SUFFOLK COUNTY DIVISION IV FINAL | WILDCATS 47, KNIGHTS 10
The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats, dressed in their navy blue uniforms, looked all business as they marched solemnly across the field toward their sideline before the game. Leading the way were four Wildcats. Aaron Harley-Rey and Danny Hughes carried a blue banner with “54” printed on it in gold, and Jimmy Puckey and Kevin Cutinella held the late Tom Cutinella’s retired No. 54 jersey.
Not only have the Wildcats clung to the memory of their former teammate, but they honored it Saturday by securing a place in team history.
A couple of hours after the Wildcats made that pregame march, they celebrated the first Suffolk County championship in team history. Before joining his teammates for a celebratory photo in the middle of Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, Harley-Rey quickly plucked the “54” banner behind the team bench and brought it with him for the team photo.
Tom Cutinella, who died after collapsing in a game against Elwood/John Glenn on Oct. 1, remains close to the Wildcats’ hearts.
“He’s always with us,” Harley-Rey said. “He’s always here.”
Danny Hughes ran for six touchdowns and nearly 300 yards as the top-seeded Wildcats thumped No. 2 Glenn in the Division IV final, 47-10.
“It’s great to be the first team that does it,” Shoreham junior Chris Rosati said. “We’ll be remembered forever.”
And what will be remembered most about this game was the inspired play of Hughes. Shoreham’s quarterback was a driving force, along with a defense that shut out Glenn in the second half.
The 6-foot-5 Hughes is not easily brought down. He showed that time and time again. By halftime he ran for four touchdowns and 188 rushing. That included a 76-yard touchdown run in which the senior looked as if he was heading out of bounds, only to stop, dart inside and continue all the way to the end zone for one of the most remarkable runs of the season.
“That’s just pure heart and determination,” said Shoreham senior Mike Ingemi.
Speaking of that rousing touchdown, Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser said: “I thought he was going to run out of bounds. He hit two kids, bounced off another, cut it back and was gone. I think at that point we all kind of knew that something special was happening.”
And then there was Hughes’ third touchdown of the day. After a 3-yard punt gave the Wildcats (11-0) possession at the Glenn 20-yard line, Hughes bulled his way forward, with a pile of players helping him over the final 5 yards for the score.
“I’m just very determined,” Hughes told reporters afterward. “The team really wanted this one. We’re playing for a purpose. We’re playing for Tom. The more determined we are, that just translates to me wanting to run the ball hard.”
On another scamper, Hughes wiggled his way 25 yards for the score.
A great block by Isreal Squires helped Hughes find his way for a 43-yard touchdown.
Millheiser said Hughes “just didn’t go down today. He refused to be tackled.”
After taking three knees to end the game, Hughes ended up with 296 yards from 26 carries.
“Big players come [through] in big games and he was just a big player today,” said Shoreham sophomore Ethan Wiederkehr.
Meanwhile, Shoreham’s defense proved to be a tough nut to crack. The Wildcats had allowed only 36 points this season and none in their three previous games. That defense was led Saturday by Kevin Stanford (6 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack).
Glenn (9-2), which was seeking its ninth county crown, achieved a breakthrough of sorts in the first half when Wayne White (11 of 20, 138 yards) hooked up with a wide open Matt Czeczotka for a 34-yard touchdown connection and Hunter Allen later booted a 22-yard field goal.
Shoreham, which will play Roosevelt in the Long Island Class IV final on Sunday in Stony Brook, received a pair of field goals by Daniel Mahoney, from 40 and 31 yards out.
Kevin Cutinella, Tom’s younger brother, played for the first time since his brother’s death and made 3 tackles.
Even in the wake of the celebration, thoughts of Tom Cutinella weren’t far away.
Asked what the historic victory was like for him, Millheiser said: “It’s bittersweet. There’s definitely some happiness for what the boys achieved, but you know, you always have that thought in the back of your mind of what happened and what we lost.”