A tremendous fall season is over and Long Island garnered state titles in five sports. The St. Anthony's football team captured its ninth CHSFL title in 10 years with a 41-23 win over Iona Prep. The Friars were 11-0, the fourth undefeated season in school history, and earned Newsday's BIG 10 fall crown.
We had success on the soccer pitch. The soccer teams at Brentwood, Sayville and Friends Academy won their respective boys state titles. The Massapequa and Garden City girls teams also earned state crowns.
The North Shore girls cross country team won a fifth straight Nassau crown and went on to capture the state Class A championship, the first boys or girls team to do so since 1992.
In the pool, Connetquot's Mikaila Gaffey won the 200 freestyle and the 50 free before teaming with Sara Dieterich, Nicole Hetzer, and Claudia Reyes to capture the school's third state title in the 200 medley relay. Sophomore Olivia Chan of New Hyde Park, swimming for Sewanhaka, also won gold. St. Anthony's (19-0) won its straight state CHSAA girls volleyball title.
You would have to agree it was a banner season for Long Island's athletes.
Football became a season of redemption. Six of the participants in the Long Island championships had avenged early-season losses to reach the big stage. Three of them, Freeport, Bellport and Lynbrook completed the exciting journey with Long Island titles. For Bellport, it was a record-tying sixth L.I. title.
Farmingdale beat Freeport, 42-39, during the season in what many consider one of Long Island's greatest high school games. Freeport came back to edge Dalers, 36-33, in the Nassau Conference I title game. It ended when the Dalers' warrior of a quarterback Sal Tuttle, playing with a severe shoulder injury, scrambled for a first down on the final drive and came up a foot short at the Freeport 30 - game over.
The Red Devils weren't done leaving fans exasperated. They went on to beat Floyd, 62-35, in the Class I final when junior quarterback Isaiah Barnes rushed for an LIC record six touchdowns and threw for another.
"A ride to never forget, just unbelievable," said Freeport coach Russ Cellan, standing midfield amid a wild celebration at Hofstra.
The perseverance of a never say die Bellport team took home the hardware in Class II. Bellport shook off a 2-3 start, which included some disciplinary issues, to win seven consecutive games and roll to the Class II crown with a 26-21 comeback win over Garden City. Unwavering in his principles and following his code of conduct policy, coach Joe Cipp Jr. put the season on the line and the playoffs in jeopardy, by suspending 12 players before a loss to Comsewogue.
"We follow the rules or pay the price," Cipp said. "I will never put winning ahead of our policies and beliefs."
The "Cippers" bounced back to avenge a 10-7 loss to top-seeded East Islip, with a 32-14 playoff win to claim the Suffolk crown. Cipp became Suffolk's all-time wins leader at 210 and set the stage for dramatic win number 211 in the LIC.
"This one is special because of how we started and how we finished," Cipp said. "We learned valuable life lessons along the way and stuck together like a family."
Lynbrook suffered its only loss of the year by a point to Lawrence, yet came back for a stirring win in the Nassau Conference III final. The Owls used an explosive offense to reach the LIC for the first time since 1992. They outscored a game Sayville, 42-27, to claim the crown.
"The absolute best feeling ever," Lynbrook coach Steve LoCicero said.
That kind of feeling was felt throughout Long Island. Brentwood (20-1-2), which has played for the state boys soccer championship in five of the past six seasons, won the Class AA championship for the second time in three years. The Indians had six shutouts in seven playoff games and were ranked sixth in the country by ESPN RISE magazine. Friends Academy (15-1-2) won its second straight state Class C title led by 28-goal scorer Matt Slotnick and fullback Colin Heffron.
The Massapequa girls soccer team used a stifling defense to post 16 shutouts and allowed only four goals in 20 games on its way to the state Class AA crown. The Chiefs (19-0-1) were the epitome of team rotating three goalkeepers on the road to the title.
And in Garden City, the Trojans upended perennial state qualifier South Side and made their first appearance in the state tournament since 1996. Erin Greiner scored with 1:26 left in the second overtime to give Garden City a 2-1 win over Rye for the state crown.
It was just one of the exciting finishes to a stellar fall season.