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Top Sports Stories 2017: End of an era for SWR football

The challenge was a daunting one.

Teams in the past had won three consecutive Long Island Championships like Shoreham-Wading River did from 2014-16. But no team had accomplished the feat four straight years.

The Wildcats entered the season as the No. 2 seed in Division IV behind Miller Place. The ranking for the Panthers proved too accurate. The Wildcats won their first games of the year behind strong offensive and defensive lines and the play of quarterback Xavier Arline. It set up a showdown against Miller Place in Week 6. After a strong start, the Wildcats saw their lead evaporate in the second half, and the short-handed Panthers prevailed 21-14. One week later, the Wildcats dropped another close game, this time at home to Babylon, 29-26. While winning the division was likely out the window after that loss, the Wildcats took solace in knowing they had dropped two regular season games the prior year and still managed to win the title.

But it wasn’t meant to be again.

After closing out the season with a 44-0 win over Port Jefferson, the Wildcats won their playoff opener against the same opponent, 42-12, on Nov. 3. It set up another showdown with Miller Place in the semifinals. But this time, the Panthers had standout running back Tyler Ammirato in the lineup. And with the Panthers back to full strength, the Wildcats couldn’t slow down Miller Place from advancing to its first county championship game.

The Wildcats finished short of the county championship game for the first time since 2013.

But with Arline back for his junior year next season, the Wildcats hope to be back in the championship mix in 2018.