There is a milestone within reach for the Connetquot football team. The Thunderbirds have captured two Long Island Class I championships, winning the inaugural Class I game in 1992 and then stunning the football community by beating powerhouse Freeport, 21-13, in 2008.
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The Thunderbirds are off to a 7-0 start and are currently the top-ranked team in the Large Schools poll. They put a perfect season on the line at Sachem North Friday night in the MSG Varsity Friday Night Football game of the week at 7 p.m. The Suffolk I game will air live on Cablevision Channel 14.
"We've been on the road all season and developed a road warrior mentality," said Connetquot's senior quarterback Brian McKean, who has 18 touchdown passes. "We've built a special bond and this team has really come together."
It is an about face for a team that finished with a 1-7 record a year ago. The emergence of McKean and a balanced offense that includes two of Long Island's top wide receivers, in senior James Higgins and junior Tyler Nason, and senior halfback Ryan Harvey have set the Thunderbirds apart from the division.
Sachem North (5-2) will be without its top two players as junior Trent Crossan and senior Tyler Andreassi are out with season-ending injuries. According to coach Dave Falco, Andreassi underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his thumb this week, and Crossan continues to battle a hamstring / calf injury.
"We had to shut them down," Falco said. "We've lost a total of eight very good players to injury this year -- it's been a very difficult year."
The game will be played at Sachem North as the finishing touches are put on the new turf field at Connetquot.
Miller Place at Bellport, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.:
Massapequa at Farmingdale, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: A backyard brawl on the South Shore that will determine a home playoff game for Massapequa. Chiefs quarterback Paul Bentz had the hot hand in last week's win over East Meadow. To win, the Chiefs will have to shut down Farmingdale halfback Curtis Jenkins.
MacArthur at Garden City, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: The MacArthur defense shut down the big play offense of Long Beach in a thorough 31-7 win. Defensive end Anthony DeNunzio got after Long Beach quarterback Adam Salvadori. Expect more of the same kind of pressure as the Generals look to slow down the Brett Stewart-led Trojans. The key in the game is Trojans halfback Scott D'Antonio, who has been unstoppable.
Wantagh at Long Beach, Saturday, 2 p.m.: The Marines suffered back-to-back losses to Garden City and MacArthur and now a showdown looms with tricky Wantagh. The Warriors tested Garden City last week but were blown away by the Trojans' 20-point second half and lost 34-14. This is a classic rebound game.
Patchogue-Medford at Bay Shore, Saturday, 2 p.m.: An offensive shootout that promises to delight the crowd. The Bay Shore running game and Matthias Eato could take this one over. The Marauders have more balance. The winner goes to the playoffs. The loser is eliminated from the postseason.
Northport at Ward Melville, Saturday, 2 p.m.: Two of the pleasant surprises in Suffolk I. Northport (5-2) finds itself on a five-game winning streak, including impressive wins over Sachem North and Floyd. Ward Melville's Jake Biro and Brendan Hegarty need to find a way to score on the Northport defense.