In early October, as the Shoreham-Wading River football team boarded the bus at Connetquot High School following a four-point loss to John Glenn, thoughts of the Rutgers Trophy couldn’t have been further from the minds of players. The Wildcats were 3-2, fighting through injuries and searching for a groove.
And then it clicked. Seven straight wins led to a third straight Class IV Long Island Championship last week as the Wildcats became only the fourth team to win three consecutive LI crowns.
On Monday night, the Wildcats — Suffolk County’s only LI champion — once again seized an award the seemed implausible two months earlier. For the second time in three years, the Wildcats won the Rutgers Trophy as the top team in Suffolk County.
The team’s three all-county players, Kevin Cutinella, Chris Gray and Ethan Wiederkehr, joined coach Matt Millheiser in accepting the trophy, one of numerous plaques the champions received at the all-county dinner at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge. Many of their other teammates joined them afterward for photos to celebrate the momentous accomplishment.
Wiederkehr won the coveted Zellner Award as the top lineman in Suffolk County, one year after finishing as a finalist for the award. Wiederkehr, who will play football at Northwestern University, is the first player in Shoreham football history to win one of the top postseason individual awards.
He also was a recipient of the Rob Burnett Defensive Player of the Year Award, which he shared with Tim Mullane of West Islip. The two players finished a tie.
Gray was one of four finalists for the Hansen Award for the top player in the county. Sayville quarterback Jack Coan won the award after completing an incredible career as one of the top quarterback’s in Long Island history. Gray was the second Shoreham player to be a finalist for the award in the past three years. Danny Hughes, who was a quarterback and safety in 2014, was also a finalist in his senior year but did not win.
Gray led Suffolk County in rushing with 2,234 yards and scored 37 touchdowns and had seven interceptions. He was honored with the Division IV Most Valuable Player Award.
Cutinella received the award created in memory of his brother Thomas two years ago. He become the third winner of the Thomas Cutinella Leadership Award. Newsday sportswriter Bob Herzog presented Kevin the award.
The award is presented to “a player that demonstrates outstanding leadership, academic achievement and involvement in community service.”
Millheiser was honored as the county’s Coach of the Year.
It’s the fourth time in the past five years the Rutgers Trophy has gone to a Division IV team. Babylon won in 2012 and 2013 before the Wildcats won for the first time in program history in 2014. Newfield won last year in Division II.
The Wildcats were the only team from Suffolk County to win the Long Island Championship this year. William Floyd (Class I), Half Hollow Hills West (Class II) and East Islip (Class III) all came up short. East Islip finished third in the Rutgers Trophy voting and Floyd was second.
Wiederkehr and Gray were both included in Newsday’s first-team All-Long Island selections that were announced last week.
Photo credit: Ethan Wiederkehr holds the Rutgers Trophy surrounded by teammates Monday night. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)