A flag-filled, scoreless first quarter left the standing-room-only crowd at Shoreham-Wading River’s Thomas Cutinella Memorial Field listlessly yearning for more.
It only took one eye-popping play from Mount Sinai’s Matthew LoMonaco to awaken the dormant fans. His 71-yard catch-and-run on third-and-4 early in the second quarter set up Joey Spallina’s 2-yard touchdown run on the next play that opened the scoring.
LoMonaco then kept everyone alert and on the edges of their seats, as the senior returned an interception 43 yards for a touchdown later in the half and ended the game with six catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Mustangs to a 35-21 win over the host Wildcats in a pivotal Suffolk IV contest Saturday afternoon.
“He can do it all,” Mount Sinai assistant coach Kevin Chartrand said of LoMonaco. “He’s a great corner. He’s a captain of this team. He does everything. He punts the ball, he returns the ball, he does it all. We just haven’t had him throw the ball … yet.”
Chartrand was Mount Sinai’s acting head coach after Vinnie Ammirato was ejected from the team’s last game two weeks ago against Port Jefferson for receiving two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, requiring that he serve a one-game suspension.
Chartrand was fired up as the Mustangs executed the defensive game plan by mostly containing skilled athlete Xavier Arline, who managed two rushing touchdowns and one passing touchdown but was mostly bottled up.
“It was definitely to stop the run, then we’ll worry about the pass later,” Spallina said of the plan coming in. “We just drilled in all week to stop the run, stop [Arline], and keep everything in front of us.”
With the Shoreham-Wading River (4-1) offense sputtering, Arline took matters into his own hands. He scrambled and followed his blockers, cutting across the field to score a 40-yard touchdown that cut the deficit to 14-7 after Jake Ekert’s PAT just before halftime.
Mount Sinai (5-0) answered on the first possession of the third quarter as Brandon Ventarola (10-for-14, 226 yards and three touchdowns with one interception) scrambled out of the pocket on fourth-and-11 before delivering a pass to Gavin Takacs for a 30-yard touchdown.
After a defensive stop, Mount Sinai again put the ball in LoMonaco’s hands. Ventarola rolled right and went over the top to his top receiver, who easily outran the secondary for 62 yards and a 28-7 lead.
He also hauled in a 4-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter that made the score 35-14.
“They played a lot of zone today, so when I rolled out, I knew my guys just had to get in the right area,” Ventarola said. “I knew that they’d be open. They had the two outside rushers that were coming fast, so if I could get around them, I’d be able to see everything.”
A gritty, sloppy beginning wound up not being a sign of things to come, as LoMonaco and the Mustangs galloped past their biggest rival.
“Both teams were going at it,” LoMonaco said. “This rivalry has been a thing since the beginning. We just had to keep our composure and fire back.”