When Shoreham-Wading River and North Shore face off in the Long Island Class IV championship game on Saturday afternoon at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium, the matchup will feature two football programs with histories that are essentially polar opposites
SWR (10-1) has won four Long Island championships and this will be its sixth title game appearance in the last eight years. The Wildcats will enter the 4:30 p.m. kickoff looking to win their second consecutive title after earning a 49-7 victory over Seaford in 2019.
The football postseason did not extend beyond the county championships this past spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That was one of our themes this past Monday," Shoreham coach Aden Smith said. "Not to take this opportunity for granted because everybody doesn’t get this opportunity. Our team last season was deserving of it and [because of COVID], we didn’t get a chance to play it."
North Shore (9-2), however, has a far different level of experience in this game; this will be the first trip for the Vikings. They won their only county championship in 1975, long before the Long Island Championships began in 1992.
North Shore coach Dan Agovino said his team is prepared for the challenge.
"We’re excited to be here," he said. "This community and the alumni have been behind us 100%. We’re really excited to go out there and play for them. We’re ready to go and there’s a great buzz."
The Vikings will rely on a strong running game led by Nick La Rosa, who has 833 yards and 15 touchdowns on 103 carries this season. North Shore also features a pair of dual-threat quarterbacks in Daniel Quigley and Peter Liotta, who both have rushed for more than 600 yards.
"Nick is a tremendous athlete," Agovino said. "As a coach, he’s just fun to watch. You just give him the ball and let him do his thing or watch him block or tackle, he’s just fun to watch."
Smith emphasized Shoreham’s need to bring a high level of physicality.
"They look very big and physical," he said. "They’ve got some physical running backs, quarterbacks they use in the running game and some dominant linemen who look very aggressive, like they could present us with some challenges. I think we have to try to match that physicality."
One of the key factors for SWR will be running back Max Barone, who has rushed for 1,126 yards and 23 touchdowns.
"Coming into the season, we knew that if we had the chance last season that we probably would’ve won it again," Barone said. "We knew coming in that this could’ve been our third straight LIC. So we were all excited and knew throughout the season that we had to keep our focus and stay on task so we could defend our title."
La Rosa knows that helping North Shore win its first ever Long Island championship would be an epic experience.
"It would mean the absolute world," he said. "Our whole community is behind us. We go out to breakfast every second period and guys are always coming up to us and congratulating us and supporting us — people we don’t even know. Everyone’s behind us on this one."