If there’s anything truly unique about North Shore this season, it’s something you hear and not something you see. When the Viking linebackers get to a rusher, the impact is loud. When their backs turn into the oncoming tacklers instead of going out of bounds, the crack of the pads can be startling.
The North Shore players don’t just seek out contact, they strive to punish who they hit. As running back Phillip La Rosa explained "our attitude is that we want to be the most physical team in the conference and we think that if we come out here and we hit the other team harder than they hit us, we're going to get the win."
La Rosa, a senior running back and linebacker, did plenty of hard hitting against Cold Spring Harbor as the Vikings scored the final 14 points — all in the fourth quarter — to prevail, 26-14, in a matchup of Nassau Conference IV unbeatens on Saturday at the Seahawks’ Lessing and Bouchard Field.
La Rosa rushed 19 times for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns on runs of 13, 2 and 35 yards for North Shore (4-0) and accounted for all of those 14 fourth-quarter points. And he was part of a stingy defense with hard-hitting two-way senior lineman Lorenzo Recine that allowed CSH (3-1) just 53 yards in four scoreless fourth-quarter possessions.
This game, however, had a turning point and it came with CSH ahead 14-12 when sophomore lineman Reece Ramos got through the Seahawks line to block a William Spehr punt. Andrew Noak recovered on the CSH 17 and the momentum swung. It took two plays for the Vikings — runs of 15 and 2 yards by La Rosa — to grab the lead for good.
"It’s a moment when we are fired up and their heads were down and we jumped on it," La Rosa said.
"We definitely went into this game thinking we could block a punt and I felt in the back of my head I was going to get after one," Ramos said. "I got off the ball fast . . . and you dive and feel it hit you. It’s exciting."
Cold Spring Harbor believed midfield was a fourth-down situation with 8:26 left, but couldn’t convert from its own 47. La Rosa ran it three times to cover the ground, scoring at the end on a 35-yard run with a dive for the pylon and the 26-14 lead with 6:24 to play.
"That blocked punt turned out to be a huge play," North Shore coach Dan Agovino said. "That fourth quarter we were going to leave it all on the field. It was a meeting of first place teams."
After the teams went to halftime in a tie at 6, North Shore grabbed a brief 12-6 lead on Dan Quigley’s 16-yard touchdown pass to William Feldmann. Dan Visconti connected on a 10-yard TD pass to Spehr and Aidan Burdo ran in the conversion as the Seahawks went up 14-12.
Ben Bruno ran for a 3-yard touchdown and Spehr and CJ Reilly had interceptions for CSH.
In the 2019 season, North Shore penned a Cinderella story by going from the No. 11 seed in Conference III to the county semifinals by playing a near perfect season. Enrollment moved it and Wantagh down classifications to join Seaford, Clarke and CSH in brutally deep Nassau IV but, as Recine said "we’ve tasted the playoffs and want more." That and the Vikings’ returning experience from 2019 makes them formidable.
They are Cinderella no more. After all, she couldn’t hit like they do.