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Football: Odd happenings, familiar result in SWR victory

Unusual things were happening on the Islip High School football field Saturday night. And that doesn’t even include Shoreham-Wading River’s 56-18 blowout win, the sort of final score that has been more or less typical this season for the powerful Wildcats.

Where does one begin?

Defensive end Dylan Blanco had a strip sack, fumble recovery and touchdown on the same play. Daniel Mercado, a senior who had never scored a varsity touchdown before, finished the night with three of them. Chris Visintin passed for four TDs and Max Barone ran for two more for Suffolk County League VII leader SWR (4-0, 4-0), which sits one win away from an abbreviated undefeated regular season.

That’s a lot to digest. Start with the oddest play of the evening. With about a minute left in the first half, Islip had the ball at its own 45-yard line when Thomas Mai went back to pass. Blanco closed in on him fast.

“[Zack] Wilson was on my outside and he told me to go in, so I went straight in unblocked, ran right to the quarterback and, as he was throwing it, I was able to get my arm up and kind of block it down, and just grabbed it from his hands,” Blanco said. “And I was sprinting as fast as I could, but I’m trying not to let it fall to the ground. I scooped it up and I scored. It was quite exhilarating, I have to say.”

As if SWR’s offense wasn’t doing enough damage. SWR’s potent offense has put up 186 points in four games while its defense has surrendered only 25 points and posted two shutouts.

“We really showed that even the D-linemen are able to score,” said Blanco, whose TD helped SWR to a 42-12 halftime lead.

It was Blanco’s second career TD. His first came when he recovered a fumble in the end zone in a 2019 Suffolk Division IV final win over Mount Sinai.

Mercado had quite a game for himself, scoring not once or twice, but thrice on all three of his first-half receptions totaling 90 yards.

Mercado’s second TD was a case of turning a mixup into six points. SWR had the ball at the Islip 4-yard line when, amid confusion, Mercado started to trot off the field before a coach told him to remain where he was. As it turned out, Mercado was standing all by himself near the sideline and corner of the end zone, unnoticed by virtually everyone else except for SWR offensive coordinator Virgil Romer, who brought it to Visintin’s attention. Visintin quickly floated a wobbly pass the wide-open Mercado’s way.

Max Barone running with the ball. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

“I was scared I was going to drop it,” said Mercado.

On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Mercado took a screen pass 52 yards down the left side to the end zone. His third TD came on a shovel pass that covered 34 yards.

“He’s an electric player,” Visintin said. “I mean, he was able to show it, three touchdowns today.”

Visintin, who went 8-for-12 passing for 175 yards, also found Jake Wilson on a 47-yard scoring connection.

Barone ran for 117 yards. In addition to his two TD runs, SWR also received a TD run by David Tedesco.

Jake Ekert went 7-for-7 on extra points and Ryan Farron kicked SWR’s final extra point.

One day after his 18th birthday, SWR’s Johnny Schwarz had an interception, as did Barone.

Islip’s dangerous, speedy receiver, Jameson Seeger (four catches, 111 yards), pulled Mercado, grabbing his legs, as he crossed the goal line on a 47-yard TD catch. Islip (0-4, 0-3) also had TD runs by Jack Spahn and Mai.

It was SWR’s 11th consecutive win, a streak that dates back to the team’s 2019 Long Island Class IV championship season. The Wildcats will host Bayport-Blue Point (3-0, 3-0) to close out the regular season Friday night.

Asked what winning the league championship would be like, Blanco said: “That would mean a lot. There [were] a lot of people that always told me that we weren’t much of a team. As a senior now, I feel like if we went undefeated and won Suffolk County again, then that would really prove them wrong.”

Stranger things have happened.