02/26/15 2:00pm
02/26/2015 2:00 PM
The view inside Times Union Center for the 2013 state tournament. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

The view inside Times Union Center for the 2013 state tournament. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister, file)

Right around the time I spotted a condom on the bathroom floor of my shady motel room, I began to seriously question the wisdom behind driving to Albany in a snowstorm.

This couldn’t possibly be worth it, I thought.

It was February 2010. For the fourth straight year, I was bound for the New York State Wrestling Championships, a dizzying two-day marathon of hundreds of matches contested across eight mats on the Times Union Center floor.  (more…)

07/09/14 7:00pm
07/09/2014 7:00 PM
Riverhead Tomcats outfielder Andrew Plunkett slides into third as North Fork Osprey Penn Murfee tries to apply the tag. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Riverhead Tomcats outfielder Andrew Plunkett slides into third as North Fork Osprey Penn Murfee tries to apply the tag. (Credit: Bill Landon)

The “Oh, wow” moment happens every year.

Around the middle of June, when the high school sports season winds down, I shift gears toward the Hamptons Collegiate Baseball League to help fill the sports pages along with high school summer leagues, features and columns. Inevitably, when I head down to the field for the first time each summer, I know I’m about to watch college players, several of whom come from big-time programs. (more…)

09/25/13 8:00am
09/25/2013 8:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO  |  Mattituck sophomore Mario Arreola and the Tuckers take on Livonia today in the Class B state semifinals at Middletown High School.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mario Arreola helped lead Mattituck past Center Moriches last year in the county finals. The teams first played for a title in 1937.

Mattituck vs. Center Moriches.

North Fork vs. South Shore.

The best of Suffolk County Class B boys soccer.

There are few other high school soccer rivalries on Long Island that match the intensity these two teams put on the field.

While some other schools might argue that their rivalry is more fierce, one thing is certain — no other soccer rivalry goes back some 76 years and still resonates today.

In fact, on Nov. 12, 1937, Mattituck defeated Center Moriches, 1-0, at Eastport High School to capture the Suffolk County Interscholastic soccer title. It was the first year the Tuckers fielded a competitive team, directed by the legendary coach Robert Muir, for whom the school’s athletic fields are named.

According to the Long Island Traveler, those two schools “put up one of the hardest-fought games ever to be witnessed in the county.”

How appropriate that it was hotly contested because many, if not all, Mattituck-Center Moriches confrontations seem to be that way today.

The rivalry renews this afternoon with Round 1 at Center Moriches High School at 4:30 p.m.

“They always play us hard,” Mattituck senior goalkeeper Steve Ostrowski said after he and Ben Knowles backstopped the Tuckers to a 5-0 league win over Wyandanch Monday. “You know it’s going to be a one-goal game. You know it’s not going to be a soccer game.

“When we play Center Moriches, it turns into like this weird form, whatever goes.”

Mattituck (5-1-0, 4-0-0 League VII) entered the game ranked third among Class B schools by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Center Moriches (4-0-1, 2-0-1 League VII) defeated Babylon Monday, 5-1, (Jake Sweeney had two goals) and is ranked 11th in the state.

Regardless of where the schools are ranked, there will always be a rivalry.

“I don’t care if Mattituck or Center Moriches is a fourth- or fifth-place team or the first- or second-place team,” Center Moriches coach Chris O’Brien said. “It’s always a big game because it’s a rivalry game. We haven’t beaten them in the county playoffs in three years. The last time we did was ’09 and we wound up winning the whole thing. We won the state championship that year. It would be nice to get back there with this group.

“But you’ve got a lot of steps before that. You’ve got to get into the playoffs first. You’ve got to play well enough during the season and they’ve got to play well in the playoffs before you see them. And of course, you’ve got to finish the deal. Until somebody takes the championship away from them, they’re still the champs.”

Center Moriches junior forward and co-captain Anthony Parlato realized that all roads to New York State glory go through Mattituck. He said that beating the Tuckers “would mean so much,” to him. “It would mean a lot to the school, too,” he added.

In last year’s Class B final, Mattituck, despite playing a man down after right back Walter Jacob was red-carded, overcame its rivals, 4-2.

“It’s something that Mattituck soccer has been based on,” Mattituck coach Mat Litchhult said. “That rivalry just feeds soccer in the East End. It used to be Mattituck, Southold and Center Moriches when I was growing up. That’s kind of died down a little bit. A lot of the guys know each other on the North Fork. We’re not in the same league, we’re not in the same classification any more. Center’s always been there, always in our league, always in our class, so it was always some little extra juice to the match.”

Apparently there was some juice in that first championship game. A Mattituck player by the name of Repczynski, a left wing (no first name given), scored the lone goal into the center of the net late in the first period (it was not known whether the game was divided by quarters or halves).

According to the Traveler, Center Moriches had difficulties penetrating the goal area due to defenders Danowski and Bialeski. Goalkeeper Jazombek made only one save.

