Senior Joe Laterra will look back at the summer months leading up to his final year of high school football and thank all of those who convinced him to play again. Laterra missed two years of football to concentrate on his wrestling.
The decision to wrestle year round, left Laterra on the outside looking in, as Newfield marched to the school's first Long Island Class II championship last year. Laterra was left to ponder what his contributions would have been.
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"I definitely missed something special," he said. "And the last thing I wanted to do is look back and regret not playing football."
Laterra went to close friend Terrell Perryman and asked him to vouch for his return to the program, something Newfield coach Joe Piccinnini said isn't common for seniors who leave the program.
"He earned his way back into the program through hard work," Piccininni said. "And he's tough as nails."
Laterra, making his first start, scored Newfield's first two touchdowns on pass receptions of 29 and 18 yards as the Wolverines rolled to a 37-14 win over Whitman yesterday in a Suffolk II game in Huntington Station.
His first score came on a 29-yard fly pattern down the home sideline on a perfectly thrown ball from quarterback Brandon Riggi on the Wolverines' opening drive. His second touchdown came on a short out that he turned upfield and outran the Whitman secondary to the end zone. He finished with four catches for 76 yards.
"I thought I had a better shot at wrestling in college," Laterra said. "But I missed football so much. I knew I'd regret it if I didn't play."
Newfield (3-0) scored on its first three possessions, the third coming on a Joe Saladino 1-yard run. Nick Esposito added two two-point conversion runs for a 24-0 lead.
"They're so disciplined in their offense," said Whitman coach Robin Rosa. "They play with so much physicality. We're still learning to do all the little things correctly so we can develop that winning culture here. Newfield has turned that corner and believes in what they do. We have to believe in everything we do."
Senior halfback Joel Aleman capped a 58-yard drive with a 2-yard scoring run just before the half ended as Whitman (1-2) cut the deficit to 24-8.
"We took control in the third quarter with our offensive line leading the way," said Riggi, who directed five scoring drives in six possessions. "I love those guys, they are who we are."
Riggi, who returned from a hand injury that forced him to miss last week's win over Half Hollow Hills West, had synergy with Laterra and engineered an offense that rolled to 326 total yards.
Newfield added to its lead with 5:02 left in the third quarter when Vinny Buonantuono scored on a 17-yard sweep to cap an eight-play, 40-yard drive. Alex Gough added the kick to make it 31-8.
The Wolverines defense led by junior middle linebacker Chris Fajardo and Perryman, the outside linebacker, bottled up the Whitman offense. Perryman had nine tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery and Fajardo was in beast mode all game, with nine tackles.
"We pride ourselves on defense," Fajardo said. "And they tried to run right at us. Our defensive front kept the blockers off us and allowed the backers to run free and make plays."
And also running free was Laterra. "Laterra is a perfect example of why we coach football," said Newfield's defensive coordinator Mike Gentile. "He's a tremendous athlete who made a decision to dedicate himself in the classroom and on the field. Those are people we want around here."