The early weeks of Smithtown East’s football season had been nothing but insult followed by injury. On Saturday, Tyler Pohlman, Kevin Melore and the Bulls’ physical line might have changed the theme.
The insult came first when Smithtown East got tagged with the 12th seed out of 14 in Suffolk Division II after going 6-3 last season. The injury came in the opener — a double-overtime loss to Newfield — when the Bulls' Dean Shaffer was lost for the season to a broken wrist. Then came Saturday when Smithtown East looked like it might be more than capable in a 27-7 win over host Deer Park.
Pohlman, a junior who was given the daunting task of filling Shaffer’s role in the backfield, carried 20 times for 153 yards and touchdown runs of 17 and 19 yards in the first half. Quarterback Melore was 14-for-32 passing for 198 yards. They operated behind a line led by Nick Lardaro and Jared Borner that opened holes on both sides.
Nick Kaires added a 2-yard TD run and Anthony Weidtman kicked field goals of 42 and 34 yards. Joe Saccone had two of the Bulls’ four interceptions, and Thomas Connor and Lardaro each had a pair of sacks with Smithtown East (1-1) totaling seven on the day.
Matthew Jacob was 11-for-25 passing for 273 yards including an 85-yard TD strike to Ethan Martinez in the fourth quarter for the Falcons (1-1).
“Losing a player like Dean can be devastating to a team because he’s the whole package. It’s why he’s going to Yale for football,” Bulls coach Stephen Costello said. “Our guys took a ‘next man up’ attitude and Dean has been like another coach on our team in the way he shares his know-how.”
While Smithtown East is trying to make up for the loss of Shaffer by getting a little more from a lot of people, Pohlman had to step directly into his shoes on offense. Pohlman's 17-yard TD made it 7-0 in the first quarter and his 19-yarder made it 17-0 in the middle of the second.
“It was frightening at first to be honest,” said Pohlman, who had six rushing TDs last season in a reserve role. “But here was our entire team dealing with something heartbreaking. I decided I’d have to step up for all of us. And today, our line made holes all over for us to run through.”
The Bulls have a No. 12 on the backs of their practice jerseys to signify their seeding this season and to serve as a constant reminder. Now Melore sees another reason for everyone to pick up their game.
“[Pohlman] has done great, but we all have a little more to shoulder,” he said. “Getting the 12? Losing Dean? I’m trying to do more in every game this season. I think you saw a lot of us do that today.”