Looking back, William Burkowsky said he wishes he had played football throughout his high school career. He grew up playing PAL with many of his current teammates on the Blue Waves.
But when an injury early in his youth forced him to undergo double knee surgery, he gave up football after seventh grade and opted to focus on lacrosse.
But that itch for football never went away. Now as a senior, with one final chance to suit up for the varsity, Burkowsky decided it was time to give football another go. He’s made the most of the opportunity.
“I wish I played all high school,” he said. “Definitely coming back senior year was the right choice.”
Burkowsky has made a big impact, anchoring the offensive line at center, a position that requires him to call out schemes and help direct his teammates. The play of the offensive line has helped the Blue Waves’ explosive running game and allowed their dynamic halfback Albert Daniels to dominate.
Daniels was outstanding again Saturday as the Blue Waves defeated Bay Shore, 30-12, at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field to improve to 3-1 at the halfway point of the Division I season.
“They were the big question mark,” coach Leif Shay said of the offensive line. “And I think they got tired of hearing it. They’ve really come along and done a nice job.”
Daniels rushed for 228 yards on a bruising 33 carries and scored three touchdowns. After struggling at times against Bay Shore’s passing attack, the Blue Waves’ defense adjusted in the second half to shut out the Marauders. It was a crucial win for the Blue Waves ahead of an upcoming three-game road trip that starts at Ward Melville Friday night against one of the top teams in the division.
And now the team seeded last in Division I at the beginning of the year, the Blue Waves can view themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.
As the players huddled together on the field after the win, Shay posed a question: “What’s that thing we haven’t done in a while?”
The players all knew the answer: win consecutive games.
It was a small goal the Blue Waves set for themselves at the beginning of the year coming off last season’s 2-6 record. In fact, the Blue Waves hadn’t won consecutive games since Weeks 7 and 8 of the 2015 season. And they’re now one win away from matching their best single season since that 2015 year, which was the last time they made the playoffs.
“We haven’t gotten two wins in a row in a while so we wanted to make it known we got it,” said senior linebacker Isaiah Barbieri.
The offensive line anchored by Burkowsky has been a big reason for the success. He said it was a seamless transition for him back to football.
“It didn’t even feel like I left,” he said. “These are my boys. We just jelled so well right away.”
Burkowsky digs in the trenches alongside sophomores James Foster Jr. and Lamarion Hopkins, junior Jack Qualey and senior William Sellers-Beeker. Shay credited Burkowsky for his leadership.
“He’s a really smart kid,” he said. “He gives us the brains up front, calling out all the schemes.”
Burkowsky said the reward for the line’s work, seeing Daniels take off for big runs, makes it all worth it.
“For us to make that happen for him, it’s the best feeling,” he said.
Daniels’ first score came on a 1-yard run in the second quarter as the Blue Waves grabbed their first lead, 7-6. Bay Shore (0-4) answered back, going ahead 12-7 later in the second half. The Blue Waves countered with a quick five-play drive as Daniels scored on a 10-yard run. The extra point by sophomore Recep Kocan put the Blue Waves ahead 13-12 at halftime and they never trailed again.
Kocan later connected on a 22-yard field goal in the fourth quarter that put the Blue Waves ahead by two scores, 23-12, and helped ice the game.
The Blue Waves took control in the second half, putting more pressure on Bay Shore quarterback Richie Arnett. The Blue Waves opened the third quarter with an 11-play drive, capped by a 31-yard touchdown run by Daniels. On Bay Shore’s next possession, sophomore Deontae Sykes and senior Tyreek Earl Parker got back-t0-back sacks.
Barbieri said in the second half the defense switched out of a Cover-2 to focus on covering the flats where Bay Shore’s receivers were finding space.
“The main part was the flats,” he said. “Once we contain the outside, we were good.”
Shay said they also adjusted to move Parker, their speed defender, on the left side to accommodate for where Bay Shore’s quarterback kept rolling.
Bay Shore was limited to just four first downs in the second half.
And now the Blue Waves will turn their attention to their toughest challenge so far against a Ward Melville team that will be eager to get back in the win column after a tough loss Friday night at Longwood.
Top photo caption: Albert Daniels celebrates one of his three touchdown runs Saturday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)
CORRECTION: William Burkowsky’s name was misspelled in the original version.