The 2021 calendar year impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic brought many storylines on the high school landscape.
With fall sports in 2020 moved into 2021 and the start of winter sports delayed to January of 2021, athletes were forced to play three jampacked, truncated seasons for 37 sports in a six-month span from January through June.
The quick turnaround from winter to fall to spring sports seasons was dizzying enough in the first half of 2021. The second half of the year brought a sense of normalcy complete with Long Island and state championships.
They started with no spectators at events, to filling the bleachers by September. They played with masks for indoor sports and mask wearing was optional outdoors. Then masks, which were never required but recommended by the state during the height of the pandemic, became mandatory in December.
They played through the Delta variant and now a highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, which warranted the no mask, no play guidelines.
They played crossover games in football during the spring season which was anything but regular as the testing for the virus forced multiple postponements sending teams across the Route 110 border searching for competition.
They managed to squeeze a 2020 fall sports season in between the winter and spring seasons. Football, volleyball, field hockey and soccer played shortened schedules between April and May. And for the first time in 29 years, we had no LIC for football.
The spring season for lacrosse, baseball, track, and softball started in May and lasted through late June in beautiful weather. Long Island champions were crowned, albeit no state titles were played, but normalcy was beginning to return.
Or so we thought.
As athletes returned for the fall of 2021 the safety protocols were still enforced but large non-mask wearing crowds were in attendance. Fans flocked to fields all over Long Island and it looked like the worst of the pandemic was behind us.
And then came the variants of the virus. First it was the Delta virus and now the Omicron as the 2021 calendar year concludes. Here’s a look at the top 25 stories in high school sports in a historical 2021.
Jan. 22 — Governor Andrew Cuomo gave clearance for high-risk high school sports to begin as early as Feb. 1. High School players and coaches of basketball, wrestling, hockey, volleyball, football and lacrosse would finally get to compete in New York as long as local health departments approve. Cuomo and the New York State Department of Health allowed practice to begin Feb. 1.
Jan. 26 — Uniondale basketball star Jo-Jo Wright was tragically killed in a two-car accident. The charismatic 15-year-old sophomore was an All-Long Island selection and led Uniondale into the Nassau Class AA final, averaging 19 points, nine assists, six rebounds and three steals per game.
Feb. 28 — Northport upsets powerhouse and top ranked Brentwood, 58-56, in the boys basketball Suffolk League I championship. Brentwood featured Newsday Player of the Year Jordan Riley. Pat Healy led Northport with 19 points.
March 19 — Nassau high school football official Phil LoNigro collapsed on the field while working the East Meadow-Farmingdale football game. He was brought back from having no pulse with a defibrillator by East Meadow trainer Dan DeSimone and Farmingdale trainer Phil Fandale.
March 27 — Hansen Award winning quarterback Jack Cheshire threw for one score and ran for another as Sayville dumped Floyd, 24-0, in what many considered a crossover game for the ages. The two perennial divisional champions got together after postponements made both schools available.
April 1 — The Chaminade football team earned its first victory over St. Anthony’s since 2012. The Flyers beat St. Anthony’s to win the CHSFL Class AAA spring title in overtime, 19-13. The Flyers took that momentum into the fall of 2021 and claimed the CHSFL Class AA-1 crown.
April 10 — MacArthur kicker Alyssa Accordino set a school record for most points by a kicker in a game when she nailed seven extra points and a 32-yard field goal in a 52-20 win over Valley Stream Central. At one point, she had converted 27 extra points in a row.
April 27 — Syosset came up with a remarkable win over undefeated Massapequa to capture the Nassau Class AA girls soccer spring title. Avani Brandt, who was Newsday’s Player of the Year, scored both goals in the 2-0 win in the final. Massapequa had beaten Syosset in both regular season meetings.
June 19 — Haydin Eisfeld scored the winning goal off an assist from Mairead Kelly with 1:56 left as Bayport-Blue Point upset Manhasset, 6-5, to claim the school’s first Long Island Class C girls lacrosse championship. With no state championships to follow, the Phantoms finished the season at 17-0.
