The song was an oldie. The defense was a goody. The football team was a smash hit.
After every Wantagh victory, the players sang an off-key chorus from “Hey! Baby’’ — the 1961 pop hit by Bruce Channel.
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“We love to sing and we love to dance,” linebacker Sean Colbert said. “It was our song.”See alsoMeet Newsday’s All-Long Island fall teams for 2016
The Warriors performed it 12 times, with the giddy encore coming after a 21-14 victory over East Islip on Nov. 25 that completed a perfect season and gave Wantagh its first Long Island Class III title since 2001.
I wanna know-oh-oh
If you’ll be my girl.”
It was sweet music to coach Keith Sachs’ ears. “I don’t know how it started, but it was a great bonding thing,” Sachs said. “This was a special group. I told them, ‘You’re a team, 1-through-61 [the number of players on the LIC roster], and you’re even better off the field than on it.’ “
On the field, Wantagh made its mark with a devastating defense that posted five shutouts and allowed only one touchdown in five other games, usually against the Warriors’ subs. “We were always talking about keeping that goose egg up on the scoreboard,” defensive end Joe Valenti said.
Valenti, Colbert, linebacker Gavin Casey and defensive back Jimmy Joyce were the most prominent stars of a defense that posted three consecutive playoff shutouts and surrendered only 5.8 points per game this season. “I have all the pride in the world in our defense,” Colbert said. “There are no weaknesses, 1-through-11.”
When the Redmen jolted Wantagh by scoring a touchdown on their first drive of the Long Island Championships and scored again to tie it at 14 early in the second quarter, the Warriors barely flinched. “The defense never lost confidence,” Joyce said. “We trust each other and we don’t worry about who makes the tackle. We just did our jobs.”
The offense took care of business as well, averaging 31.7 points per game, led by slashing running back Tommy Rohan, inside runner Casey and efficient quarterback Jake Castellano.
“I take a tremendous amount of pride in the way they prepared and the way it showed up on the field,” Sachs said. “Way back in the summer, they did the work in the weight room to get bigger and stronger.”
The coach said he didn’t allow himself to think about going all the way until after Week 6, but added, “I started to believe our D was for real when they hardly allowed any yards against Roosevelt [28-0 in Week 3].”
If there was a signature play to a signature season, it was Joyce’s one-handed interception early in the second quarter of the LIC that not only sparked a touchdown drive but showed up on ESPN’s Top 10 Plays of the Night, courtesy of video shot by Newsday’s Owen O’Brien.
Hey! Baby — that was something special.