LI Pulse: Stony Brook Football

September 1, 2009

LI Pulse magazine September 2009 Stony Brook football

Title: Run Hard, Sell Hard: Stony Brook football hopes to win games and fans behind a pair of dynamic runners
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: September 2009
Start Page: 51
Word Count: 1038

Conte Cuttino and Ed Gowins cut intimidating figures without ever strapping on a pair of shoulder pads. The running backs possess a stat sheet that should be the talk of the nation. Their presence in the same backfield is something to behold.

There is nothing subtle about Gowins, from the tattoos landscaping his massive arms to the oversized diamond earring, emitting a sparkle as blinding as any sunset. Just imagine how the former Bellport High School star plays. It’s in-your-face power running for four quarters.

“They feel [me],’’ said Gowins, who was named National Freshman of the Year by College Sporting News. “That’s one of the things I like to do. When I see someone in front of me, I run them over. The second time they’ll think twice about trying to tackle me.”

So why is this dynamic duo getting so little attention? The truth is the foundation of Stony Brook University football might as well have been built on swampland. Sales jobs don’t get much harder.

College football may reign supreme in Los Angeles and Omaha—and every burg south of the Mason Dixon. But in the tri-state area, and Long Island in particular, the sport garners about as much respect as soap box racing.

And that’s understandable. Stony Brook finished 2008 with a losing record. The Seawolves have never won a postseason game in 25 years of existence. They have never even beaten big brother Hofstra, another small fish in the sea that is New York sports.

It’s all part of a muddied past, one whose narrative arc has been on a steady ascent.

The expectations are starting to simmer. For the first time, Stony Brook is a fully-funded, 63-scholarship program—on par with the rest of the Football Championship Subdivision (the oversized and overly confusing name of what was formerly known as NCAA Division I-AA football).

Stony Brook enters its second year in the competitive Big South Conference. And with the most dangerous running back tandem in college football, the program has created some insider buzz. With Cuttino and Gowins plowing through opposing defenses this fall, Stony Brook could be on the verge of a breakthrough season.

“I just let them play,’’ third-year coach Chuck Priore said. “I tell them all the time, ‘Just go play. If you both do your role as football players, then good things will happen to you.’ They are both talented enough.”

The team started 2008 off 1-5 and scored all of 10 points over three consecutive games, the last a 33-0 domination by nationally-ranked Liberty. Then Priore unleashed Cuttino and Gowins in the second half of last season with record-breaking results.

It turned on October 19, a 20-19 home win over Charleston Southern. Cuttino racked up his biggest performance to date with 107 rushing yards and redshirt freshman quarterback Dayne Hoffman tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass with 1:06 left. Gowins broke big runs on the winning drive.

“It probably took a little time to get things going,’’ said Cuttino, a senior from Uniondale. “Eddie and I were able to get things done at the end in a big way.”

Stony Brook won four of its final five games to finish in a second-place tie in the Big South Conference. And the Seawolves transformed from a sputtering offense to an unstoppable ground attack.

“Once we were able to settle in on a plan and mature as an offense, Conte and Eddie’s performances helped catapult us to success,’’ Priore said. “We were able to put things together, and those two kids the second half of the year were very impressive.’’

On November 9, the Seawolves cranked out 635 yards on the ground in a steady downpour to pound host Iona, 68-9. Gowins ran for 278 yards and three touchdowns while Cuttino had 205 yards and three scores. The Football Championship Subdivision team record for rushing yards in a game is 681 by Missouri State in 1988.

It was a banner day for Stony Brook. Coincidental or not, Iona announced 12 days later it was dropping its 42-year-old football program altogether.

The Seawolves closed the season one week later with another rout, a 40-26 win over Virginia Military Institute. Stony Brook totalled 622 yards of offense, paced by Gowins (250 yards and three touchdowns) and Cuttino (234 yards).

Gowins amassed 713 yards and eight touchdowns over the final three games, an avalanche of offense. His 1,310 yards set the school’s single-season rushing record and earned Gowins national recognition. Cuttino, who became Stony Brook’s all-time rushing leader with 2,807 career yards, finished fourth in the conference in rushing (1,243 yards) and was named an All-Big South second-teamer.

“We complement each other in a big way,’’ the shifty Cuttino said. “Eddie has bulk but is deceiving because he has speed. As far as teams trying to game plan against us—it’s hard. We can do many of the same things. He has a bigger body, a bigger frame. But it doesn’t matter who is in the backfield. Coach doesn’t have a problem with Eddie going outside or with me running inside.”

Gowins spent a year in prep school before returning home to play at Stony Brook. His first collegiate carry went for a 22-yard touchdown. Paired with the equally electric Cuttino, who knows what the two can accomplish with another year of experience.

Priore must replace both receivers and two linemen. And Hoffman suffered through growing pains at quarterback a year ago. The Seawolves (5-6 overall, 3-2 Big South) are picked to finish second behind two-time champ Liberty in the Big South.

But the schedule is unforgiving, with September games against defending Patriot League champ Colgate and Ivy League winner Brown. The Seawolves open the season September 5 at Hofstra. Even though Stony Brook is 0-12 lifetime against its cross-Island rival, at least the game is local. Seven of the team’s first ten games are on the road.

