 6:54 left to play, Silva tacked on his third touchdown run of the game, to extend the advantage, 28-14.

Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon
Chris Boltrek coaches from the sideline. Photo by Bill Landon

On the ensuing kickoff, Ward Melville’s junior running back Nick Messina made a statement, when he returned the ball 74 yards and into the end zone, to pull the Patriots back within one touchdown with 6:32 remaining.

The Patriots’ final push brought them to the Colonials’ red zone with just over a minute left on the clock, but after four chances Ward Melville just couldn’t break through.

“This is a group of kids that are fighters — they don’t quit no matter what was going on,” Boltrek said. “They fought through adversity at all points of the season. They were never out of any game and that’s just the attitude they have. At one point we were 2-4, and for them to show the fortitude and character to believe in one another and believe in the process and keep fighting all the way to the county championship speaks volumes about them as young men. We’re going to miss our seniors, and I hope their Herculean effort has inspired the underclassmen to work even harder for next season — off-season workouts begin after Thanksgiving.”

Ward Melville’s ascent to the finals may have seemed unlikely, needing to win the final two games of the season to make a postseason appearance, and shutting out Connetquot and dethroning previously undefeated No. 1 Lindenhurst. But in his third year leading the team, Boltrek was able to continue the turnaround for the program.

“I have good athletes and I have good coaches, so I give them a lot of credit,” Boltrek said. “And the kids have bought into the idea that Ward Melville could be a football school.”

Desirée Keegan contributed reporting.

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By Bill Landon

Lauren Kloos continues to lead the way for Kings Park.

On Nov. 12, the senior outside hitter’s 12 kills put the girls’ volleyball team back in the state semifinal game. The Kingsmen bested Floral Park in straight sets, 25-10, 25-19 and 25-22 for Kings Park’s sixth straight Long Island championship crown.

Kloos said Kings Park (19-0) was ready for Floral Park, practicing defending against the unconventional ways its opponent would end up tipping and dumping the ball.

Junior outside hitter Sam Schultz, who finished with 12 digs and seven kills, and junior middle hitter Kara Haase, who added nine digs and eight kills, were also important contributors.

It’s been familiar stages for the Kings Park, and for the past three years, the Kingsmen have also seen a familiar foe at the county level.

Prior to the Long Island win, the dynasty did it again, as No. 1 Kings Park swept No. 2 Westhampton for the third straight year, 25-10, 25-15 and 25-13 for the Kingsmen’s sixth Suffolk Class A title.

Westhampton was plagued by unforced errors throughout the matchup, committing five of them in the first set alone to fall behind 16-7. Kloos made here presence known early, and spiked a kill shot that put her team out front 18-7, as Westhampton called timeout to try and throw Kings Park off balance.

It didn’t work, and as the team spread the ball around, the powerhouse surged ahead 23-9 looking to end the set early. And it did.

“A lot of hard work goes into it — the amount of practice we have to do to be able to execute [on the court],” Kloos said following the county win. “To be able to win another [championship] for the program is just amazing.”

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove. As time evolves we have a target on our back.”

— Ed Manly

The senior earned her fourth Suffolk and Long Island titles.

Dig after dig the Kingsmen got the ball to the junior Haley Holmes, and the setter spread the wealth. She aided the team in breaking out to a 13-5 advantage in the second set.

“It takes a lot of practice,” said Holmes, who finished with 28 assists and 10 digs against Floral Park. “We come to practice every day and we were ready for this. Our defense was perfect and that made it easy for me; the hitters just killed it.”

Kings Park continued to capitalize on Westhampton’s unforced errors, and surged ahead 23-15. On a bad serve, Westhampton handed Kings Park the break point, and the Kingsmen did what they’ve done all season, and put the set away, 25-15.

“Our energy, our intensive focus — every point we were mentally engaged, we knew where we needed to be, we knew our assignments,” Kings Park head coach Ed Manly said. “It was very hard. Our girls just work tirelessly all year long to play in this game. This is why you play volleyball, and we have the best kids around.”

