Johnny be good.
Well, actually, Johnny was a lot more than good. How about exceptional?
Johnny Schwarz, a sophomore in his first year with the Shoreham-Wading River football team, turned in a career game in the biggest game of his short high school career. A tremendous all-around performance by Schwarz, along with more of the same from Xavier Arline, carried SWR to its fourth county championship in five years Friday night. Arline had a hand in all four SWR touchdowns as the second-seeded Wildcats held on for a thrilling 28-21 triumph over No. 1 Mount Sinai in the Suffolk County Division IV final at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.
It’s the third county championship for some of the Wildcats like senior lineman Liam Mahoney. Asked how it compared to his previous two, Mahoney answered: “It’s my senior year, it’s even better. Just knowing that I can play football for another week, I don’t even know how to describe it.”
SWR (10-1) will play Seaford or Cold Spring Harbor for the Long Island Class IV title next Friday at Stony Brook University at 4:30 p.m.
Friday’s game, which had been pushed back a day as a safety precaution because of the mix of rain and snow the area saw Thursday, was worth waiting for.
Schwarz, for one, was Johnny on the spot. His contributions: a 71-yard TD reception, two interceptions, a fumble recovery and more. It was Schwarz’s first interception that set up Arline’s four-yard TD run 4 minutes and 11 seconds into the third quarter. Jake Ekert’s extra point made it 28-21 SWR.
Yet, for all of Schwarz’s work as a wide receiver and safety, his biggest play of the day may have come as a punter on the final series of the game. After Schwarz came up with a fumble recovery at the end of a 14-yard run by Dominic Boscarino in the fourth quarter, SWR ran three plays for seven yards and Schwarz was back in punt formation with the ball at the SWR 21-yard line. The snap bounced on the turf. Schwarz picked up the ball and scooted nine yards for a first down.
“It was an improvised play,” Schwarz said. “I guess the wind held the ball when it was snapped and it went to my feet and I kept bobbling it so I just took it.”
SWR went on to pick up three more first downs to run out the final 6:27 and seal the victory.
“He saved us so many times, but everyone really stepped up,” said Mahoney.
Including Arline (28 carries, 134 yards).
On the game’s third play from scrimmage, the junior quarterback bolted 54 yards for an opening score. Arline also broke three tackles on an 83-yard kickoff return down the right side for a TD with 54 seconds left in the second quarter.
“Xavier is just something special,” said Schwarz, whose twin brother, Tyler, made an end-zone interception.
Of that kickoff return for a score, Arline said: “I saw the outside was open, so I just turned on the burners and went. At that point I knew we were going to win the game. It’s just something you feel. I can’t describe it to you. It’s just the momentum you feel.”
The lead changed hands three times and the score was tied three times in the first half. Mount Sinai’s TDs came on a one-yard run by Michael Sabella (20 carries, 75 yards) and a pair of TD passes by Brandon Ventarola — a 16-yarder to Matthew LoMonaco and a five-yarder to Boscarino.
Penalties, which have haunted SWR, continued to be an issue. The Wildcats were whistled for 11 penalties — including four personal fouls — costing them 98 yards.
Some hard feelings carried over until after the game. SWR coach Aden Smith, making a triumphant homecoming at the college where he played middle linebacker, and a member of the Mount Sinai coaching staff were separated by security personnel in a brief skirmish while the teams exchanged postgame handshakes.
SWR avenged a 14-7 regular-season loss to Mount Sinai (10-1) and now has a shot at a fourth Long Island championship in five years.
“They had something that we wanted, and that was a perfect season,” Arline said of the Mustangs. He added: “We were able to face adversity. I love these guys. I told them ever since the first day we stepped on the field in the summer that this was a special team. I knew it from the jump.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River’s Johnny Schwarz tries to evade Mount Sinai’s intended receiver, Matthew LoMonaco, while returning the first of his two interceptions. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)