Even though their Cinderella story run came up one win short, senior quarterback Andrew Belli and his Ward Melville teammates aren’t feeling sorry for themselves.
The Patriots rode an incredible playoff run to the Long Island Class I football championship game but suffered a 42-20 loss to Farmingdale on Saturday at Stony Brook University.
“This run was the most enjoyable experience of my life,” Belli said. “It hurts to lose today, but I’m still proud of our team and everything we accomplished. It was a magical season.”
It didn’t matter what the score was, Ward Melville was going to leave it all out on the field.
Trailing 21-7 in the second quarter, Belli rolled to his right and found Trevor Murray for 14 yards on fourth down to set up the Patriots at Farmingdale’s 11-yard line.
Nick Gaffney followed that with an 11-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 21-14. Belli also threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Brody Morgan and rushed for a 1-yard TD.
“We had a tremendous group of kids,” coach Chris Boltrek said. “We had our ups and downs during the regular season, but they really turned it on in the playoffs and reached their potential. They just came together at the right time.”
Nobody expected Ward Melville to make it this far. The Patriots were counted out ahead of their Suffolk division semifinal game against Floyd, which they won, 14-7.
“The kids sort of realized what they were capable of during the semifinal win against Floyd,” Boltrek said. “I think we’ve had that potential all season and it took them really pushing themselves to the limit against a very good William Floyd team for them to kind of have that moment where it all comes together.”
“Beating Floyd told us that we had what it takes to win a county title and to play in the LIC,” Belli added. “That completely shifted the momentum of the team.”
Ward Melville beat Longwood, 34-19, to win its third Suffolk title and first in 35 years. Saturday marked Ward Melville’s first trip to the Long Island Championships.
Although this season ended on a sour note, Ward Melville (8-4) proved it’s ready to take the next step. The Patriots have had success in recent years, but now the focus is bringing home their first Long Island title.
“Any time you have success, it’s going to help build your program, but I think there’s also this misconception that we haven’t been very good,” Boltrek said. “We went to the county championship in 2016 and 2018. We make the playoffs every year. Obviously, this is the best we’ve been, but at the same time, I think we’ve built a pretty good product over the past several seasons.”