“A large crowd and bands from both schools gave the necessary color to the playoff contest,” the Traveler reported.

So whatever passion there was then has been brought forward some 76 years.

“I love beating Center Moriches,” Ostrowski said. “I don’t know. It’s all about the history. It’s just so intense when you meet Center.”

07/27/12 7:00am
07/27/2012 7:00 AM

The most important thing to remember when preparing for a fantasy Olympics draft is never to let patriotism get in the way.

OK, let’s back up a second. I know what you’re thinking. A fantasy what? Olympics?

With as much time as men (and women) spend in fantasy football, baseball, basketball and hockey leagues, is it really necessary to make up a fantasy Olympics league?

The answer is yes. It is.

Allow me to explain.

I got the idea before the 2010 Vancouver Games. I’m sure I wasn’t the first person ever to organize fantasy Olympics, but it’s not like you can just log on to cbssports.com and join a league. This required grunt work. Old school style. The league needed to be built by hand, from the bottom.

First task was to figure out what the rosters would look like. The good thing about the Winter Games is there are far fewer sports and events than in the Summer Games. So it was easy to craft a roster that in some way encompassed each sport. The scoring system was simple: five points for a gold, three for a silver, one for a bronze. In team sports, points were doubled, the logic there being that individuals can medal in multiple events, whereas a team like hockey can only potentially grab one medal.

So I got together with seven friends in February 2010 and we sat around drafting athletes like the Linger Brothers (luge), Kim Yu-Na (figure skating) and Petter Northug (cross-country skier). We had no idea who 99 percent of the athletes were we drafted. But it didn’t matter.

We never laughed more or had more fun doing a fantasy draft. And the Olympics were never more intriguing. We found ourselves glued to our TVs and computer screens following all the action. The England men’s curling team gave me more agita than the Mets have in years. I hung on to every move in Yu-Na’s gold-medal figure-skating routine like an anxious, proud parent.

I ended up winning the league when the Canadian men’s hockey team won the gold medal to cap off the games. Our league nearly came down to the gold medal hockey game determining our champion. But I had just enough points so that a silver medal for Canada would still clinch the victory, so I was able to allow myself to root for the U.S.

As the Winter Olympics ended, the countdown toward the Summer Games began.

Monday night, armed with Sports Illustrateds, newspapers and iPads, we gathered for our first-ever fantasy Summer Olympics draft.

We picked 12-person rosters consisting of two swimmers, two track athletes, two gymnasts, a canoer/kayaker, a beach volleyball team, a water polo team, a basketball team and a flex, which could be someone in any other sport.

The draft order was determined by picking names out of a hat. In many ways, this was the most crucial part of the draft. The top two picks were slam-dunks: swimming sensations Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte, both of whom are practically guaranteed a bevy of medals.

Unfortunately for me, I got stuck with the fourth pick. So I grabbed U.S. gymnast Jordyn Wieber, a favorite to win gold in the all-around as well as a team gold. It was a risky pick for the first round. I could have gone with a sure bet like the U.S. men’s or women’s basketball team. But I liked the idea of an individual first.

For the second round I stuck with the Americans and drafted Rebecca Soni, a swimmer who’s favored in both the 100- and 200-meter breaststroke. A three-time Olympic medalist, Soni is poised for a breakout Olympics.

And now back to my original point. Don’t let patriotism cloud your vision. If you want to draft all Americans, feel free. But don’t expect to emerge victorious.

As the draft evolved, I ended up taking only two more Americans: gymnast Gabby Douglas and track star Sanya Richards-Ross (who’s married to former New York Giant Aaron Ross).

I eventually made a move toward the Down Under, picking up both the Australian women’s water polo and basketball teams (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write). Both could end up facing the U.S. for gold. For my tennis player I went with the hometown hero, Andy Murray.

My fourth overall pick went to the Brazilian beach volleyball team of Larissa Franca and Juliana Silva. And if you wanted to leave this column now to Google image search their names, I wouldn’t blame you.

The tricky part of these drafts is pronouncing many of the names.

“We’ll take Liu Xiang,” my friend Pat hesitantly said at one point, unsure if anyone had already taken the 110-meter hurdler.

“No, I took Sun Yang,” Sean quickly replied.

Later in the draft Pat and his brother Ken selected Chinese gymnast Yang Wei.

“He’s 5-foot-3, 120 pounds and pure heart,” Pat told us.

All true. The only problem they later realized, Wei retired in 2009. Whoops.

Late in the final rounds, Ken tried picking a gymnast who had already been taken in the first round.

“Is this guy available — Ley-Bron James?” Grant said, mocking them.

That’s like trying to select Drew Brees at the end of a football draft, Grant added.

My final pick was for my flex position — meaning I could take just about anyone.

I settled on Im Dong-hyun, South Korean archer extraordinaire. With a name like that, how can you go wrong?

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