“Execute our game plan and we have the potential to win the conference,’’ Cuttino said. “We need to stay focused and do our job.”

Stony Brook football is a tough sell. But Cuttino and Gowins offer a persuasive argument. Getting the players to believe is an important first step on the road to better days.

LI Pulse: Fishing Montauk

August 1, 2009

 August 2009 issue of LI Pulse magazine.

Title: Fishing Mecca; World-class fishing awaits in Montauk
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: August 2009
Start Page: 52
Word Count: 992

A murky shadow at first, Kevin Faulkner’s eyes grew the size of dinner plates as the creature materialized into view. The mere sight of a great white shark inspires fear and awe and is equal to its myth. A monster seemingly as big as the 26-foot boat circled just beneath the surface in the waters off Block Island.

Just as quickly, it was gone.

“It was a surreal experience,’’ Faulkner said. “There was a lot of jumping around by me. Definitely the biggest thing I’ve seen in the water. I’m not scared of the water. But if this thing swam up to you, you’d die of fright.’’

While Faulkner didn’t hook the legendary shark, its mere presence is why Montauk is known as a world-class fishing destination. And it’s why Faulkner sits in traffic nearly four hours simply to experience the magic that is Montauk.

The 38-year-old contractor from the Poughkeepsie suburb of Dover Plains could sail out of any harbor along the Hudson River or Long Island Sound. Yet he suffers the stop-and-go trek through the Bronx, over the Throgs Neck Bridge, along the Long Island Expressway to the traffic-choked villages of the South Fork. The view along the way melds from concrete jungle into Pine Barrens, and finally rolling hills and beach dunes known sparely as The End.

The rich and famous transformed Southampton and East Hampton into destinations for the jet set. Montauk is less pretentious than its neighbors to the west, a laid back beach resort at its core. Surfers and families flock to the white sand and roiling surf. But it has long been known as a fishing Mecca, luring hardcore anglers such as Faulkner.

“I’d drive eight hours to get there,’’ Faulkner said. “Montauk is a very unique place. I’ve fished a lot of places with a lot of people. It’s pretty much unanimous. There’s nothing like Montauk. We’re just lucky it’s here.”

The waters surrounding Montauk yield spectacular fishing year round and offer something for everyone. There’s Zen-like surfcasting along the rocky shoreline guarded by the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Charter a boat to hunt sharks in the open ocean. Or come as you are and hop on a party boat for six hours of guilt-free fishing in the rips (turbulent currents) just offshore.

While it’s not equal to Key West or Oahu or San Diego in its diversity, migrating fish populations make Montauk a veritable feast of fluke, flounder, striped bass, sea bass, bluefish, tuna and yes, sharks of every stripe.

Frank Mundus put the East End village on the sport fishing short list for adventurers in 1951 when he harpooned a reported 16-foot, 4,500-pound great white. It was a feat that inspired the character Quint in the novel and film Jaws, which spawned a cultural phenomenon.

But great white sharks are the white whale of Montauk fishing, more salty story than everyday occurrence. Still, the legend is grounded in fact. The 17th annual Mako/Thresher Mania Tournament, which begins August 6, highlights Montauk’s connection to monster fishing.

“I think it’s reputation for shark is well deserved,’’ said Lee Ellis, 39, who lives and works in East Hampton when he’s not out on his boat “T-Bone” off Montauk. “There’s been a lot of shark hunted out of there. It’s a great place for a person to go out and get the biggest fish of their lives. Shark fishing is a great adrenaline sport.’’

Yet the region’s real rep is built on an army of weekend anglers intent on landing plentiful—and feisty— striped bass and blues.

“During the summer time, we get a lot of tourists in Montauk,’’ Capt. Carl Fosberg said before taking out the “Viking Starship” for a summer night fishing trip in search of bluefish and striped bass. “There are a lot of first-timers. It’s family-friendly and fun fishing. We supply them with everything they need. We make sure they enjoy themselves. It’s about getting the kids fishing.’’

A memory that sticks in his mind is the frigid conditions of a March fishing trip 60 miles offshore. A 9-year-old boy was one of the few anglers undeterred by the weather.

“It was really cold. The kid was die-hard,’’ Fosberg recalled. “He would not leave the rail. He was fishing the whole time. And he ended up catching the biggest fish on the boat.’’

A 25-pound tilefish was the prize that day.

“When you see a kid smile—so proud of himself—it’s a nice moment because you know that kid’s going to be hooked into fishing for the rest of his life,’’ Fosberg added.

It begins at one of the marinas dotting Lake Montauk, which spills almost directly into the Atlantic. Most boaters make a beeline east of the lighthouse, setting up between the mainland and Block Island.

Try night fishing from August into September. The Viking Fleet (, which features an $85 trip from 7pm to 1am, is the best bet. Bring a sweater because it can get cool. Sunsets are intense and there’s nothing like a full moon on the water. It will be an unforgettable experience either way.

“That’s what makes fishing so great,’’ Ellis said. “It is something different for everybody.”

