(From left to right) Jack Kalinowski, Andrew Cooper, Matt McIntee and...

(From left to right) Jack Kalinowski, Andrew Cooper, Matt McIntee and Sebastian Regis of East Islip boys lacrosse. Credit: Elizabeth Sagarin

Matt McIntee took a trip toward the middle and hauled in the 22-yard pass for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter vs. South Side on that chilly night in late November at Hofstra. East Islip held on and hauled in the top prize — the Long Island championship for Class III football.

“Honestly, it felt amazing,” McIntee, a senior receiver/cornerback, said, flashing back Monday to the victory. “As a group of guys, it was just probably the best team I’ve ever been on. It was just a group of guys collectively who just wanted to win.

“And after double zeros hit, I was just so happy. I was shocked almost that we won. It was breathtaking.”

Now McIntee is one of 14 players from that title team who are trying to help create a similar take-your-breath-away feeling for the lacrosse team.

No East Islip boys lacrosse team has ever experienced what it’s like to win even just a county championship. Last May, it fell in the Suffolk B final to West Islip. 

But the football players are bringing a lot more than ability to the chase for at least a top prize in the county.

“Obviously, the value of having the guys on the football team playing lacrosse is the winning mentality,” said McIntee, a midfielder bound for Syracuse to play lacrosse. “I mean, these guys know how to get up every day, go to work. They know what it takes as a team to win.”

Andrew Cooper knows. The senior running back/linebacker scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns in East Islip’s win over Sayville for its county title.

“I think it helps with the lacrosse team because it’s a such a good hardworking group of guys and it transitions over from the football field to the lacrosse team,” said Cooper, a long stick midfielder and Florida Southern commit for lacrosse. “Everyone is all bought in. We all want to win a championship.”

Coach Thomas Zummo called the football players — who include two state qualifiers from track, McIntee and junior midfielder/Stony Brook lacrosse commit Jack Kalinowski — “battle-tested,” and said the winning mentality “is kind of infectious, which is huge.”

They certainly bring a sense of belief.

“Coming from football, a lot of us have a lot of confidence in ourselves and we trust each other, which is a big thing on the field because if you don’t trust each other, you’re not going to build a great team, a winning team,” said Kalinowski, a receiver/safety whose interception led to the go-ahead TD in the Sayville game.

“We take a lot of pride with our work. So in practice every day, we’re grinding it out and just seeking every little thing to become a great team, just like in football.”

“Of course, we do have talent,” he added. “No doubts about that. But even my football coach [Sal Ciampi] used to say, ‘Success is not built on talent. It’s built on hard work.”

McIntee’s success included 46 goals and 29 assists last season.

“Matt is one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Zummo said. “. . . He has the ability to affect the game on both sides of the ball.”

He was a captain in football. He’s a captain in lacrosse. And McIntee acts like it.

“I think he’s taking that big role in showing the guys what it’s like and really putting the pedal on everyone and getting everyone going,” Cooper said.

“Him and a bunch of other guys like myself can really show the other guys who don’t play football how it really is like, the time you have to put in, the leadership that guys have to take even if you’re not named a captain. I think it takes a lot, but I think it’ll all be worth it in the end, like it was for football this year.”

Sebastian Regis, the 6-1, 268-pound two-way lineman who won the Hansen Award in December as Suffolk’s most outstanding football player, has joined the lacrosse cause. He has been contributing some at the faceoff X.

Zummo said the Stony Brook football commit wanted to be on a team that required him to work hard just to get on the field. Regis told him, “No one expects anything from me. I’m going to help the team get better.”

“Just having leaders like that on our lacrosse team make us better,” Zummo said.

Otherwise, this is an experienced group, a team that lost just three players on graduation day. It features 17 seniors, 19 juniors and one freshman. Four games into this season, East Islip owned four wins.

Can it win a county crown?

“Are we capable? Yes, we are capable,” Zummo said. “But we have a lot of work to do with a lot of opponents that are very talented and are going to challenge us throughout the season.”

Still, these players are determined to reach the final again and make program history.

“We just want to make it back,” McIntee said. “We just want to be a team that has never done anything and just leave a legacy on East Islip forever as being the first team to win a Suffolk County championship.”

East Islip’s football/lacrosse players

Mike Amato

Matt Baldino

Billy Bast

Camden Bloom

Andrew Cooper

Matt Ferraro

Charlie Heffernan

Jack Kalinowski

Killian Keane

Glendon Kinnear

Anthony Mariani

Matt McIntee

Ryan Parker

Sebastian Regis

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