A team on a mission, the Shoreham-Wading River High School football players marched solemnly into Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium in a businesslike manner. Then the Wildcats took care of business.
Shoreham wrapped up its third straight Suffolk County Division IV championship Saturday, running over Babylon, 36-21, as senior running Chris Gray turned in a near-record performance. Gray ran for four of Shoreham’s five touchdowns, racking up 341 yards on 44 carries. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery.
The Suffolk single playoff game record of 426 rushing yards was set by Tyler Anderson of Shoreham against Center Moriches in 2013, according to Newsday’s Andy Slawson.
Shoreham (9-2), which has a 32-2 record over the past three years, will play for what would be its third successive Long Island Class IV crown Nov. 27 against Seaford (11-0) at Stony Brook.
The last team to win more than two straight Division IV titles was Babylon, which won four in a row from 2000-03. Harborfields was the only other Division IV team to win more than two in a row (1994-97).
Shoreham’s defense was without junior middle linebacker Ethan Baumack, who broke a fibula in the semifinal win over Miller Place. But the Wildcats had Ethan Wiederkehr, and the 6-foot-6, 285-pound senior proved to be a handful. Wiederkehr played a tremendous game, making 12 tackles, four for a loss (including two sacks) and a forced fumble.
Shoreham’s defense also featured an interception by Joe Miller and a safety recorded by Chris Sheehan, who pulled down Scott Sasso in the end zone with 56 seconds left in the game.
Babylon (10-1), which had defeated Shoreham during the regular season, is 10-9 in county finals since 1988. The Panthers’ last county title was in 2013.
All three of Shaun Kaminsky’s catches (for 108 yards) went for Babylon touchdowns. They included a sensational one-handed grab of a Scott Sasso pass down the sideline for a 22-yard connection.
The teams were even at the half, 14-14, before Shoreham pulled ahead for good on touchdown dashes of 40 and 10 yards by Gray in the third quarter. On the 10-yarder, he received some key blocks from Dan Curtin and Wiederkehr.
But Gray’s best piece of work came on his fourth touchdown of the game, and 28th of the year. With Shoreham holding onto a 28-21 lead and the ball on the Babylon 15-yard line, he cut to the right and then executed a dazzling spin between a pair of Panthers before finishing the run in the end zone.
Gray has 1,959 yards from 187 rushing attempts, an average of 10.5 yards per carry, this year.
Shoreham’s first-half touchdowns came from a 22-yard run by Gray, who surged untouched through a path cleared by Wiederkehr, and an 11-yard run by Kevin Cutinella. Cutinella used his right hand to stiff arm Kaminski and send the Babylon player to the ground on the play.
Babylon had pinned Shoreham back on its own 3-yard line when a 47-yard Sasso punt was batted back by Babylon’s Frank Vano before it could bounce into the end zone and teammate Jason Carlock covered it up. But Shoreham still moved the ball 97 yards in seven plays for a 7-0 lead.
Babylon’s defense came up with a big stop when Shoreham opted to try for a first down on a fourth-and-one from the Babylon 6 early in the second quarter. Miller was stopped for a one-yard loss on the play.
Photo caption: The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats celebrate their third straight Suffolk County Division IV championship following their victory over Babylon. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)