DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River senior Tyler Anderson scored two touchdowns Thursday against McGann-Mercy.
WILDCATS 46, MONARCHS 0
As the two-a-day practices of late August give way to scrimmages and final game preparations in September, the anticipation toward Week 1 builds greater and greater. In many ways during the long grind, the first game of the season feels like the biggest.
“You’re working out over the summer, this is the game you’re waiting for to get the pads warmed up,” said Shoreham-Wading River senior Tyler Anderson.
Around Shoreham, there hasn’t been the kind of anticipation for a season since the days of star running back Brendan Kelly in 2006 and ’07. In their Division IV opener Thursday afternoon, the Wildcats played like a team caged up all summer that was finally let loose.
At the receiving end of it were the Bishop McGann-Mercy Monarchs, a team thrust into the spotlight of the upper echelon of Division IV by reaching the semifinals of the playoffs last year — their best season in more than two decades.
As the Monarchs quickly found out Thursday, the honeymoon is over.
The Wildcats stampeded Mercy from the outset, cruising to a 46-0 victory at home.
Shoreham needed just over two minutes to score the first touchdown of the game, an 11-yard run by Anderson. On the first drive alone Anderson tallied 63 rushing yards as he dodged, side-stepped and ran past helpless tacklers.
“It’s just momentum for the game and helps carry guys through,” Anderson said of striking early.
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Mercy sophomore KJ Santacroce made his first varsity start Thursday against Shoreham.
The game was never in doubt for the Wildcats. They scored a pair of touchdowns through the air, and two more through the air by picking off passes and returning them for touchdowns.
They even scored with the kicking game when senior Zach McAuley connected on a 19-yard field goal late in the game for the Wildcats’ final three points. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, McAuley bolted for the exits.
A soccer game at Mount Sinai was about to kick off. And McAuley was pulling double duty.
The Wildcats jumped ahead to such a big lead, Anderson only carried the ball five more times after the opening drive. He finished with 96 yards on nine carries.
“Every play you want to be out there,” Anderson said of the unfortunate side-effect of a lopsided win.
Junior quarterback Danny Hughes threw only three passes all game and the first two went for touchdowns. He connected on a 34-yard pass to the right side of the end zone with junior Isreal Squires. On a third-and-16, Squires raced past his defender to create separation and haul in a perfectly thrown ball from Hughes. The touchdown and two-point conversion made it 15-0 Shoreham.
Squires said he could see the improved arm strength of Hughes right from the start of practices this year.
“He got a better arm over the summer from working out and everything,” Squires said.
Hughes later threw a 36-yard touchdown to tight end Mitch Identsohn. As Hughes rolled to his left, he thought about tucking the ball and running with it. Then he saw the arm of Identsohn go up as he raced across the field. Hughes let the ball loose and hit his big tight end in stride. Identsohn did the rest to land in the end zone.
Squires added a second touchdown when he picked of Mercy sophomore KJ Santacroce on the first drive of the second half and returned it for a touchdown to put the Wildcats ahead 36-0.
Mercy couldn’t get any momentum on offense. And they lost starting running back Reggie Archer to cramps late in the second quarter. Senior Paul Annunziata carried most of the load on the ground with Archer sidelined.
“We knew coming in we were going to play a tough schedule this year,” said Mercy coach Jeff Doroski. “We started with one of the big boys in the division and they are rightfully a three seed. We got to get better.”
Santacroce completed 7 of 15 passes and showed some glimpses of good things to come.
“KJ’s only going to get better for us,” Doroski said.
With the season opener behind them, the Wildcats will now turn their attention to next week’s showdown at Babylon against the defending Long Island champion.
The Wildcats got crushed by the Panthers last year, 55-0, and are eager for another opportunity.
“That’s going to be the test,” Squires said.
“They always say look to the next game, now we’re looking at Babylon,” Anderson added. “That’s the game we’ve really been looking forward to.”
When the Wildcats kick off against Babylon, they’ll have a supporter in Doroski.
“When are one of us going to step up and take down a Babylon or Mount Sinai?” he said. “Are these guys going to be the team that goes in there and we see a little bit different [result]? I hope so. We’d like to see somebody new in there.”