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Football Notebook: Wildcats blossomed from a losing past

Shoreham-Wading River football player Ethan Wiederkehr 122816 copy

It seems like a century away, but there were lean times when the Shoreham-Wading River High School football team wasn’t winning a lot.

In fact, it was in the 20th century when the program was born amid defeats. The Wildcats went 1-7 in their first season. They paid their dues through their first three years, going 6-18 before turning in a winning season by going 5-4 in 2000.

But even Matt Millheiser’s first year as Shoreham’s coach in 1997 was memorable for loss after loss. Millheiser remembers it well. The team went 0-8 and managed only 30 points the entire season.

“We actually led one game for about 30 seconds,” Millheiser recalled. “We scored on Miller Place and then I think they returned the kick back for a touchdown and we were losing.”

“We were everybody’s homecoming,” he continued. “I told those kids, that group, ‘Hey, you know what? We didn’t have a great season, but you guys fought to the end and you’re the start of something.’ I don’t think they believed us.”

Well, now they can believe.

Following Millheiser’s inaugural winless season, the wins started coming in bunches. On Sunday night the team posted a 20-10 victory over Seaford for its third straight Long Island Class IV championship. That brought the program’s career record to 99-79, according to Newsday’s Andy Slawson.

“Now we’re at the top of the mountain,” said Millheiser, whose coaching record is 54-19.

Shoreham senior Chris Gray said: “Three LICs. I think some people have to give us some recognition as a football school now.”

• Making a case for the defense

Defense does win championships, and no question about it, Shoreham brought the ‘D’.

The Wildcats allowed opponents an average of 9.3 points per game this season while posting three shutouts.

That defense came through against Seaford Sunday, holding the Vikings to 62 rushing yards and only one touchdown.

“They only scored 10 points, so we did something right,” said Shoreham defensive tackle Dean Stalzer.

Joe Miller and Ethan Wiederkehr each made eight solo tackles and assisted on another. Four of Wiederkehr’s tackles went for negative yardage, including a sack. Chris Sheehan (six solo tackles, one assist) and Kyle Lutz (five solo tackles) also clamped down on the Vikings. Miller and Lutz each had an interception.

What was quarterback/strong safety Kevin Cutinella’s take on his team’s defense?

“Beast mode, as Marshawn Lynch would say,” he said.

Sheehan said, “When you have Ethan Wiederkehr and Dean Stalzer and [Logan] Snyder, you can’t really run anywhere.”

• A fine parting gift

The 23 seniors listed on the Shoreham roster will not likely forget their final high school football game, which saw the team grab its third consecutive Long Island title.

“That’s the way to go out,” Joe Miller said. “Yeah, it doesn’t get better than that.”

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Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Ethan Wiederkehr throws Seaford’s A.J. Cain to the ground for a sack and a 13-yard loss in the third quarter. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)