That was Shoreham-Wading River’s motto at the start of the high school football season. On the final day of the season, in the 100th game in the 25-year history of the Long Island Championships, the Wildcats did just that.
Shoreham became the fourth team to win a third straight Long Island championship Sunday night with a familiar formula: a strong running game and a stifling defense.
Chris Gray ran for three touchdowns as Shoreham handed Seaford its first loss of the year, 20-10, in the Class IV final at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
Gray is one of six Wildcats who have played on all three of Shoreham’s Long Island champion teams. Daniel Cassidy, Kevin Cutinella, Chris Sheehan, Dean Stalzer and Ethan Wiederkehr are the others.
After exchanging postgame handshakes with the Seaford players, the Wildcats raced toward their fans sitting in the stands behind their team bench to share the moment with them. Moments later, the championship trophy was presented to Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. He then handed it over to Cutinella, who raised it high in the air while his teammates surrounded him.
Shoreham (10-2) dealt with its share of adversity this season, dropping two of its first five games before finishing with a flourish, seven straight wins. The Wildcats have a 34-2 record over the past three years and have won 12 consecutive postseason games.
Once again, Gray showed his speed, toughness and elusiveness as he passed the 2,000-yard rushing mark for the season. With his 205 yards from 30 carries, the senior running back raised his season total to 2,234 in 217 rushing attempts. He was credited with 37 touchdowns.
Gray took the ball in from 6 yards out in the second quarter and high-stepped into the end zone on a 17-yarder in the third, but his best piece of work was his third TD. On a first-down play from the Seaford 24-yard line, he turned in some razzle-dazzle, executing three cutbacks for the score with 39 seconds left in the third quarter. Tyler McAuley’s extra point made it 20-3.
Seaford (11-1) pulled to within 10 points on Andrew Cain’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Murphy and Josh Pinnock’s extra point with 3:45 left in the game. Cain went 14-of-27 passing for 219 yards. He was intercepted twice, by Joe Miller and Kyle Lutz. Murphy caught 10 passes for 166 yards.
Seaford, a team known for going for first down on fourth-down plays, opened the game with an 11-play, 58-yard drive that led to a 20-yard field goal by Pinnock.
The teams traded turnovers in the second quarter (an interception in the end zone by Miller off a pass tipped by Gray and a fumble recovery by Seaford’s Tyler Volpi) before Gray put Shoreham ahead with his 6-yard run. Gray set that score up with a 63-yard dash.
The game was a showdown between two standout running backs, Seaford’s Danny Roell and Shoreham’s Gray. Shoreham won that battle as its defense held Roell to 67 yards on 23 carries. (Roell finished the year with 2,179 yards and 22 touchdowns.) Wiederkehr, a senior who is headed for Northwestern, also had an emphatic sack in which he threw Cain to the ground for a 13-yard loss.
Seaford is 2-5 in Long Island finals, winning in 2009 and 1998.
With its third Long Island title in a row, Shoreham joins North Bablyon (1997 in Class III, 1998-99 in Class II), William Floyd (2005-07 in Class I) and Lawrence (2012-14 in Class IV) as the only teams to achieve that feat.
Top photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River coach Matt Millheiser and his players earned their third straight Long Island championship on Sunday night. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)