MICHAEL GASPARINO PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River halfback Tyler Anderson follows the block of Brennan Gorman on the way to a 23-yard touchdown run in Saturday’s playoff win over The Stony Brook School. Anderson finished with 201 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
DIVISION IV PLAYOFFS | WILDCATS 35, BEARS 12
The Shoreham-Wading River football team won its first-ever varsity playoff game Saturday, and the Wildcats are hoping it won’t be their last this season.
Tyler Anderson scored four touchdowns — sealing the win with third-quarter scoring runs of 53 and 57 yards — to lead the Wildcats to a 35-12 victory over The Stony Brook School in what was also the first-ever home playoff game at Shoreham-Wading River High School.
The Suffolk County Division IV quarterfinal victory earned the third-seeded Wildcats (7-2) a spot in the semifinals next weekend at No. 2 Mount Sinai (8-1), a 20-14 winner over Elwood-John Glenn, the two-time defending Long Island champion.
For players like senior tackle Kyle Flemming, who have helped the Wildcats transform themselves from an also-ran to a playoff team, the win was special.
“Last year, we came back from that 0-8 season, and we’ve just been building up, building up, and a home playoff game was just huge for the program,” Flemming said. “It was great to see everyone come out, and the team played well.”
“I told them no matter what happens the rest of the way here, or the rest of your life, you can come back here with your kids, and you were in that first group that had a home playoff game and won,” added coach Matt Millheiser. “No one can take that away from them.”
Saturday marked a return to normalcy for Long Island high school football, after more than a week of weather-related chaos thanks to Sandy and Athena. But the Wildcats were able to shake off whatever rust they had by storming out to a 21-0 halftime lead.
“The last time we played them, we came out slow, so we wanted to make sure we came out hitting,” said Anderson, who ran for 201 yards on 19 carries.
“It was extremely important just to have a rhythm and a feel,” Millheiser said of the Wildcats’ quick start. “The kids were itching to get back on the field; it was tough to get everyone back into it and to get going again. So right away to have success, the kids got back in the groove and everything felt normal again.”
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff and methodically marched down the field, capping a 13-play, 76-yard, 7-minute and 36-second drive with a three-yard touchdown plunge by Anderson. The point-after by Zach MacAuley gave the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
The margin grew to 14-0 after the Wildcats forced the Bears to go three-and-out. A 31-yard pass from Danny Hughes to Mitch Identsohn helped set up a one-yard scoring run by Dominic Pirraglia early in the second quarter.
A fumble on the Bears’ next drive gave the Wildcats the ball at the Stony Brook 30 yard-line, and two plays in, Anderson scored on a 23-yard run up the middle for a 21-0 Wildcats advantage.
The Bears went three-and-out to start the third quarter, and on the Wildcats’ first play from scrimmage, Anderson had a run for the ages, dancing out of three tackles as he sprinted down the left sidelines on a 53-yard touchdown run.
“For a big tall kid like him he really has some moves, and he has great feet,” said Millheiser. “He’s a tremendous back and he keeps getting better.”
Anderson wowed the crowd again on the first play of the fourth quarter, breaking a tackle 10 yards downfield and then outrunning the Bears defense for a 57-yard scoring run that made it 35-0.
Stony Brook added two late touchdowns, the first on a one-yard run by Jake Harrington and the second on a 38-yard run by quarterback Marco Masakayan.
Millheiser wished he had Anderson’s nimble feet in the postgame team meeting, as he was blindsided by the traditional ice water bath. “I’ve got to learn how to dodge that better,” he said. “I told the kids that was the best tackle they had all day.”
The Wildcats piled up 342 yards of offense. Hughes was 3-for-3 passing for 56 yards, all to Identsohn. Pirraglia rushed for 42 yards on eight carries and Avery Friedman added 20 yards rushing. Masakayan was 8-for-18 passing for 60 yards and ran for 144 yards. Don Liotine added 126 yards rushing for the Bears.
The Wildcats lost to Mount Sinai in week two, 28-0, so they will have something to prove when they meet again; the game will likely be Friday night, for what would be the first night game at Mount Sinai this year after budget cuts forced the school to turn off the lights.
“We’ve got to hold our ground,” Anderson said. “The first time we played them, we were able to move the ball, but our defense was lacking. If we can step up our defense, I think we have a shot.”
Millheiser said if the Wildcats can execute their plays, they will be fine.
“Sometimes we get a little lazy in our execution,” he said. “We get caught in the moment because we haven’t been in a lot of those big moments yet, but hopefully the kids focus on what they have to do.”