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SportsColumnistsGregg Sarra

Long Island Championships never fail to amaze, entertain

From left, Shoreham-Wading River players Christian Aliperti, Rocco

From left, Shoreham-Wading River players Christian Aliperti, Rocco Caputo and Logan Snyder celebrate with fans following their 20-10 victory in the Long Island Class IV championship against Seaford at Stony Brook University's LaValle Stadium on Nov. 27, 2016. Credit: Daniel De Mato

Can you believe the Long Island Championships celebrated its 25th year this weekend? There now are 100 games in the books.

Shoreham-Wading River closed the 25th edition of the LIC with its third Class IV title in a row, beating Seaford, 20-10, on Sunday night before 3,000-plus at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium.

Three-time champion Ethan Wiederkehr, who will head to Northwestern, said: “The LIC is all we talked about and it’s what drove us. Everyone dreams of playing in the LIC.”

The LIC has grown so popular that it has become a big-time event, and not just for the players and coaches. It has become a yearly event that touches the community, alumni and players’ families. Thousands of fans travel to Hofstra University and Stony Brook University every year to watch the four championship games.

There is no sport that evokes the emotion in a community and elicits district-wide fanfare like football. Student sections annually chant “LIC!’’ at the Nassau and Suffolk championships, and it has a ring to it!

I’ve experienced the LIC from almost every perspective, as a writer, broadcaster, father, community member and alum.

I’ve witnessed all the glory of the 100 games, from the inaugural Lynbrook-Islip clash for the Class III title in 1992 through yesterday’s late game.

I swelled with community pride when my son Gregg Jr. played for Connetquot in its 2008 Class I title win at Hofstra. It is so emotional for parents.

When Newfield, my alma mater, charged through the playoffs and into the LIC, there was a different sense of pride.

The LIC never gets old. It just keeps getting better. The emotions have run the gamut from exultation to agony.

There were standout games won in the final seconds of regulation by Massapequa in 1994, Division in 1996 and Lawrence in 2014. There were four games won in overtime. West Islip beat Garden City, 7-0, in double overtime at Hofstra in 1994.

There was the highest-scoring game in state history when Sayville beat Lawrence, 78-61, in a shootout at Stony Brook in 2011. MSG Varsity play-by-play man Carl Reuter quipped in the broadcast booth, “No one will ever believe what we are seeing today.” He then said with a laugh, “Thankfully, we have the video. But man, I’m exhausted. It seemed like every play went for a touchdown.”

No one had ever seen anything like it — 139 points in a title game of frenetic action, with the evolution of the spread offense taking full effect. It was nothing like the LIC of the 1990s, when rugged defense ruled.

We all have memories that stay with us.

How can anyone forget Melik Mavruk of Lawrence picking up a fumble late and running 82 yards with a convoy of blockers for the winning score against Sayville in 2014?

Or Commack quarterback Mike Prahalis rolling right in overtime and Freeport linebacker Eddie Gordon bursting through the line to stop him on a two-point conversion try in the Red Devils’ 20-19 win in 2000.

Then there was Stacey Bedell with a hop-skip-and-a-jump touchdown run that left all of us in awe in Floyd’s 54-47 win over East Meadow in 2011.

And just when you think you’ve seen the greatest play, Newfield’s Elijah Riley fielded an onside kick, ran to the MacArthur 6 and, instead of scoring with 53 seconds left, took a knee out of respect for an opponent in a 41-33 win in 2015. Yes, the LIC brings out the best in high school athletes.

Shoreham-Wading River jogged into LaValle Stadium on Sunday carrying the team flag emblazoned with the late Thomas Cutinella’s number 54. Said Wiederkehr, “We play Tommy Tough for Thomas Cutinella.”

This LIC was personal for the Wildcats. Then again, the LIC is personal for all of us.

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