Preview: Can SWR battle with the big dogs?

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Danny Hughes and lineman Brennan Gorman are two of the returning starters for the Wildcats.

The fourth quarter of a Shoreham-Wading River football game last year rarely featured much drama. That was mostly a good thing.

In seven wins, the Wildcats’ average margin of victory was 25.7 points.

In their three losses, the final coming in the Division IV semifinals against Mount Sinai, the Wildcats’ average margin of defeat was 34 points. Babylon and Mount Sinai, who battled for the county title, combined to beat Shoreham 104-0 in three games.

As the Wildcats begin the 2013 season, the hope is a talented group of returning players can finally close that gap. Over the last three years the Wildcats have climbed from a bottom feeder to a top-four team.

“We’d like to take that next step,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. “We’ve been the past two years, record-wise, with that top group, but we haven’t broken the barrier on the field against them.”

There’s reason for optimism.

The Wildcats return an experienced line with a talented, veteran rusher behind it in senior Tyler Anderson.

“Teams are going to focus on trying to stop him,” Millheiser said.

Anderson’s rushing ability, the Wildcats hope, can open up some of the passing game as well. Junior Danny Hughes returns at quarterback after a successful season starting as a 10th-grader.

He’ll have some speedy targets to throw to in junior Isreal Squires and Bryce Casey, both of whom run on the track teams. Squires had a big season last year on varsity with some highlight reel catches. Casey was a standout on the JV.

“[Casey is] a talented kid who I think can really keep defenses honest in the passing game,” Millheiser said.

Senior Mitch Identsohn is another big target in the passing game at tight end.

The Wildcats have a sophomore on offense who will see time in the backfield in Chris Rosati.

“He’s just an all-around great athlete,” Millheiser said.

Millheiser said he expects the offensive and defensive lines to be one of the team’s biggest strengths. On offense, the Wildcats will line up seniors Brendan Fisher, Max Goldfarb, Brennan Gorman, senior Jack Choinski and junior Bobby Puckey. Choinski is the lone newcomer to the group that has been playing together for the last several years.

“They’re hard workers and they demand a lot of each other,” Millheiser said.

Goldfarb, Puckey Gorman and Fisher will all start on the defensive line as well.

Anderson and Identsohn will anchor the defense at linebacker. Junior Aaron Harley-Rey will start as a newcomer on defense.

Squires, Rosati and Hughes can all see time in the secondary.

The Wildcats also return kicker Zach McAuley, who’s in his fourth year playing football in the fall in addition to soccer.

The Wildcats will be tested early in the season. They open the season at home Thursday against McGann-Mercy, a team that advanced to the final four last year.

And Week 2 provides the ultimate challenge — a trip to Babylon to face last year’s Long Island champion.

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