The Sluka name comes with more than a little gravitas in football circles on Long Island. It gained that a few years ago while Matt Sluka was earning back-to-back Newsday All-Long Island selections and leading Kellenberg to 22 straight wins and a pair of CHSFL AA championships.
Well, now it’s Thomas Sluka’s turn at the helm of the Firebirds and, based on the way he’s played in this truncated season, the surname isn’t going to suffer.
The senior quarterback rushed for 91 yards and a pair of touchdowns and was 4-for-7 passing for 90 yards and another score as Kellenberg scored the first 27 points of their CHSFL game against St. John the Baptist and proceeded to roll to a 41-14 victory at Mitchel Field on Thursday.
Sluka, the third of four brothers, ran 16 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, 8 yards for another score and thew a 62-yard touchdown pass to Maximus Mongelli.
Behind a line headed by Thomas Ort, Will Ligarzewski, Jake Binkley, Tim Shaw, Agostino Baltas and Bryan Walker, Sluka had an excellent foil in running back Griffin Chernoff. The senior went inside and outside to roll up 172 yards on 18 carries and score a pair of touchdowns. His TDs were on runs of 54 and 4 yards and came in his first full game back from a calf injury.
"We have the best line in the league to work behind," Chernoff said. "And we have a great leader in Thomas, who everyone looks up to. It makes for a good team."
Mark Anthony Scott rushed for 80 yards on 20 carries, Jayden Louis ran for 60 yards and a score and Kyle Chase had a TD run for St. John the Baptist (2-1). The Cougars also got a blocked punt from Patrick Maloney and fumble recoveries from Elijah Alvarez, Randolph Ramnarace and John Chille.
Sluka’s confidence makes him look very comfortable in what some might not find a comfortable situation. He’s not only had to live up to the name, but he’s had to find a balance with his backup, explosive junior Ethan Greenwood.
Greenwood is a little behind the rest of the football team because he played basketball, but looked excellent when he got into the game. He carried four times for 58 yards and completed a 15-yard pass. "You look at all that raw talent in Ethan and you know that if he were playing every down, he’d be tearing people apart," Kellenberg coach Kevin Hanifan said. "But Thomas is a true leader and what we need right now as a starting quarterback. Ethan will step in come the fall."
"I like the role I am in and I don’t mind the weight of my name because it’s a good kind of pressure and it means I have a brother in Matt who I can look to for guidance," Sluka said. "I actually like that we have both me and Ethan taking snaps. We have different looks. I’m a downhill runner. He’s quick to the edge."
"This season we make for a good combination," Sluka added. "Next season, just look at how he runs and throws, he’ll be a problem for every team Kellenberg plays."