SHOREHAM-WADING RIVER 10, PENN YAN ACADEMY 6
Standing on the field in the moments after Saturday’s NYSPHSAA Class C Championship game, Shoreham-Wading River head coach Tom Rotanz looked at his players and uttered one sentence just before all the flash bulbs began to pop at Middletown High School in Middletown, N.Y.
“Put those fingers up, boys,” the 18-year SWR head coach said.
All the Wildcats, to a man, quickly raised their right index fingers in the air. They were No. 1 again.
After losing leading goal scorer Trevor Brosco to a concussion in the opening minutes, Shoreham-Wading River still found a way to will itself to the program’s third state championship Saturday with a 10-6 victory over Section V champion Penn Yan Academy.
It was the first state title since 2007 for the Wildcats, who finish the season 18-3. The team’s inaugural championship came in 2002.
Without Brosco, who scored the game’s first goal just 13 seconds into the first quarter, it was up to junior attack Tim Rotanz, the coach’s son, to pick up the scoring slack for SWR the rest of the way.
Rotanz scored his first goal 13 seconds after Brosco scored his as Shoreham-Wading River got off to a red hot start and a 2-0 lead with 11:34 to play in the first quarter.
“I always dreamed of this,” said Rotanz of winning his first state championship. “I knew all those other guys who played for my father and won a title before. I wanted to walk in those shoes.”
On Saturday, he was running in them.
Less than one minute into the second quarter, Rotanz had already recorded a hat trick and the Wildcats had built a 5-0 lead. He’d finish with five goals and two assists and was named MVP of the game.
Rotanz said he didn’t realize Brosco was out for the game until seeing his concussed teammate in the locker room at halftime.
“He was so upset,” Rotanz said. “I knew right then he wasn’t coming back.”
But the Wildcats still stuck with the formula that got them here by playing an unrelenting defensive game.
Penn Yan (20-3) recorded just three shots on goal in the first half against a smothering SWR defense led by seniors Chris Mahoney and Dylan Bates.
“We knew they could play in a phone booth,” Coach Rotanz said of the Mustangs’ scorers. “We had to collapse on them all game long.”
Shoreham-Wading River gave up seven goals or fewer the entire playoffs.
Still, there was a point in Saturday’s game when Penn Yan looked like it might fight its way back. Sophomore Rion Davison scored two goals in the final minute of the first half to send the teams into the locker room with the Mustangs suddenly trailing just 5-2. A Davison hat trick would get his team one goal closer in the third quarter, as the Wildcats went more than 20 minutes without a goal.
But SWR didn’t give up there.
Rotanz and freshman Ryan Bray each netted goals for the Wildcats in the final 30 seconds of the third and they headed into the final quarter with a 7-3 lead.
Twelve minutes later, they were state champs.
Five different Shoreham-Wading River Players — Rotanz (5), Bray (2), Brosco, sophomore Troy Miller and senior James Higgins — scored in the final game.
It was a particularly emotional title this time around for Coach Rotanz.
“It’s unwanted closure,” he said afterward. Unwanted because it’s the final game for several players he’s coached since as early as elementary school, including Bates and Mahoney, a fifth year starter headed for Ohio State. “It’s going to be sad. These are kids that have always been here.”
Saturday also marked the final game for goalie Tyler Lutjen, who recorded six saves in the victory. After the semifinals, he ran away from his teammates as they looked to mob him, hoping to avoid the jinx. This time around, he charged straight toward them.
Saturday marked the second time both the Shoreham-Wading River boys and girls lacrosse teams won state titles in the same season.
Coach Rotanz referred to Bates as the team MVP after the game, but the defenseman was quick to credit someone else with leading the Wildcats to a championship — an SWR student who wasn’t even there to celebrate with the team.
“This one’s for Liam,” Bates said. “He may have been in Stony Brook today, but he was still with us on that sideline all game long.”
Liam McGuire, a Briarcliff Elementary second grader, is being treated for a rare chromosomal form of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at Stony Brook University Medical Center. Bates called him the team captain Saturday.
Coach Rotanz said many of his players found emotional inspiration from a recent visit with Liam. Later today, he said they plan to pay their friend back.
“We’re stopping off in Stony Brook on our way home,” Coach Rotanz said.
Get ready for another visit, Liam. The state champs are coming.
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