After a three-year hiatus, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats made an emphatic return to the county championship game.
The second-seeded Wildcats never trailed in a 13-8 win over No. 5 Huntington to win the Class B county championship Wednesday afternoon at Stony Brook University. The Wildcats (17-2) won their eighth county title and first since 2007, when they ran straight through to the state championship as a Class C team.
“The wait for eight is over,” said Shoreham coach Tom Rotanz.
For the seniors who grew up in the shadow of Shoreham’s seven straight county championship run from 2001-07, the victory was a moment they’ve waited for since first starting in the program.
“I just wanted to get the feeling that those guys got,” said senior Mike Malave, who scored three goals with an assist. “I finally got my time.”
“We’ve been playing together for so long that it’s great to feel that it’s finally here,” added senior Connor Drost, who scored three goals with two assists.
The Wildcats led 6-3 at halftime and scored the first three goals of the third quarter to open up their biggest lead of the game. The Blue Devils had one spurt of two quick goals, but otherwise never really threatened in the second half.
Huntington came into the game focused on taking sophomore attack Tim Rotanz out of play. The Wildcats countered by running Blue Devil players into picks set by Tim, then working a two-man game off that.
That left Malave and Drost plenty of opportunities to fire away on Huntington goalie John McGrath (11 saves).
“They’re quality shooters,” Tom Rotanz said of his two seniors. “We felt if they’re not going to slide off Tim, then use him as a pick, when Connor or Michael go to the goal, they’re not going to have anyone to slide. And that was the case a couple times.”
The win sets the stage for Shoreham to take on Nassau County champion Garden City Saturday back at Stony Brook at 8 p.m. The Trojans, a perennial power in Class B, defeated Manhasset for the Nassau title.
The Wildcats got a huge effort from junior Trevor Brosco. Hampered by a hamstring injury, Brosco played in only one game since suffering the injury against Sayville in April. Coming into the game Rotanz figured he’d get to use Brosco in limited man-up situations.
Brosco, who estimated he’s at 85 percent, managed to score two goals and provide a big boost. Once the Wildcats had a comfortable lead in the fourth quarter, Rotanz pulled Brosco to not risk him re-injuring the hamstring.
“I was afraid of him making a dodge and blowing it again,” Rotanz said. “And he went to the goal and did a bunch of things. At the end of the game we pulled him out and then let somebody else take care of business.”
Malave and Brosco both did not play in the regular season when Shoreham won by one goal against the Blue Devils.
“It feels great to be back and to be able to help all the kids that have carried us along this far,” Brosco said. “It’s nice to win it for the seniors.”
Brosco said once he got into the flow of the game he felt good.
While the Blue Devils tried to limit Tim Rotanz, he still finished with four assists and a goal. Tom Rotanz Jr., a senior, scored three goals.
It’s only the fourth time in program history the Wildcats have reached 17 wins in a season. They can match their win total from 2007 with a win against Garden City. Shoreham has won at least 10 games every season since 1998.
Huntington shocked previously unbeaten and defending county champion Comsewogue in the semifinals, but the Blue Devils couldn’t duplicate that effort against the Wildcats.
The Blue Devils were seeking their first county title since 2007 when they were in the midst of their 63-game win streak that ultimately came to an end in the state semifinals that season against John Jay.
Huntington tied the game at 1 after Drost scored the game’s opening goal. But the Wildcats ran off three straight goals with Malave scoring the team’s fourth with 8:46 left in the second quarter.
Shoreham’s defense played well all game to limit the Blue Devils to eight goals. It was only the fifth game this season Huntington has scored eight or fewer goals. Huntington senior Nick Saputo led the Blue Devils with three goals.
“We knew Saputo was a great player,” Drost said. “We just had to lock down on their strong players and our defense meshed together really well.”
Shoreham goalie Tyler Lutjen stopped 11 shots between the pipes.
Malave said the tradition of the program has been a big motivating factor for the players.
“Coach has been saying the wait for eight,” Malave said. “A lot of us have been on the team three years. We’ve just been waiting to get our shot.”
They made the most of it.