When one contemplates what goes into a team championship, most people think about aspects such as practices, film sessions and weight lifting, among others.
But for the Shoreham-Wading River football team, it might also include a small gathering held every Wednesday night during the football season at the home of quarterback Xavier Arline.
Ever since Arline’s sophomore season, his family has hosted members of the Wildcats’ offensive line for a mid-week feast. Arline’s mom, Jennifer, would pick up penne alla vodka, meatballs, two dozen garlic knots, and then make a pasta of her own. The suggestion for the weekly gathering came from Arline’s dad, John. This season, the usual guests were left tackle Jeffrey Lachenmeyer, left guard Matt Zahn, center James LaValle, right guard Jake Ekert, right tackle Dylan Blanco and tight end Jake Wilson.
“Those guys might be underrated, but not by me,” Arline said. “When one looks at our team they see our skill players, but it’s those guys that help us do our thing.”
When it comes to doing their thing in Shoreham-Wading River, that usually equates to victories, and in some cases, titles. The Wildcats won their fourth Long Island crown in the last six years after a 49-7 victory against Seaford on Nov. 30 in the Long Island Class IV championship at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“Once we hit the playoffs,” Arline said, “we had a lot of momentum and kept rolling.”
Few rolled better than Arline. The Hansen Award finalist rushed 229 times for 2,319 yards and 41 touchdowns. He also passed for 1,237 yards, 11 touchdowns, and completed 58 percent of his passes for SWR (11-1).
But the Wildcats faced more than their share of adversity, including a 35-21 loss against Mount Sinai in Week 5.
“I definitely think that was our turning point,” said Zahn, a senior two-way lineman. ”Everybody came in on Monday with a different mentality. We were really humbled.”
The Wildcats came together, rallied and surrendered just 55 points in their final seven games, including a 35-14 win on Nov. 24 against Mount Sinai in the Suffolk Division IV title game.
“When we were getting ready for Seaford,” Arline said, “a lot of guys realized they weren’t going to put the pads on again.”
Now that the season is over, there will be no more mid-week dinners at the Arline residence. Zahn added that the delicious food at the Arlines’ was always the same the past three years. Why?
“Xavier is superstitious,” Zahn said. “Someone once tried to get the menu changed, but Xavier shot that down.”
Arline agreed. He also was reflective when asked about his final season at Shoreham.
“This means the world to me,” Arline said. “This isn’t just for all the guys I’ve played with -- but so many others who have dedicated so much to the program. . . . This was such a special run, and to do it as a senior, to go out with the guys I love, it’s extra special.”
Road to the Championship
Center Moriches, 54-7
Bayport-Blue Point, 40-14
Mt. Sinai, 35-14