WILDCATS 30, PHANTOMS 0
Some secrets are hard to keep.
Before the start of the 2012 football season, Shoreham-Wading River coach Matt Millheiser hoped to keep the name Isreal Squires under wraps for as long as he could. Millheiser knew he had a talented receiver/runner/safety in the 6-foot sophomore and that it would only be a matter of time before opposing teams knew his name.
It turned out to be the first play of the season.
Squires raced the opening kickoff back to the 46-yard line Saturday at home against Bayport-Blue Point, showing off some of the speed that makes him such a dangerous player offensively. It was just a glimpse of what was to come later.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Squires said of his first varsity game.
A kickoff return was one thing, but Squires saved his best for the second half. He hauled in two touchdown passes, one more impressive than the next in a 30-0 Division IV victory for the Wildcats against the preseason No. 5 seed in Bayport at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
Squires made a pair of highlight reel catches as part of a four-reception, 133-receiving yards performance.
Not bad for a rookie debut.
“He’s just an amazing athlete,” Millheiser said.
Squires caught both passes from a fellow sophomore in Danny Hughes, who was also making his varsity debut. All four of his completions went to Squires.
The first touchdown came on a third-and-12 from the Phantoms’ 42-yard line. Squires lined up on the right side, ran a straight route and waited for Hughes to air it out for him. The pass, a bit wobbly, came up shorter than Squires expected, forcing him to stop, readjust and leap to snag the ball out of the air. The touchdown play effectively put the game out of reach for the Phantoms as Shoreham went up 23-0 late in the third quarter.
“I had to reverse and jump,” Squires said.
His second touchdown took a similar effort. Again on third down, Squires raced up the right sideline and made a leaping grab around the 10-yard line. This time, he dragged the defender the rest of the way, and reached out just in front of the end zone to put the ball in for the 46-yard score.
“He was dragging the kid, dragging the kid then stepped and reached and dived,” Millheiser said. “That’s a grind-it-out, tough effort. It was just an amazing play.”
While the Wildcats remain a run-first team, Millheiser hopes the combination of Hughes and Squires can keep an opposing defense more honest this season.
“Teams really packed the box against us last year,” he said. “Now we have a weapon out there that’s going to force people to pay attention.”
The Wildcats didn’t have a huge day on the ground, but they got enough production when they needed it. The trio of Tyler Anderson, Avery Friedman and Dominic Pirraglia combined for 115 yards on 32 carries. Pirraglia scored the game’s first touchdown on a 9-yard run.
The Wildcats capitalized early on a bevy of mistakes from Bayport. The Phantoms turned the ball over on three of their first four plays from scrimmage.
Combined with a Shoreham turnover on the Wildcats’ first possession, the game featured four turnovers before the halfway point of the first quarter.
Anderson picked off the first pass, racing the ball to the Phantoms’ 13-yard line to set up Shoreham’s first score. A minute later Hughes snagged a ball in the middle of the field and took it back 31 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0 Shoreham.
“Right away on defense our kids did a great job of what we coached them up to do all week,” Millheiser said. “Hughes and Anderson got to the spots, made the interceptions and then made plays after it.”
Bayport runs a spread offense, which wasn’t in synch at all. The Phantoms had several false start penalties by their receivers throughout the game, adding to their problems.
Against a team that likes to throw the ball, the Wildcats played Hughes more on defense than they otherwise might against a run-first team.
“We liked having an extra guy like him out there in coverage,” Millheiser said.
Defensively the Wildcats were solid against the run and pass all game. Shoreham limited Bayport to 120 yards of total offense.
The Phantoms struggled just to get the ball across midfield.
Millheiser credited the work of the defensive line.
“They did a phenomenal job of getting to the quarterback when they needed to and stuffing the run,” Millheiser said.
Mitch Identsohn and Pirraglia both had strong games at linebacker for Shoreham. Defensive tackle Kreed Mauser had back-to-back sacks in the third quarter and closed out the game with a tackle for a loss on the final play.
“Kreed’s got a motor,” Millheiser said. “He never quits. He’s a big, tall, physical kid. He doesn’t get faked out. If we tell him get the quarterback, he understands get the quarterback.”
The Wildcats lost a two-way starter on the line early in the game when Jason Ambrosini suffered a hit to the head. Millheiser said he may have had a concussion and would have to be further evaluated.
Whereas in the past few years an injury was devastating for the Wildcats, this time they had a backup ready to go. Sophomore Bobby Puckey stepped in to fill Ambrosini’s role on both sides of the ball. It was the first varsity game for Puckey.
“He’s a kid who did very well on JV last year,” Millheiser said. “This year he came into camp and started beating up on some of the varsity guys.”
Next week the Wildcats will have their hands full against the Mount Sinai Mustangs, the preseason No. 2 seed and one of the favorites going into the season to win the county title. The Mustangs will present a different challenge for Shoreham as they’re a run-first team that can throw several talented runners at the defense.
“They always play us very, very tough,” Millheiser said. “Kids are going to have to step up.”
One thing’s for sure, the Wildcats will be no secret.