June 19 — Joey Spallina scored his sixth goal and the winner with 13 seconds remaining to lead Mount Sinai over Manhasset, 14-13, in the Long Island Class C boys lacrosse championship. Manhasset entered the game having never trailed at the end of any quarter all season. It was one of the more anticipated public-school matchups in the country.
June 21 — Newfield righty Dylan Johnson struck out 13 and allowed three hits in a 3-1 win over South Side to claim the school’s first Long Island Conference III championship.
Sept. 2 — Longwood football player Darrius Jones was killed in a car accident along with his brother Darrell after they left football practice days before the start of the season. The team played the season in his honor.
Sept. 18 — Junior wide receiver Sofia LaSpina became the first female in Long Island history to score a touchdown in a varsity football game when she caught a 4-yard pass from Peter Mayo in Mepham’s 49-21 win over Roslyn. She had three receptions for 45 yards.
Nov. 4 — Garden City coach David Ettinger decided to sit out a conference football game against Elmont after receiving a written warning for violating Nassau’s sportsmanship rule designed to prevent teams from running up the score. Ettinger, who needed to avoid breaking the rule almost every week because his team severely outclassed the competition, enjoyed another 12-0 season, LI Class II title and the Rutgers Trophy presented to Nassau’s top team.
Nov. 13 — St. Anthony’s won the school’s fourth straight state CHSAA girls soccer championship with a 3-0 win over St. Mary’s-Lancaster. They’ve won 35 straight games, including a 20-0 record this season.
Nov. 14 — The senior midfielder/forward Lia Howard sets the Massapequa girls soccer single-season assists record with 29 when she setup Gianna Savella's goal in a 3-0 win over Shenendehowa in the state Class AA final. She led Massapequa to a 20-0-1 record and graduated with a program-record 50 assists.
Nov. 14 — Northport won its first state Class A field hockey title with a 1-0 win over Shenendehowa. The Tigers capped a 21-0 season and extended their winning streak to 32 games, outscoring opponents, 109-6. Just seven months earlier in the COVID-altered winter season of 2020, played in 2021, the Tigers won the Long Island Class A crown.
Nov. 14 — West Islip won its first state Class AA boys soccer title with a 5-0 victory over Hilton. In seven postseason games the Lions outscored opponents, 25-5. West Islip also won its first Suffolk crown in 48 years.
Nov. 20 — The Whitman football team defeated two-time champion Floyd, 42-7, to win the Suffolk Division I crown. The Wildcats finished 11-1 to win the school’s first Suffolk title in 37 years. A week later, Whitman’s first shot at an LIC came up short when Massapequa’s Alex Chillemi drilled a 20-yard field goal as time expired for a 38-35 win. It was Massapequa’s first LIC win since 1994.
Nov. 20 — Eastport-South Manor completes 18-0 season with a 3-0 win over Spencerport in the state Division II boys volleyball championship at Albany Capital Center. The Sharks dropped one set all season and extended their overall winning streak to 25 matches.
Nov. 20 — The Sacred Heart girls swim team, led by Cavan Gormsen and Tess Howley, cleaned up at the state championships. Gormsen set state records in the 200-yard freestyle and 500 freestyle and Howley set state records in the 100 butterfly and 100 backstroke. The 400-freestyle relay team of Gormsen, Howley, Catherine Dean and Makayla Pearce set a state record in their victory.
Nov. 27 — Garden City beats Bellport, 14-6, to capture the Long Island Class II football championship. The Trojans led by Thorp Award winner Jack Cascadden, also claimed the first-ever spring title. The team won an unprecedented 20 football games in eight months.
Nov. 27 — North Shore beat Shoreham-Wading River, 7-0, to capture the school’s first Long Island Class IV football title. The Vikings had earned their first Nassau crown since 1975.
Dec. 17 — Rich Castellano became the first girls’ basketball coach on Long Island to win 700 games. The 42-year Northport coach reached the milestone following a 74-51 victory over Newfield.
Dec. 20 — Hewlett point guard Riley Weiss started 2021 by averaging 40.8 points per game in her five-game season as a sophomore, which had never been done in Long Island history. She’s off to a fast start as a junior this winter. She scored 55 points against Bellmore JFK and 53 points against Lindenhurst this month.