The team playing with a heavy heart showed plenty of heart, both on the football field and off.
All one had to do was watch how Shoreham-Wading River played to see how much the Wildcats care about one of their own, who was hurting deeply.
Davin Casey, a special teams player for SWR, suffered the loss of his father earlier in the week, but he was in uniform Friday night, wearing his No. 80 uniform.
Casey was given the honor of leading the team onto the field while holding up SWR’s “54” flag, a tradition the Wildcats began following the 2014 death of one of their players, Thomas Cutinella, who wore No. 54. The visiting Wildcats then put on an impressive display in the Suffolk County Division IV game, thumping a good Center Moriches team, 57-14. SWR entered the game in second place; Center Moriches was fifth.
Casey, a 5-4, 145-pound junior, took part in kickoffs and extra points. He received cheers from his teammates when he was sent in as a wide receiver for SWR’s last two series. Backup quarterback Chris Visintin twice threw in Casey’s direction, but those passes fell incomplete.
After the first of those two series, SWR’s star QB, Xavier Arline, put his arm around Casey on the sideline, a touching sight.
“It’s a tough time right now for this team, Davin especially,” said Arline, who noted that the Wildcats wore their yellow “Tommy Tough” jerseys “because we wanted to represent a family, and we got his back.”
Casey wasn’t up to handling a postgame interview. One wondered how tough it was for him to take the field.
“I think it was definitely tough, but I think our bond made it easier for him,” Arline said. “I mean, we’re definitely a welcoming group, and I made a promise to him that every single play that I play this year is going to be for him and his dad and his whole family.”
News of the death filtered through the school Tuesday. It stung.
“We were all devastated because we’re all a family, and when something happens to one of us, it affects all of us,” running back/cornerback Max Barone said. “I feel awful when I think about it.”
The Wildcats (6-1), determined to try to ease Casey’s pain any way they could, had a spring in their step as they turned in one of their finest performances of the season.
After Emond Frazier (three catches, 92 yards) cut across the middle of the field, snagged a pass from Hunter Hassett and raced untouched for a 74-yard touchdown pass for Center Moriches (4-3) on the Red Devils’ first play from scrimmage, the rest of the game belonged to SWR. SWR responded with pick-six interceptions by Jake Wilson (12 yards) and Tyler Schwarz (47 yards) to end the next two Center Moriches series. Visintin also had a first-half interception.
And Arline was his spectacular self, running for two TDs (and a two-point conversion) and throwing for two more. The senior ran for 132 yards on 20 carries. He went 8-of-11 passing for 128 yards, with scoring tosses to Barone and Robert McGee. Arline even caught a 23-yard pass from McGee.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever seen in person,” Barone said of Arline.
Barone and Mike Casazza, who had all 77 of his rushing yards in the fourth quarter, also ran for TDs. SWR outgained Center Moriches, 403-252.
SWR was up, 43-6, before Naejon Ward caught a tipped 23-yard pass from Hassett in the end zone for the second Center Moriches TD late in the third quarter.
“It’s just a statement game,” Barone said. “We just got the momentum after that [early Center Moriches TD] and we just didn’t let it go.”
SWR coach Aden Smith said what Casey has suffered is “a tremendous loss for him. I’m sure it’s still sinking in. He’s going to need our support … but the fact that he’s here with us shows that the culture of family is important.”
Casey’s teammates spoke highly of him.
“He has the most heart on this football team,” Arline said. “A standup kid, always does the right thing. He’s out there early, after practice.”
Barone added: “He’s one of the best teammates. He’s always bringing people up.”
On Friday night, Casey’s teammates were there for him to give him a boost.
Photo caption: Davin Casey, carrying the “54” flag, leads Shoreham-Wading River onto the field before Friday night’s game at Center Moriches. (Credit: Bob Liepa)