Junior middle hitter Erika Benson, who had five kills and two blocks in the Long Island championship game, said her group continues to pull through and win as a team.

“Every game is a challenge, ” she said. “Our energy on and off the court never stopped. We never had a dull moment.”

Westhampton managed one last kill shot before Kings Park took the county title.

Having depth and help from all over makes Kings Park a contender for the state title. The team has to get through Glens Falls first, in the state semifinals Nov. 19. The Kingsmen have yet to take home a state title in the last five years.

“As a program, we still have a lot to prove,” Manly said. “As time evolves we have a target on our back. There are times when our kids feel like they’re not given the same credit as other teams around, for one reason or another, so they’re really inspired to play solid volleyball all of the time.”

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Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats win Suffolk County Class B title with 11-5 win over Sayville

Just call them the comeback kids.

For the second game in a row, Shoreham-Wading River juniors on the boys’ lacrosse team came up huge for the Wildcats.

At center field was Joe Miller, hunched over at the X under the hot sun Wednesday afternoon. He won 14 of 18 faceoffs, helping spark a huge second-half run that turned a 5-2 halftime deficit into an 11-5 win over Sayville for the Suffolk County Class B title.

“Joe Miller, they had no answer for him,” junior attack Chris Gray said. “He was giving us all those possessions and it was a hell of a game for him.”

According to Miller, he was just doing his job.

“I knew I did pretty well against them the first time and I just needed to do my job so the team could get the win,” he said. “It definitely helped, but everyone had an equal role.”

The two fed off each other — after a Jon Constant goal, Miller’s faceoff helped Gray to a goal of his own at the 9:35 mark of the third quarter, to make it a one-goal game.

Next, it was junior midfielder Kevin Cutinella, who received a pass from Gray to tie the game, like he did against Comsewogue in the semifinals.

“Me and Kevin are neighbors and he’s a great friend of mine,” Gray said. “We’ve been doing that since we were in third grade, so it means a lot to come out here and do this on such a big stage.”

Cutinella spread the credit around.

“There was just all around good passing and it opened up gaps for me to shoot,” Cutinella said. “They slowed us down in the first two quarters and we realized that that’s not how we play. We play fast, so we sped it up in the second half. We weren’t complacent, and we never settled down.”

He said he felt fortunate and was happy he was able to score the tying goal for the second straight game. He connected with his pal two minutes later, to help Gray to his hat trick goal.

What was no doubt the play of the game, though, was Miller’s second score that gave the Wildcats a three-goal lead. Hunched over again, in a familiar position, this time he found himself in front of the cage. Miller made a check that knocked the ball loose, and then, according to Gray, he “did his magic.”

“I made a little check and the ball ended up on the ground,” Miller said. “I had my back to the goal and I knew where it was, and I just flung it toward there and hoped for the best. It helped me out with the way I can position my stick.”

Being honest, Gray said his team was nervous trailing at halftime, but said head coach Mike Taylor kept the Wildcats settled.

“He told us not to get down on ourselves and we know we’ve been there before, just like last game,” Gray said. “We wanted to stick together and we kept the motto of playing together, playing for each other, and we really started to build off each other.”

The defense was solid in the last game, when the Wildcats held Comsewogue scoreless in the second half. The boys did the same against Sayville on Wednesday, with senior goalie Jimmy Puckey making nine saves between the pipes.

Gray pointed out that the team knows how good winning feels, since most of the guys are on the football squad and went undefeated in back-to-back seasons there. But he said that winning in lacrosse felt unreal, especially coming off a season a year prior, when the team went undefeated and were the favorite to go all the way until Sayville sent them home in the semifinals.

The win means a lot to Gray, because he was able to do it with all his brothers, and Cutinella felt the same.

“It’s one of a kind,” he said of the sensation, laughing. “It feels better than football. Don’t tell coach I said that.”