The main parking lot at Shoreham-Wading River High School had filled to capacity nearly an hour before kick-off. A massive American flag flew from the ladders of two Wading River firetrucks at the top of the north end zone. And as the football team marched onto the field, they were greeted by a massive ovation from the crowd that filled the bleachers and lined the fences.
It was the kind of atmosphere fitting for a home opener for the two-time defending Class IV Long Island champions. And all the more special considering it was the first game on Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.
A pre-game ceremony led by athletic director Mark Passamonte to dedicate the field was followed by the kind of game that has become familiar in Shoreham in recent years. The Wildcats, the preseason No. 1 seed in Division IV, made it look easy in a 56-0 whooping of Center Moriches.
When Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser became head coach seven years ago, at a time when wins were hard to come by, he hoped that more than wins and losses he could transform the program into some special, something that gave kids an experience they couldn’t get elsewhere.
“I think tonight we finally reached that pinnacle,” he said after the team’s first official Friday Night Lights (the team has played several night games under portable lights in years past). “We came out early, the grill was going, the lights were going, the firetrucks were here. It was really a great atmosphere.”
The game itself was never in doubt. The Wildcats scored nearly every way conceivable: rushing touchdowns, punt returns, interception returns, a safety.
The Wildcats had only run one play from scrimmage for five yards by the time they had taken a 20-0 lead early in the first quarter. It was that kind of night.
Six different players scored touchdowns and senior Chris Sheehan scored twice — both on punt returns. His first-quarter score, a nearly 50-plus yard return put the Wildcats ahead 20-0 not even halfway through the first quarter. The Wildcats had previously scored on an interception return by freshman Xavier Arline and a five-yard by senior Chris Gray.
For all the success the Wildcats have had in the past two seasons, perhaps no first quarter was as utterly dominant as Friday night. The Wildcats led 34-0 by the time it ended and the second and third string players entered early in the second quarter.
The Wildcats will face a tougher test next week when they return home to play longtime rival Babylon. The Wildcats will take a 25-game win streak into the game, well aware of the fact that Shoreham’s streak began by ending a similar streak that Babylon had going in the 2014 season.
“We ended their streak and I’m sure that is not lost on them and I’m sure it’s motivation for them,” Millheiser said.