WILDCATS 28, MONARCHS 0
For nearly his entire football career since his days in the Long Island Sharks Youth League, Dylan Bates stepped onto the field as a tight end. A less than glamorous position, tight end gave Bates a chance to catch the occasional pass, but his duties mostly boiled down to opening holes in the running game.
Now as a senior at Shoreham-Wading River, Bates shifted into the spotlight as the Wildcats’ starting halfback. It’s a role he’s grown into so quickly, it’s hard to imagine him ever playing another position on offense.
Bates led the rushing attack Saturday afternoon against McGann-Mercy as the Wildcats won 28-0 on homecoming for their sixth victory of the season. Bates carried the ball a team-high 20 times for 233 yards and a touchdown.
“I appreciate the opportunity coach gave me putting me as the running back,” Bates said. “He really gave me the opportunity to run with the ball.”
The Wildcats relied almost solely on their ground attack against the Monarchs and finished with 440 rushing yards. They did not complete a pass and two attempts were picked off by Keith Schroeher for Mercy.
“We weren’t able to take away Bates,” said Mercy coach Jeff Doroski. “He’s a real tough runner.”
Bates spent a lot of time in the offseason preparing himself to be a runner and quickly earned the job in training camp. In the beginning his biggest problem was handling the ball, he said.
“We worked on it in practice and it’s just a big learning experience,” he said. “It’s making the season a whole lot of fun.”
The Wildcats have a more than capable backup to Bates in sophomore Tyler Anderson. He had another huge day with a pair of touchdowns, including a 40-yard run that put the Wildcats on the board first at 7-0 late in the first quarter. He ran for 120 yards on nine carries.
Anderson has six touchdowns in the last three games alone.
“He does a wonderful job of coming in behind me,” Bates said. “He’s still a sophomore and going to be an outstanding running back. It’s nice to know that someone is behind you is coming up big.”
The Wildcats overcame three turnovers, two of which came in the red zone. The Monarchs (2-5) couldn’t capitalize on some of the mistakes and Shoreham took a 14-0 lead into halftime.
“We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. “Mercy came ready to play. They had a good defense designed to stop us and it took us a while to get ourselves going.”
The Monarchs played most of the game without senior halfback Pat Stepnoski. After injuring his ankle against Hampton Bays two weeks ago, he sat out last week’s game looking to recover in time for Saturday. The Monarchs put him at receiver for a few plays early to try to get him the ball in some different ways. He had one catch for 17 yards. He carried the ball four times but ultimately had to sit again after a player rolled over his ankle to reaggravate the injury.
Stepnoski practiced on a limited basis during the week leading into the game at Shoreham.
“When you’re an athlete who relies on your cutting ability, an ankle injury is not going to bode well for him going forward,” Doroski said.
Doroski was doubtful Stepnoski could be ready to suit up in the regular season finale next week against Greenport.
The Wildcats had their own injury to deal with when lineman Jason Ambrosini suffered a high ankle sprain early in the second quarter. He did not return.
“On defense he’s a huge aspect,” Bates said. “He’s hitting people left and right. He’s one of the heart and soul of that [defensive] line.”
The Wildcats will hope to get Ambrosini back in time for Friday’s game at Mount Sinai. Shoreham and Mount Sinai will renew its rivarly for the first time in a few years.
The Mustangs, after a 16-14 loss at Babylon, are 5-2 and will look to lock up the No. 3 seed in the Division IV playoffs. Amityville and John Glenn are locked into the top two spots and Babylon is the No. 4 seed. Shoreham will likely end up as the fifth seed for a trip to Babylon in the first round.
Their regular season finale will provide a huge test for the Wildcats as to how they stack up against one of the top teams in the league.
“It’s not the Super Bowl,” Millheiser said. “It’s an opportunity for us to play a good team and then see what we’re made of.”
Bates said he thought both the Wildcats and Mustangs were evenly matched teams, which should make for a great game.
“It’s going to be a war,” he said.
— At the conclusion of the National Anthem before the game, two small planes flew over the field from the south end zone. Millheiser said sophomore Devin Loccisano’s father flew one of the planes along with one of his friends. They proposed the idea to the school, got the approval and timed the flight perfectly. After landing they made it back to Shoreham in time to catch the end of the game.
“I knew it was coming, but I didn’t tell too many other people,” Millheiser said. “We tried to keep it a secret as much as we could. I think it worked out perfect.”
And yes, it was the first flyover in Shoreham history.
— Mercy quarterback Keith Schroeher completed 9-of-21 passes. Seven different receivers caught passes.
— Shoreham fullback Joe Longo scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run that made it 21-0 early in the fourth quarter.
— Shoreham kicked Zachary McAuley converted all four extra point attempts.