Like many others, Virgil Romer was taken aback by the removal of Aden Smith as the Shoreham-Wading River High School football coach. Unlike everyone else, though, it was Romer who suddenly had the great responsibility of being the team’s interim head coach dropped onto his lap, just two days before the team’s season-opening game.
Just like that, Romer, 31, had gone from offensive coordinator to head coach.
“It was stressful,” Romer said. “I’m not going to lie. There was a lot more work I had to do.”
Romer’s first head coaching experience has to be considered an unqualified success. Smith will be reinstated as SWR’s head coach Monday. The school district made that announcement following an investigation into an incident that occurred at an Aug. 30 scrimmage at Islip High School. The parents of an Islip player told Newsday that Smith had “grabbed” their son “in the neck area and started shaking him back and forth.”
Over 20 SWR players came to Smith’s defense at a school board meeting last week, saying he came to their aid when tensions escalated at the scrimmage.
Now Romer will hand off a 3-0 team to Smith on Monday. Make that a 3-0 Suffolk County Division IV team that is playing like the defending county champion and No. 1 seed that it is.
SWR, backed by five first-half touchdowns from quarterback Xavier Arline, ran through Southampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson, 49-0, Friday night at Southampton High School. In the first two games, SWR blasted Bayport-Blue Point, 41-7, and Port Jefferson, 56-14.
“We did what we had to do, got the team to 3 and 0, handing it back to Aden,” said Romer.
And Arline, well, he did what he usually does — astound and amaze. The senior, a human highlight reel, yet again displayed his jaw-dropping running ability.
“It’s unbelievable, you know, the moves that he can make, broken plays that he’s able to make 60-yard touchdown runs,” SWR tight end/defensive end Jake Wilson said. “It’s unbelievable.”
Arline zigzagged his way on a 35-yard TD run to get things started. On his second score, he looked like he was stopped dead in his tracks before suddenly darting right for a 10-yard TD. Before the half ended, he added TD runs of 16, 45 and 8 yards, giving him 13 rushing TDs this season.
The 45-yarder was something special. Arline cut from one side of the field to the other, leaving defenders flailing at air. It was a dazzling display from the player who never ceases to amaze.
“I’m not going to lie. It’s almost expected now,” Romer said. “He’s just a unique weapon to have.”
Arline ran up all but two of his 203 yards in the first half (from 18 carries). Chris Visintin took over at quarterback on SWR’s second series in the third quarter.
Arline has already run for 554 yards this season, which he started with a five TD game against Bayport.
Romer, a Hampton Bays High School graduate who was a walk-on linebacker at Miami, paid Arline a great compliment. “I’ve never seen anybody move like that,” he said. “He’s freakish.”
A special athlete, Arline was the headliner in a complete team victory. The Wildcats added second-half TD runs from Gavin Gregorek and Visintin. Chris Baumeister caught a two-point conversion pass from Visintin in the first quarter on a busted extra-point attempt. Jake Ekert kicked four extra points and Ethan Hunt had one himself. In the second half, David Tedesco made a good showing with 91 yards from seven carries.
SWR totaled 402 yards in offense and picked up 13 first downs. Meanwhile, the SWR defense held Southampton (1-1), coming off a bye week, to only 30 yards from 33 plays. The Mariners managed only four first downs, three of them coming on the game’s final series.
The drama surrounding Smith’s removal doesn’t seem to have distracted the Wildcats. Romer and assistant coaches Tom Foley, Tyler MacDowell, Nick Mauceri and Thomas Stines kept the ship sailing in the right direction.
“He didn’t even blink,” Arline said of Romer. “The sign of a great coach is to be ready to be a great coach. I can’t thank him enough. I know these guys feel the same way and really look up to Coach Romer as a great coach.”
Romer said he learned a lot from Smith, including organizational skills he put into practice.
“I think while he was gone, we all did what we had to do,” Romer said. “We all did our jobs.”
Photo caption: Shoreham-Wading River interim head coach Virgil Romer working the sidelines during Friday night’s game in Southampton. (Credit: Bob Liepa)