Over the last two years the Shoreham-Wading River High School football team carried an aura of invincibility. It was the unbeatable team.
That aura was burst in the second game of this season when Babylon topped the Wildcats, 27-21. The result snapped Shoreham’s 25-game win streak and showed that the two-time defending Long Island Class IV champion Wildcats could be beaten after all.
Three weeks later, Shoreham lost again, this time to Elwood/John Glenn, 16-12.
“I think we were a little shell-shocked,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser.
But sometimes a loss isn’t such a bad thing. Sometimes some good can come out of a defeat.
Shoreham built itself up from those losses, made itself a better team and, lo and behold, here are the Wildcats taking a five-game win streak into their third straight Suffolk County Division IV final. They will play Babylon Saturday at Stony Brook University.
“We found out who we really were when we lost,” quarterback/defensive back Kevin Cutinella said. “We made some changes, made some adjustments, and the people that stepped up played amazing.”
Odd as it may sound, those defeats may have sent the Wildcats on the road to more championships.
“We really had to work and we really had to improve,” Millheiser said. “It wasn’t going to get better on its own.”
Joe Miller, who plays cornerback and wingback, said: “I think we’re peaking at the right time. Those losses kind of woke us up and let us know we weren’t as good as we thought we were.”
In the meantime, Shoreham can be viewed as a team on the rise.
Said Millheiser, “I hope we keep rising for two more weeks.”
• Give credit to the O-line
It’s no secret that Shoreham’s offensive line is a big reason why the Wildcats will play for a third straight Suffolk Division IV title on Saturday.
Kevin Cutinella credited the line time and time again after running for four touchdowns and 184 yards, both career-highs, in a 49-6 semifinal win over Miller Place on Friday night at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. Meanwhile, fellow senior Chris Gray ran 17 times for 152 yards and a touchdown.
“They were outstanding,” Cutinella said of the linemen. “I couldn’t have asked for a better performance, kicking out men, driving them, playing to the whistle.”
The offensive line of left tackle Nick Serdock, left guard Liam Mahoney, center Kyle Higgins, right guard Dan Curtin, right tackle Dean Stalzer and tight end Ethan Wiederkehr surely did their part as Shoreham amassed 367 rushing yards.
“I’m a decent runner,” Cutinella said. “I’m more of a short-yardage [runner], not a breakout speed type of player like [Gray] is. With our line, what they did today, anybody could have ran through the holes.”
• That senior feeling
Kevin Cutinella has been on both of Shoreham’s Long Island Class IV champion teams the past two years, but he noticed that the Wildcats’ championship pursuit this year feels different. Why? Because this time he’s a senior.
“My emotions are higher,” he said. “My will to play and my desire to come out every day at practice and do the grind that everybody hates is just there, which is odd. I’m not a lazy person, but it’s there, and I’m glad it’s there because it’s the last time I’ll probably ever put [shoulder pads] on.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River running back Chris Gray (17 carries, 152 yards) tries to pass Miller Place’s Anthony Filippetti during Friday night’s county semifinal. (Credit: Bill Landon).