It’s not always easy being a Long Island champion. For one thing, it puts a target on a team’s back.
The Elwood/John Glenn Knights, who won their first Long Island Class IV football championship last year, know the feeling well.
“Everyone wants to knock you off,” John Glenn Coach Dave Shanahan said. “We have a saying over up by us: The wind blows a little harder at the top of the hill because everybody’s after you.”
What may be tougher, though, is to have to play a team like the Knights. The Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island Porters could talk about what that’s like.
Rich Czeczotka passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more as John Glenn won its 17th straight game at the expense of the Porters, 42-7, on Thursday at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field. The senior quarterback went 7 of 9 passing for 131 yards in the first half before he was replaced by Matt Shanerman in the second half, with the Knights holding a comfortable 35-7 lead.
The Knights (4-0 in Suffolk County Division IV) are for real. Their record over the past four years is 36-2. Their last lost was in November — of 2009. They have reached the county final the past three years. They were recognized as the top team in Suffolk last year with the awarding of the Rutgers Trophy.
“Everyone really worked hard for it,” Czeczotka said. “When we finally achieved it, that was probably the greatest feeling all of us ever experienced, and we want to do it again this year.”
They appear to have the ability to do so. Despite the loss of 17 players from last season’s team, the Knights are still loaded with talent.
“We’re definitely on a great run,” Shanahan said. “It’s all about having great kids.”
The Porters (1-4) played without their first-string halfback, Tomasz Filipkowski, who stood on the sideline in street clothes with a sprained ankle he sustained in the previous game against the Mount Sinai Mustangs. Connor Malone started in his place.
More bad news for the Porters came on the opening kickoff. Jarvis Lameek caught Chris Manwaring’s kick and ran it back 81 yards for a touchdown.
A fumble recovery by Kevin Dixon two plays later gave the Knights the ball at the Porters’ 18-yard line, setting up Czeczotka’s eight-yard pass to Nick Wagner for the second touchdown.
Czeczotka then ran in two touchdowns himself before throwing a screen pass to Mike Tufano, who turned it into a 33-yard touchdown connection. Greg Orkiszewski’s extra point after Tufano’s touchdown made it 35-0 with 4 minutes 20 seconds left in the first half.
The Porters received a one-yard run for a touchdown by Ryan Malone on a quarterback sneak 47 seconds before halftime.
A one-yard touchdown run by Nick Princiotta 3:24 into the third quarter, and Orkiszewski’s extra point finalized the scoring.
The Knights were efficient. They needed only 29 offensive plays to put up all their points. Their punter, Jake Toth, wasn’t called upon to punt until there were about 10 minutes left to play.
Four turnovers by the Porters helped. Wagner and Nick LaLota had interceptions; Dixon and Shanerman (eight tackles) each recovered a fumble.
Despite Filipkowski’s absence, the Porters’ running game didn’t do badly, consuming 165 yards. Malone had 66 rushing yards and sophomore Frank Sierra picked up 62 from a career-high nine carries.
“I had no idea about how good the [Glenn] team was,” Sierra admitted in what he said was his first interview. “I don’t know much about the teams. I just kind of play and do what Coach tells me. I saw they hit hard, but I hit just as hard.”
Porters Coach Jack Martilotta, noting that his team had at least six sophomores on the field during the game, applauded the effort of his players. “I thought they played well,” he said. “I mean, you line a sophomore up against a senior on a team that’s that good, that’s asking a lot. We know we’re asking a lot of them right now, but again, we’re building a program.”
And the Knights are trying to build a path to another Long Island championship. Shanahan said his current seniors were instrumental pieces of last year’s team, and they now want to make their own mark as 12th-graders. “They saw what the previous senior group had,” he said, “and they want to go down in John Glenn history as being another great team that won a county and a Long Island championship, so it sets the bar real high.”
With the titles comes a target. As they say at John Glenn, it gets windy at the top.