Shoreham-Wading River found itself in a steep nosedive late in Saturday’s Suffolk Division IV contest against visiting Miller Place. Someone needed to grab the stick, pull it back and get the Wildcats out of it. So Max Barone slid into the pilot’s seat.
Shoreham-Wading River was cruising with a 15-point lead late in the third quarter after scoring 21 unanswered points only to see Miller Place tie the score with a pair of long touchdowns and a two-point conversion.
That’s when Barone became the playmaker. The senior running back/safety went over the left side and broke away for an 18-yard touchdown run with 2:54 to play and then snuffed Miller Place’s bid to tie it or win by intercepting Justin Klein at the Wildcat 20 with 1:06 left. Those plays proved the difference in a 27-21 victory as Shoreham-Wading River moved to 2-0.
"Max has incredible ball-carrier vision," senior guard Anthony Giordano said. "He has great speed but his success isn’t about his speed or size. He has this vision to hit the hole at exactly the right time to break one. And (on defense) he never lets anyone get behind him."
Giordano teamed on the Shoreham-Wading River offensive line with Jake Fabian, James Provencher, Jake Fabian, Aidan Clifford and Aidan Franks to lay the foundation for the victory. Behind them, Barone carried 25 times for 134 yards and three scores and quarterback Dylan Zahn ran for 145 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Barone had touchdown runs of 3 and 28 yards before the go-ahead score and Zahn’s TD was on a 2-yard plunge.
"Our line set the tone and we followed," Barone said.
Giordano may be the smallest guy on the Wildcats’ line at 5-9 and 185 pounds, but had key blocks on three of the touchdowns. He said: "I’ve always been smallest, but it’s the fight in the dog, you know?"
Miller Place (1-1) took a 6-0 lead early on a pair of Nick Oliva field goals and then saw the Wildcats race by with 21 unanswered points in the second and third quarters on two touchdown runs by Barone and one by Zahn.
They regained their footing when Joe Spagnuolo raced to the left edge and broke off a 76-yard touchdown run. The Panthers then pinned the ’Cats deep to force a punt and Anthony Bartolotto returned it 22 yards to the SWR 28. On the next play quarterback Justin Klein hit a hole up the middle for a 28-yard TD run and when Bartolotto scored the conversion on a reverse, it was 21-21.
Zahn, in only his second varsity start, orchestrated the game-winning 80-yard drive. He rushed four times for 27 yards and completed a pair of passes for 33 more before Barone raced to the end zone for his eighth TD of the young season.
"This was a big test for Zahn, to see how he handles the pressure of a very adverse situation," Wildcats coach Aden Smith said. "This was as adverse as it could get in Week 2 and I think he rose to the challenge."
Barone said Zahn "said all the right things that leaders say" during the final drive.
"It’s on me to make sure everyone has the juice," Zahn said. "It was just keeping everyone confident and excited."