Robin Rosa let the Gatorade bath soak in. He took all of it with a big smile. The Whitman football team had just won the Suffolk Division I football title with a thorough 42-7 win over Floyd at Stony Brook University.
Whitman had finished an undefeated Suffolk season with 11 straight wins and was on its way to the school’s first Long Island Class I title game.
They would lose in heartbreaking fashion in the Class I championship when Massapequa’s Alex Chillemi kicked a 20-yard field goal as time expired for a 38-35 win.
The kick denied Whitman its first Class I title but did not diminish a fantastic season.
"I have to tell you what I loved most about our season was the way our program inspired and excited our community," Rosa said. "We had former players from our championship teams from as far back as 1974 and 1984 come back and talk to our players. There was so much support from alumni, community, and school. It seemed to bridge everyone together. It was beautiful."
Whitman finished 11-1 and earned its first Suffolk title in 37 years. For the Wildcats success they garnered the coveted Rutgers Trophy presented to Suffolk’s top team at the Suffolk County Football Coaches Association banquet Monday night at the Hyatt Regency in Hauppauge.
Whitman grabbed 38 first-place votes and 130 total points. Bellport, the Suffolk Division II champion, finished second in the voting with two first-place votes and 60 points. East Islip, the Division III champion, was third with three first-place votes and 55 points. Shoreham-Wading River, the Division IV champion, had two first-place votes and 14 points.
The last time Whitman hoisted the Rutgers Trophy came in 1974, 47 years ago.
"It’s pretty cool, we had alumni from all over the country at the Suffolk finals and the LIC," Rosa said. "There had to be at least 60 former players from the ’74 and ’84 teams alone. That tells you what this run did for this community and for the district. We had a surprise pep rally and 5 and 6-year-olds drawing up signs and wishing us well."
Whitman wide receiver Rasahn Thompson promised this team would deliver a title and a Rutgers Trophy after an overtime loss to Floyd in the spring 2021 final.
"They focused on one goal, one family and made it happen," Rosa said. "It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work by our coaching staff and players. I was blessed to be a part of something special with wonderful people. And it’s a crowning accomplishment in my career, something I’ll never forget."