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Class IV championship could come down to the better rushing team

Roosevelt's Justin Terry breaks free for a 40

Roosevelt's Justin Terry breaks free for a 40 yard gain during the Nassau IV football final on Saturday, Nov. 22, 2014 at Hofstra. Credit: James Escher

Roosevelt needs no directions to the Long Island championship game. The Rough Riders are making their fourth straight appearance and 10th in school history. They've been down this road before. But for Shoreham-Wading River, until this year, it was the road not taken.

SWR's Wildcats (11-0) will play in their first Long Island Class IV championship game when they take on Roosevelt (10-1) at 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Stony Brook.

Two different schools from two counties with two pedigrees but one thing in common. Both used the same mode of transportation to get to LaValle Stadium: They ran.

Roosevelt, which averages 36.5 points per game, is led by breakaway threat Shamari Kirkpatrick, who has rushed for 2,214 yards and is only 90 yards behind Plainedge's Davien Kuinlan for this season's Long Island lead. Kirkpatrick is the third recent Rough Rider to enter the L.I. title game with more than 2,000 yards rushing, joining Erin Parker (2011) and Johnnie Akins (2013).

"He's explosive," SWR coach Matt Millheiser said. "You can stop him three straight times and on the fourth, he'll break a 60-yard run. We've got to stop the run and continue to be good tacklers."

The Wildcats, who average 37.5 points, also rely primarily on the ground game. Their offense revolves around 6-5, 210-pound quarterback Danny Hughes, a relentless runner who put on a show against Glenn last week, rushing for 301 yards and six touchdowns. Versatile and speedy Israel Squires has scored 14 touchdowns and is dangerous as a runner, receiver, returner and defensive back.

"They have a very good defense and Danny Hughes is an incredible runner," Roosevelt coach Joe Vito said. "We have to stop him."

Roosevelt hasn't won the L.I. title since 2006, and Vito didn't need to hammer that point home to his players this week. "They've seen what happened the last few years," he said. "You can get so close. It's a four-quarter football game. That's what we keep reminding them."

Roosevelt lost a heartbreaker to Babylon last year, 27-26, allowing a 12-point lead to slip away in the fourth quarter. The Rough Riders will have to start fast and finish strong in this year's game because SWR is on quite a roll. The Wildcats allow a Long Island-best 4.2 points per game, have posted five shutouts and won their three playoff games by scores of 42-0, 56-0 (against two-time defending L.I. champ Babylon) and 47-10.

"We've had that intensity when we came out for the county semifinal against Babylon and we've maintained it for two weeks," Millheiser said. "We expect to keep it going to push across the finish line."

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