Shoreham-Wading River doesn’t lose many football games, but the Wildcats sure know how to respond after they do.
SWR bounced back with a vengeance Friday night, taking it all out on Port Jefferson. Dylan Zahn passed for 176 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half — and Liam Kershis ran for three TDs in a 59-0 blowout win at SWR’s Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field.
It was just the tonic needed to help the defending Suffolk County Division IV champions put their 42-14 loss to Bayport-Blue Point a week earlier in the rearview mirror.
“We knew we had something to prove,” said Kershis, who ran for 113 yards on 12 carries. “That game last week was not Shoreham-Wading River football. We’re better than that and I think that we [showed that] tonight. We came out and proved them wrong. We got the train back on the track.”
SWR’s performance after that derailment was across-the-board impressive. The defense, led by Bradley Doherty and Ryan Herr with eight tackles apiece (six of Doherty’s tackles were for losses), held Port Jefferson to a net two yards of offense and 0-for-5 passing. In addition, 17 of Port Jefferson’s 29 running plays went for negative yardage.
Meanwhile, SWR’s offense, which generated 438 yards, was humming. Despite the cold weather and strong wind gusts that made the 59-degree game-time temperature feel colder, Zahn’s passing was on the mark. He went 8-for-9 with TD passes to Daniel Greene, Michael Casey (a 41-yarder on a fly pattern) and Ryan Wilson (a 40-yarder).
“I think Dylan’s honestly the best quarterback on the island, so I’m happy he’s on my team, that’s for sure,” said Kershis.
On one second-quarter play from the Port Jefferson 35-yard line, Wilson came to the line of scrimmage and found no one covering him. He got Zahn’s attention and the 6-foot-6 senior quarterback lofted a pass to him for an apparent easy TD. The play was nullified by an illegal shift penalty, however.
No matter. Three plays later Wilson got his TD catch anyway. It was that kind of a night for SWR (2-1).
“Any time you lose the way we did, you want to respond appropriately,” SWR coach Aden Smith said. “You want to see the team respond in an appropriate manner, and I think this response is what we were looking for from the team.”
Kershis, a junior running back with five rushing TDs this season, showed what he can do, bursting through the middle for an 18-yard score, wiggling his way around the left side for a 25-yard TD and adding a 1-yard plunge for his third TD, helping SWR to a 44-0 halftime lead.
“I knew he could run the ball and tonight everybody saw exactly what he was able to do,” Zahn said. “He did his job and he did it well.”
Kershis acknowledged this was a game he will remember, but he shared the credit. “I expect more games to be like this and, you know, it all starts with the guys up front,” he said. “Sure, I ran the ball, but you know, they made blocks for me. I just ran to where it’s open and that’s all because of them. It starts with the guys up front and all my yards are their yards. All my touchdowns are their touchdowns.”
Will Hart and Chris Johnson tacked on second-half TD runs, Johnson’s coming on a 42-yard dash through the middle. By then, sophomore Tyler Hermanns was taking snaps at quarterback, giving Zahn a well-deserved rest.
Hart ran in three two-point conversions, Zahn ran for another one and Brendan Meskill caught a two-point pass from Kieran Clifford. Alex Kershis, Liam’s brother, kicked an extra point.
“I thought everybody gave a lot of effort,” Zahn said. “Everybody worked hard. Everybody wanted it. Everybody was excited. Kids were jumping around.”
Perhaps the only negative for SWR on the night came in the second quarter when David Raynor leaped high to knock away a pass. The senior cornerback was helped off the field without putting any pressure on his left leg.
After the game Smith said he was waiting for more information on Raynor, but “I don’t think the prognosis is good. I think he turned his ankle and somebody stepped on it. So the doctor said they may think it’s broken.”
What did Liam Kershis like best about the night?
“That scoreboard as soon as that clock hit zero,” he said. “I love seeing that.”