Fall is right around the corner. One can sense it. Temperatures are getting a little cooler, the air has a crispness to it and the sounds of football can be heard.
“It’s a great time of the year,” Aden Smith said. “It’s fall. The season’s changing. It’s cooling down a little bit. It’s just a great time.”
That’s just what Smith’s Shoreham-Wading River High School football team is counting on — another great time.
SWR (10-2 last year) has had its share of good times over the years, winning three successive Long Island Class IV championships from 2014-16. Last year the Wildcats picked up their fourth Suffolk County Division IV title in five years before falling to Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island final.
SWR, ranked No. 1 in Division IV, is once again led by the fleet-footed Xavier Arline. The senior quarterback/cornerback made Newsday’s All-Long Island second team. He accounted for over 3,100 yards of offense himself (2,300-plus on the ground), with 43 touchdowns, 33 rushing.
What does Smith find most impressive about Arline?
“That a kid that has that type of athletic ability is also one of the hardest workers on your team,” the second-year coach answered. “He works in the offseason on his own. He stays after practice … and that has a positive impact on everybody on the team. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty amazing.”
The ball-hawking Johnny Schwarz, an All-Division junior who plays wide receiver and strong safety, offers some amazing qualities of his own. In the win over Mount Sinai in the county final, Schwarz had a 71-yard TD reception, two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
“He pays attention to details and he’s got great instincts,” Smith said. “He’s just got a nose for the ball.”
Matt Zahn, a 6-4, 270-pound senior, leads the line along with juniors Jeff Lachenmeyer and Dylan Blanco. Other upperclassmen who had starting roles last year are fullback/linebacker Mike Casazza, offensive lineman/H-back Jake Wilson, guard/linebacker Jake Ekert and wide receiver/outside linebacker Tyler Schwarz, Johnny’s brother.
Looking for more varsity experience? Look no further than wide receiver/cornerback Kenny DeTiberiis, wide receiver/outside linebacker Chris Baumeister, quarterback/safety Chris Visintin and safety/running back David Tedesco, who was injured for most of last season.
Max Barone could be a starter as a defensive back or running back. He was promoted from the junior varsity team as was outside linebacker/quarterback/running back Sean Miller. They should contribute along with fullback/linebacker Anthony Giordano and defensive back/wide receiver Rath Roa.
“This team’s going to have a different personality than the team we had last year,” said Smith.
He hopes it will be a winning one.
It will not be easy, though, with the tough schedule SWR has.
“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Smith said. “We’re not going to sneak up on anybody. Our job is to make sure we don’t let anybody sneak up on us.”
Leif Shay is about as thoughtful as football coaches come, yet he was taken for a loss when asked what to expect from the jump from Division II to Division I, which his Riverhead team will play in this year.
“I really can’t comment,” he said.
For good reason. Riverhead (2-6) has never competed in Division I before, according to Newsday’s Andy Slawson.
Now, it’s close to getting real as the team’s Sept. 14 opener at Central Islip nears.
“The problem with being in [Division] I … is everything is going to be a bit of a learning experience because we’re new to the league,” said Shay.
For whatever it’s worth, a scan of Slawson’s records shows Riverhead, seeded 12th in the 12-team division, has a winning career record against five of its eight Division I opponents and a losing record against only one of them.
Shay, however, isn’t likely to dwell on such things. “The only thing we can control is how we prepare and what we do,” he said.
This is the 22nd year for Riverhead’s longest-serving and winningest coach, who takes a career 112-77 record into the season. Mike McKillop is next on the all-time list with an 86-37-7 record over 17 years, from 1952-68, according to Slawson.
Albert Daniels, an All-Division senior running back/linebacker, will be an impact player along with senior wide receiver/linebacker Isaiah Barbieri, senior tight end/linebacker Steven McDonald, senior wide receiver/defensive end Tyreek Parker and junior offensive lineman/linebacker Jack Qualey.
“He’s taken on a leadership role,” Shay said of Daniels, adding: “We’re going to have to rely on him a little bit. He brings a lot of experience. He’s been playing running back for a long time, and on the defensive side of the ball he can play any position. He’s a phenomenal athlete.”
The starting quarterback position remained unsettled as of Tuesday, with seniors David Squires and Ethan Aube and junior C.J. Dorr in competition for the job.
A key to how Riverhead fares is how well the line does. Linemen Christopher Harris, Angel Reyes, James Foster and Lamarion Hopkins will have a say in that, blocking for people like tight end/defensive end Deontae Sykes and running back/outside linebacker Aaron Gaines-Bullock. Recep Kocan will handle the kicking.
Speaking of the line, Shay said: “We’re going to be better than last year. We still have some young kids up there. We’re going to make some mistakes.”
It’s that time of year again. Football’s back.
“The fall season,” Smith said. “It’s pretty special.”
Photo caption: Senior quarterback Xavier Arline accounted for over 3,100 yards of offense and 43 touchdowns (33 rushing) last season for Shoreham-Wading River. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)