After two consecutive victories to open the season, Week 3 may have seemed like a peculiar time to switch quarterbacks. Shoreham-Wading River came into training camp this year with juniors Sean Logan and Kevin Kelley, the incumbent, battling for the starting job.
Both showed glimpses throughout the preseason and coach Matt Millheiser elected to go with Logan in the team’s opener against Southampton, a game the Wildcats won 40-6. Following the team’s 19-0 victory over Greenport in Week 2, Millheiser decided to switch it up, going back to Kelley.
He faced a rough road in his first start last week at John Glenn, the defending Class IV Long Island champions, and the Wildcats lost 42-13. Still, Kelley scored twice, throwing a touchdown and rushing for another.
When he returned to the field Saturday afternoon against Hampton Bays in a critical Division IV game for the Wildcats, he was ready to build on his opening performance. He threw a pair of touchdowns and completed 4-of-7 passes in leading Shoreham to a 24-14 win that makes the Wildcats 3-1 at the midway point of the regular season.
Kelley said he’s a lot more comfortable on the field this year compared to his starts last year as a sophomore.
“Just more experienced and I know what I’m doing,” he said.
Millheiser said both Kelley and Logan get reps at quarterback in practice. As Kelley started performing better in practice in recent weeks, Millheiser said it made sense for him to take over the starting quarterback position.
By doing so, it allowed Logan, a first-year varsity player, to focus on his defensive responsibilities as a safety. And Kelley could focus on running the offense.
“It worked out nicely for us,” Millheiser said.
The Wildcats had it all clicking on both sides of the ball during the first half against the Baymen. They raced out to a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter and appeared on their way to a blowout.
But the Baymen (1-3) refused to go quietly. The Wildcats were shut out in the second half and turned it over twice. But they never allowed the Baymen to make the big play to get them within striking distance.
“They made great adjustments at half,” Millheiser said. “It was like a chess match. We were able to adjust to their adjustments. The kids played their hearts out.”
Hampton Bays had its chances to make things interesting. Three times in the second half the Baymen had the ball in the red zone and failed to come away with points. Logan intercepted a screen pass by Hampton Bays QB Justin Carbone in the third quarter with the Baymen 10 yards from the end zone. The Wildcats turned it over on the next play, giving the ball right back to Hampton Bays on the 11. But the Shoreham defense held strong again. On fourth down Tyler Anderson sacked Carbone. He had two of Shoreham’s four sacks.
Another Hampton Bays drive inside the Wildcats’ 10 ended with a fumble.
The Wildcats couldn’t get much momentum on offense in the second half, but when they needed to eat up clock in the fourth quarter, they were able to do it. After the Baymen fumbled, Shoreham took over on its 2-yard line with 8:27 left. While the drive didn’t advance all that far, they were able to burn off five minutes on the clock, giving Hampton Bays only 2:56 left to make up a two-score difference.
Frank Sessa and Joe Longo came through with big sacks to shut down the Hampton Bays passing attack.
Longo, a fullback on offense, had a big all-around game. He caught two passes, including an 8-yard touchdown with 3:07 left in the second quarter that put Shoreham ahead 24-6. He carried the ball 13 times, most of which came in the second half as the Wildcats kept it conservative on offense.
“You don’t want to give them a short field,” Millheiser said. “Unfortunately running the football we put it on the ground a couple times, which they were trying to take advantage of. Defensively you don’t want to get burned with the big play. They were gashing us up the middle a little bit. We were able to hold, bend but don’t break.”
Kelley threw a 19-yard touchdown on a slant to Chris Mahoney early in the second that made it 17-0. Mahoney also had a 38-yard reception.
“With our running game being so dominant, it definitely opens up the passing game,” Kelley said.
“When we run the ball effectively, teams want to bring all those extra guys into the box,” Millheiser added. “The only way to beat that is to challenge those corners. A kid like Chris Mahoney gives us a great opportunity. He’s a big, tall, athletic kid.”
Senior Dylan Bates led the rushing attack with 95 yards on 18 carries. He scored on a 26-yard run on the Wildcats’ first drive of the game. The Wildcats ate up over six minutes of the first quarter on their opening drive.
“You put the other team on their heels,” Millheiser said. “You get a lead, you get some momentum and time’s ticking away. I know last year a couple times we got on our heels right away and teams got ahead of us. I know the feeling and it’s not a comfortable feeling.”
The Wildcats got a big day out of their kicker, sophomore Zac MacAuley. He converted each extra point attempt and nailed a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter that made it 10-0.
In the first half the Wildcats had 178 yards of offense compared to 55 for Hampton Bays.
Shoreham travels to The Stony Brook School Thursday. With three winnable games coming up on the schedule, the Wildcats sit in great position to make it back to the playoffs.