Shoreham-Wading River has won four Long Island football championships and six Suffolk County titles over the span of eight years. One can underline a common trait for each of those teams during that span. Each one of them had strong offensive lines.
Retrace those seasons, and one will find names of linemen who made a difference, a big difference.
Bobby Puckey, Ethan Wiederkehr (now a senior at Northwestern), Dalton Stalzer.
It was no coincidence that SWR has been a force. Since 2014, when the Wildcats won their first Long Island and county crowns, they have compiled a 69-8 record and posted three undefeated seasons. They are 28-3 since Aden Smith took over as head coach in 2018. SWR was presented with the Rutgers Trophy, which goes to the most outstanding team in Suffolk, in 2014 and 2016.
Ryan Letscher, Jimmy Puckey, Liam Mahoney.
“The line has been the key,” line coach Tom Foley said during a break at Friday morning’s practice. “We’ve always had good linemen.”
SWR’s O-line sure was good last spring (when Suffolk played its abbreviated football season, postponed from the fall of 2020 because of the pandemic) to pave the way to a Suffolk Conference IV championship and a 7-0 record. The Wildcats dominated their way to a third straight county title, beating Mount Sinai in the final, 34-20, at SWR’s Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.
“I’d say that, honestly, in football, pretty much every position is equal, but our line has been a huge part,” senior center/defensive end James Provencher said. “We’ve been very pivotal. Just the way our offense works, we run the ball so much. And the past year we didn’t let up a single sack. Not one sack.”
Dan Curtin, JoJo Puckey, Jack Logan.
Foley said the current offensive line isn’t physically as big as those in the past, but he likes the depth.
Senior left tackle/defensive end Aidan Clifford and Provencher, both entering their third varsity season, are the line’s only two returning starters. Anthony Giordano, a senior four-year varsity player, has been moved from fullback to right guard. Running back/defensive back Max Barone and H-back/linebacker Dylan Kiely are the only other returning players. SWR is seeded second in Suffolk Division IV, behind Bayport-Blue Point.
The offensive line needs restructuring, but Foley likes what he has been seeing. “We got some stuff to work with,” he said. “We got some talent here, and they’re tough and they’re in shape. They’re physical kids.”
Giordano said: “We have fantastic depth. I have guys that are ready to step up whenever anything happens, really. We have people that can match the starters’ level of play in backup, so we’re ready to go.”
Matt Zahn, Mike Casazza, Jeff Lachenmeyer.
Of course, the offensive line’s play will have a lot to say about how SWR performs this season. The Wildcats will play a scrimmage at West Islip Sept. 3 before opening their season Sept. 11 at Port Jefferson. They will take a 14-game win streak, extended over three years, into the new season.
“I’m interested to see how they play against West Islip,” Foley said. “That will be a big test for us.”
How much pride do the Wildcats take in what they have accomplished over the years?
“Definitely a lot of pride,” Clifford said. “We definitely have certified our football program and we just have to keep living up to those expectations because not every year [is it] given that we’re going to go undefeated or win a championship. We’ve got to work.”
Dylan Blanco, Jake Wilson, Jake Ekert.
Can SWR be as good as it was last year?
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t,” Provencher said. “We have to continue this tradition of being a very good team that’s always going to put their hearts into everything.”
Clifford, asked the same question, answered, “Well, it’s like it is every year — undefeated LIC champions.”
That goal hasn’t changed.