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Football: New SWR era, but same mentality

Change is in the air these days with the Shoreham-Wading River High School football team. Sure, it’s a new era, the post-Matt Millheiser era. Yet, even with new players, a new coach and a new offense, one thing remains the same: a winning mentality.

The Wildcats still expect to win games. They expect the same results. They expect to go to the Long Island Class IV championship game and they expect to win that game, too.

That hasn’t changed.

“The same standard every year,” said D.J. Brown, who plays wide receiver and linebacker.

And it’s a high standard.

Prior to last year, Shoreham won three straight Long Island Class IV championships (and two Rutgers Trophies, which go to the most outstanding team in Suffolk County, regardless of class). Last year the Wildcats lost to Miller Place in the Suffolk Division IV semifinals, capping a 7-3 season. Later, Millheiser stepped down as the team’s coach after eight years, during which the team went 61-22.

Winning can become a habit, and so it is with Shoreham, which continually seems to pump out athletes like a factory. New coach Aden Smith takes over a team that is seeded second in Division IV.

Can the Wildcats continue to live up to high expectations and maintain their winning tradition?

“I think so,” guard/defensive tackle Jack Logan said after Friday morning’s practice. “If we work hard enough, put the work in, we can get it. If we put the work in, get the work right, become a family, we can be pretty good.”

Team bonding is part of the process. “I think that’s definitely the most important thing,” said guard/defensive end Liam Mahoney.

Xavier Arline, the team’s standout quarterback, agrees. Talking about the value of togetherness, he said: “This year we have a bunch of guys that will sacrifice who they are right now for what the team has to become. That’s the most important thing in any team, any sport. You know, you can put all the Xs and Os together and have all the athletes in the world, but if you don’t have that, that togetherness and that bond, then nothing will work.”

Joe Puckey, a center/defensive tackle, watched as his older brothers, Jimmy and Bobby, played on Long Island champion Shoreham teams. “They talk to me all the time about how to get it done,” he said. “I’ve seen them do it before. I just want to do it again.”

To help in that regard, Shoreham apparently plans to unveil a new, fast-paced offense. Mum’s the word about the offense, though.

Asked if spectators will notice a different playing style on the field, Brown answered curtly, “We’ll see.”

Mahoney said, “We’re still honoring the other legacies, but I know we’re definitely putting our own touch on it this year, a different offense, a different way to work.”

And yet, some things never change. Count Shoreham’s appetite for winning among them.

Said Arline, “Things aren’t going to change here as long as this program exists.”

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Photo caption: Jeffrey Lachenmeyer (left) and Dylan Blanco collide during a blocking drill at Shoreham-Wading River’s practice Friday morning. (Credit: Bob Liepa)