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Football: North Shore ‘D’ denies SWR LI title

The scoreboard at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium didn’t see much activity, but the numbers that were lit up spoke volumes: 7-0, as in the final score in North Shore’s favor.

It was a testament to North Shore’s defense that the Vikings were able to do what no other high school football team has been able to do this season. They actually shut out Shoreham-Wading River’s high-powered offense Saturday, and it was worth a Long Island Class IV championship.

SWR, which entered the game having averaged 37.2 points per game, was held to 181 yards of offense (10 less than North Shore) and saw its hopes of securing a second straight Long Island title evade its grasp.

“Their defense was tough, but I’d say we beat ourselves for the most part,” SWR senior Dylan Kiely said. “Too many balls on the ground, too many missed blocks. Just too many messups and it shows on the scoreboard.”

SWR (10-2) was a Long Island champion in 2019. The Long Island championship games were not played in 2020 because of COVID-19 pandemic.

SWR is in its golden age of football. Since 2014 when it won its first Suffolk County and Long Island championships, the Wildcats have gone 79-10, posting three undefeated seasons. They have won four of the six Long Island finals they played in and received the Rutgers Trophy, which goes to Suffolk’s most outstanding team, in 2014 and 2016.

By contrast, North Shore (10-2), coming off its second county title and first since 1975, made its first appearance in a Long Island title game. The Long Island championships began in 1992.

SWR coach Aden Smith during the postgame ceremony as the disappointed players look on. (Credit: Bill Landon)

“I love my guys so much, and we thought we were gonna come out here get the job done,” SWR middle linebacker Anthony Giordano said. He continued: “You win some, you lose some, but my important thing for my team is showing my team, like the younger people who are going to carry on the SWR [program], what it is like to lose and that’s OK sometimes, you know. You have to lose to grow. You grow from losing and that’s OK. It’s part of the game.”

The game’s only points came courtesy of a first-quarter touchdown set up by a blocked punt. Reece Ramos blocked a punt by Dylan Zahn and Daniel Quigley fell on the ball, giving the Vikings possession at the SWR 37-yard line. It took North Shore eight plays to score, Quigley taking the ball on a direct snap for a 1-yard run with one minute left in the period. Michael Fleming kicked the extra point.

Dylan Zahn fires a pass. (Credit: Bill Landon)

“They scored [off] a blocked punt,” said Aden Smith, who is 38-5 since taking over as SWR’s coach in 2018. “You know, special teams is very critical, especially in a game like this. It’s a game-changer.”

SWR was fortunate not to have fallen behind by more. North Shore nearly doubled that lead in the second quarter, but an apparent 75-yard TD run by Nicholas Livoti, who did well following  blocks on the right side, was nullified by a block in-the-back penalty.

The teams exchanged interceptions — by SWR’s Liam Leonard and North Shore’s David Berlin — within five plays of each other late in the second quarter, but couldn’t do anything with those turnovers.

“They fought hard, man,” Giordano said. “They knew what they were doing. They were disciplined and you got to give it to them. They were the better team.”

On a bitterly cold evening with a temperature that read 38 degrees but felt colder, the teams also had to deal with 16 mph winds that rippled the stadium flags.

SWR never got closer than within 30 yards of the North Shore goal line in the second half.

“I’ll win any way we can, but sure, I’ll take the zero, but I’m going to credit coach [Scott] Lineman on that,” North Shore coach Dan Agovino said of his defensive coordinator.

North Shore, with 11 tackles by Willi Feldmann, picked a good time to turn in its first shutout of the season.

Barone, who ran for 23 TDs this season, was held to 60 yards and Zahn to 59. No one from either team put up gaudy offensive numbers.

“We just really couldn’t get going because we were on defense most of the game, so we just didn’t really have a chance to get our offense going,” said Barone.

SWR’s defense wasn’t shabby, either, with Giordano leading the way with 12 tackles.

Did SWR have any idea of what to expect from North Shore?

“We’ve seen the film,” Kiely said. “They play hard. They play nasty. They go to the ball, eleven hats to the ball, give respect to them.”

Before joining his team for the bus ride home, Smith offered some final thoughts.

“We fought hard to the finish,” he said, adding, “We didn’t let up, we didn’t relent, you know, until the time went out. I know they were devastated because nobody wants to lose their last game, but I was proud of the effort.”