Sideline to sideline, up the gut, A gap, B gap, or wherever Jack Winey smells a ball carrier is where you’ll find him.
Lindenhurst’s junior linebacker turned in another 14-tackle performance last week in a 14-0 win over previously undefeated West Islip in a pivotal Suffolk Division II football game. It was his sixth game with tackles in the double digits and brought his season total to 77.
His biggest tackle may have come in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-5 play where he helped stop the halfback shy of a first down, forcing West Islip to turn the ball over on downs.
"He is the guy with a nose for the ball,” Lindenhurst coach Nick Lombardo said. “He’s always around the ball. We send him on blitz packages and he’s all over the backfield causing mayhem. Or he’s scraping the line waiting for an alley to get a better angle on a halfback. He’s a very smart player and anticipates through his study of film what’s going to happen.”
For his efforts in a showdown of unbeatens, Winey is the Newsday Athlete of the Week.
"We have a very active defense with a lot of guys who want to make that tackle,” Winey said. “It’s like everyone wants to make a play. If you’re not flying to the ball someone else is going to make that tackle.”
Lindenhurst (6-0), the defending Suffolk Division II champions, have limited opponents to a division-low 52 points. The 5-11, 205-pound Winey said he's aware of his tackle totals but insisted that the success of the Bulldogs' defense can be attributed to a team mentality.
"When you work as a unit and communicate well with each other and the coaches, good things will happen,” Winey said. “It’s a team sport where a breakdown at any position can be costly.”
So how does Winey make so many tackles?
"He’s a tenacious player,” Lombardo said. “He hates to lose and never stops moving out there. His instincts are phenomenal. First time I watched him play he was all over the field and making tackle after tackle like a machine.”
That was in middle school. And Lombardo was so impressed that he brought Winey up to the varsity as a ninth-grader. And the young Bulldog has never disappointed the coach.
"We’ve also used him in short yardage situations because he runs with authority,” Lombardo said. “He’s a power runner and gets those key first downs.”
Winey helped the Bulldogs seal last week’s huge win over West Islip when he went over left tackle with just under a minute to play on fourth and inches. He didn’t just break the first tackle. He bounced the run outside and ran 31 yards for a touchdown to stamp the win.
"There was no stopping me on that play,” Winey said. “We needed inches. I hit the line and it was like a wall, but I kept it moving.”
Winey has already played in two Long Island championship games. Lindenhurst earned the Class I title in 2017 and lost in the Class II final to Garden City last season.
“There’s nothing I’d like more than to win another Suffolk championship and earn another shot at Garden City, if they make it, of course,” Winey said. “I’d love a rematch.”