SWR Wildcats fall short in steamy home opener

On a hot, muggy Friday evening at Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field, Shoreham-Wading River, hindered by severe cramping and untimely penalties, found themselves on the wrong end of a 21-13 defeat against the Elwood/John Glenn Knights.

The defenses shined early on as both teams struggled to string together consecutive positive plays. Shoreham-Wading River (0-1 League IV) got quick stops in the first four possessions of the game, forcing turnovers and punts as the defense came up with one big play after another. Liam Gregorek, Sean Casey and Brendan Meskill were causing absolute havoc in the box. But while the Wildcats were getting the ball back quickly, the offense struggled to gain momentum due to false start and holding penalties. Over the course of the game, the Wildcats drew 11 yellow flags.

Shoreham-Wading River kept feeding the ball to senior halfback Liam Kershis, hoping to spring a big run, and though he was getting some traction, persistent leg cramps pretty much ended his night. Kershis finished with 14 carries for 51 yards. 

Midway through the second quarter, the Knights made their first breakthrough when halfback KaRahn King ripped off a 50 yard run to put Elwood/John Glenn into scoring position. King then hobbled off to the sideline with his own bout of cramps but the Knights were able cap the drive with a TD catch by Matt Triolo.

“Both teams were dealing with the weather,” SWR head coach Aden Smith said. “I’m not going to say the cramps made an impact because both of us were dealing with it. We just need to be more prepared for the elements.”

On the following possession, SWR QB Tyler Hermanns launched a deep ball down the sideline and connected with Kieran Clifford for a 51-yard completion. Clifford, who finished the game with three catches for 74 yards, then limped off to the sideline and was barely featured the rest of the game. Another big holding call on the offense stalled the drive and the Wildcats turned it over on downs heading into halftime trailing 7-0.

Elwood/John Glenn (1-0 League IV) opened the third quarter with another Matt Triolo touchdown, this time taking the top off the defense with a 66-yard fly route to make the score 14-0.  The Wildcats answered back with a 4th-down touchdown thrown to Mike Casey to cut the deficit in half.

Both teams quickly exchanged touchdowns in the fourth quarter, with Sean Casey corralling a pass in the end zone to give the Wildcats a chance to tie the game with 8 minutes remaining. SWR milked the clock and brought the ball all the way down to the Knights’ 10 yard line with the help of a targeting penalty. But once in the red zone, three consecutive passes fell incomplete and ended their hopes of a comeback. 

“We had opportunities that we could have taken advantage of,” Smith said. “I have to watch the film, but I’m sure I’ll find a lot of things we missed. It was hot and humid and the kids were tired and cramping but we have to make sure the next man up does the job for us.”

Senior Zachary Johnson, the Wildcats’ starting center, sat on the bench in the waning minutes of the game in extreme pain. The key cog in the offensive line may have sustained a serious injury to his elbow.

“I hope we didn’t just lose our center,” Smith said. “Because we don’t have anyone after that.”

The Wildcats will next host Wyandanch on Thursday in the second week of the season.

“Any time you lose and it’s a short turnaround we have to lick our wounds, give everyone about 12 hours to decompress, but then get back to the drawing board to get better,” Smith said. “All we can do is take it out on the next opponent. We’re a good football team and we will get better.”