The waiting game can be a dangerous game. Mike Taylor knows that only too well.
Shoreham-Wading River High School’s boys lacrosse coach recalled two years ago when his Wildcats were in the exact same situation they were in on Saturday. Having received a bye straight into the Suffolk County semifinals, Shoreham then faced Sayville and lost a close one in 2015.
On Saturday, top-seeded Shoreham finally played its first playoff game against, you guessed it, No. 5 Sayville. Shoreham’s guard was up. The game was originally scheduled for Friday night, but postponed following the death of a Sayville student earlier in the day.
“We hadn’t played for 16 days and that’s a long time,” Taylor said. “I sometimes feel like the bye is almost a punishment because you kind of lose your flow and your mojo.”
If Shoreham had lost some of that flow and mojo, it wasn’t for long. The Wildcats kicked their high-octane offense into gear and blew open a competitive game with an 8-0 run that gave them a commanding 15-5 lead in the third quarter. Joe Miller dominated faceoffs in Shoreham’s 20-12 win at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, sending Shoreham back to a county final for a second straight year. Shoreham (14-3) will play No. 2 Islip (15-2) in the Suffolk Class C final Wednesday night at Stony Brook University.
Shoreham defeated Sayville in a county final last year before going on to reach the state semifinals and losing to Yorktown.
“They felt like they left unfinished business last year,” Taylor said, “so I think that’s in their mind where they would like to get back, or at least have an opportunity to get back to where they were.”
More than anything, the Wildcats appeared eager to finally play a game again. Asked about the postponement, Shoreham middie Kyle Boden said: “Obviously, it’s a tragic event. It’s just awful. I’m sorry to hear that. That didn’t really distract us. We just came out. We played our game.”
Miller sure did, winning won 18 of 23 faceoffs. Jake Naso gave Miller an occasional break and went 8-for-11 on faceoffs. Shoreham turned faceoffs into possessions, which in turn led to goals.
Thanks in good part to Miller’s work at the “X”, Chris Gray came up with six goals and one assist while Kevin Cutinella had five goals and one assist, including a snazzy one from a diving shot. When it came to style, however, the flashiest goal of the day was a behind-the-back strike by Xavier Arline (two goals, one assist).
“He’s crazy,” Boden said of Arline. “It’s not even surprising any more. It’s just like his second nature to do that stuff.”
Gray, Cutinella and Tim Cairo (two goals, two assists) had two goals each during that 8-0 blast of Shoreham firepower. For the game, the Wildcats also received two goals and one assist from Sean Halpin, two goals from Boden and two assists and six ground balls from Miller.
“As long as our defense and offense are on the same page, it’s hard to stop because everybody’s a threat,” said Cutinella.
Shoreham never trailed, although Sayville (8-10) had tied the score at 3-3 on a goal by Matt DeMeo (four goals, one assist).
Sayville was also aided by James Lyons (three goals, one assist), Jason Intemesoli (two goals, three assists) and Ryan McDevitt (two goals).
“Our offense, I thought, could score,” Sayville coach Don Fleming said. “We couldn’t get the ball.”
It was with 8 minutes, 16 seconds left in the third quarter when Sayville lost one of its players, defenseman Seamus Burns. The irate Burns was ejected after receiving back-to-back unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for expressing his displeasure over a penalty call.
Fleming was asked if the death in Sayville on Friday affected his players.
“It’s going to impact kids, but [Shoreham is] a very good team,” he said. “I can’t attribute that to what went on on the field, but of course they’re young kids and it’s a terrible thing. I don’t know that it impacted us on the field, but certainly when they go home and all that, yeah.”
Shoreham’s 16 seniors had added motivation. It was their final game on their home field.
“Because it’s such an emotional thing for us, we don’t talk about that a lot,” Taylor said. “It’s a bunch of kids who have been playing together since kindergarten. We have 16 seniors. It’s a large senior group and they’re very close, and they’ve gone through some good-life things and some bad-life things, and it’s only made them closer.”
Photo caption: Chris Gray firing in one of his six goals for Shoreham-Wading River against Sayville goalie Nate Bauland. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)