The coaches may change, but the result remains the same.
With a player like Xavier Arline under center, the Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats are a handful for any team, even when facing unusual circumstances.
Arline ran for 230 yards and five touchdowns Friday night against Bayport-Blue Point in the Division IV season opener at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field. The Wildcats dominated, 41-7, to hand interim coach Virgil Romer his first career varsity win.
Romer was thrust into the head coaching duties this week as Shoreham-Wading River investigates an incident that occurred at an Aug. 30 scrimmage involving coach Aden Smith. The district had declined to elaborate on any specifics. It’s unclear if Smith will return.
Arline said he had “no doubt” the Wildcats would come out ready to play Friday. He was right.
“These guys responded,” he said.
Arline came out firing, completing his first five passes. But his specialty remains running the ball, and he led the offense with 26 carries. His final run of the night was his longest, a 33-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter as he broke free up the left sideline.
“Football is the ultimate team game,” he said. “I’m blessed to have great players by my side.”
Romer described it as a surreal moment taking over the head coaching position in a program that reached the Long Island Championship game a year ago. This is his second year in the program and he had been the offensive coordinator. It was his first time as head coach.
“It’s crazy that it just happens like that,” he said. “Not the best circumstances, but it happened, so you got to go with it and do the best you can do.”
Romer, 31, has previously served as an assistant coach at Hampton Bays and Southampton. A Hampton Bays native, he currently teaches in the Wyandanch School District.
The Wildcats brought up a JV coach to fill out the staff for Friday’s game, Romer said. He admitted they were nervous coming into the game, but the seniors stepped up and kept their teammates and coaches calm.
“They did a great job,” he said.
Romer said as coaches they try to put players in a position to succeed, “but it’s them doing all the work.”
Arline scored the first three touchdowns on runs of 7, 6 and 32 yards. The Wildcats wore down the Phantoms as the game went on and the running holes started to open up even more in the second half.
Sophomore Max Barone scored his first varsity touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter that made it 28-7. He finished with 65 yards on nine carries.
“He and [junior] David Tedesco ran the ball really well today,” he said. “They’re a very good complement to [Arline].”
Junior Tyler Schwarz had an interception and his brother Johnny hauled in four receptions for 48 yards.
The Wildcats led 14-0 before Bayport got on the board with its only score in the second quarter. Bayport quarterback Luke Schartner connected on a deep pass down the right sideline for 56 yards to Zach Kroog that set up first-and-goal from 1-yard line. The Wildcats’ defense got stops on the first two plays. But on third down Schartner connected on a pass to Logan Jones, who fumbled and Kroog landed on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
The Wildcats answered right back with an eight-play drive, capped by a brilliant 32-yard touchdown run by Arline as he broke a spin move past the line of scrimmage to shake free and race down the left sideline.
“I talk to my dad all the time about this team and last year too, and we’ve never seen a kid run like him,” Romer said. “The anticipation he has, the moves he has, it’s great.”
Shoreham will play at Port Jefferson next Saturday.
Top photo caption: Xavier Arline carried the ball 26 times. (Credit: Bill Landon)