Guide Bill Wetzel, a veteran surfcaster, said the fishing is the best he’s seen in the last decade. The ample rain and east winds have been a surf fisherman’s dream. And with 50 miles of sandy beach and rocky shoreline to roam, getting a line in the water is simple.

“Anybody can get started,” said Wetzel, who likes August best. “All you need is a rod and waders.”

There aren’t as many boats on the water this summer. One of the unexpected bonuses of a sour economy, say regulars. It’s also been great fishing so far. If you can stomach the slow crawl along Route 27, The End will reward your patience. From land or sea, Montauk offers world-class fun for every angler. And that’s no fish tale.

LI Pulse: The Cheap Seats

June 1, 2009

LI Pulse magazine June 2009 Minor League Baseball

Title: The Cheap Seats; Can’t afford tickets to see the Yankees or Mets? Try a minor league game instead
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: June 2009
Start Page: 48
Word Count: 1,167

So you couldn’t afford those $55,000 seats the New York Mets were offering up at newly minted Citi Field. Well, even Bernie Madoff had to eventually turn his—and himself—in. Speaking of rip-off artists, the $5 bottled water at the reincarnated Yankee Stadium ain’t much better.

And let’s not get into how much the Yankees ponied up for three free agents this offseason. For the record, slugger Mark Teixeira and pitchers C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett netted a combined $420 million. Ka-ching!

Then there is the eww factor. A-Rod’s steroid scandal. Roger Clemens’ petulance in denying ever using performance enhancers. A-Rod’s messy divorce. The Mets refusing to drop the toxic naming rights deal with bailout boy Citigroup. A-Rod’s twisted fling with Madonna. We love to hate A-Rod. The list goes on.
Yet there is an alternative universe where the grass is just as green, the crowds manageable, prices downright cheap and the outrageous acts are choreographed. We’re talking minor league baseball, of course, where the boys of summer never grew up.

The Mets and Yankees ensured New York remained a minor league dead zone for decades. Then in 2000 came the independent Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League, along with New York-Penn League franchises in Brooklyn and Staten Island. In fact, 18 minor league teams lie within a four-hour drive of Long Island.

Each has parks filled with character and teams populated by characters. Where else can you see rising stars and venerable veterans take hacks from just five rows away? Views of the Coney Island boardwalk and the New York City skyline—from Brooklyn and Staten Island, respectively—are breathtaking. And the promotions—from the sensible all-you-can-eat plan in Staten Island to regular fireworks displays courtesy of Grucci after Ducks games and the Lamaze-inducing “salute to pregnancy” night in Brooklyn—offer something for everyone.

The money you spend on gas will be more than offset by the price of admission. And the experience? Priceless. Road trip anyone? Start with these three local gems:

Long Island Ducks

Where: Citibank Park (seats 6,002) in Central Islip.
When: 70 home dates, April-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $10.
The Skinny: Baseball might lay claim as America’s pastime, but for cash-strapped Long Islanders, the Ducks offer an affordable alternative to the pinstriped barons in Flushing and the Bronx. Despite having appeared in just one championship series since the team’s inception in 2000, the Ducks have consistently been one of the top draws in the minors. Citibank Park may have an unfortunate name, but it’s easy accessibility and great sight lines make it family-friendly. For the more adventuresome, go see the Ducks in Bridgeport. The Port Jefferson Ferry docks next to the ballpark of the rival Bluefish. The caliber of play in the Atlantic League is generally considered somewhere between Double- and Triple-A. But you never know what will happen, such as the August 2007 day when former All-Star Jose Offerman charged the mound and attacked the pitcher with his bat. Offerman was banned from the league, but former Mets great with an occasional bloated ego Gary Carter has signed on as the new Ducks manager.
Player Watch: Follow Ducks outfielder Preston Wilson, 34, as he tries to work his way back to the bigs. The former Met farmhand and stepson of New York icon Mookie Wilson slammed 36 homers for the Colorado Rockies in 2003. MLB teams regularly dip into the Atlantic League talent pool to sign players with a hot hand, a fact Wilson is banking on.
Best Promo: Ehy! Italian heritage night celebrates the Island’s preeminent culture from a flag giveaway to food, music and more. June 13 vs. Newark Bears.

Brooklyn Cyclones

Where: KeySpan Park (seats 7,500) in Coney Island.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $8.
The Skinny: This short-season Class A affiliate of the Mets is where top draft picks usually get their first taste of pro ball. Connected to the boardwalk, and with the Wonder Wheel and the Coney Island seascape as the backdrop, this picturesque park has one of the best atmospheres anywhere. Start in the neighborhood. The oldest continually-operated aquarium in the United States is the nearby New York Aquarium. Get a hot dog at the original Nathan’s Famous a block away. Hit boardwalk staples such as the paintball-charged “Shoot the Freak.” Take a tour of the Brooklyn Baseball Gallery and Brooklyn Dodgers Hall of Fame housed at the park. Perhaps even spot a former Dodger great signing autographs. But the best part of the Cyclones experience is their free-spirited promos, from a Barack Obama bobblehead to a pot-luck “Garage Sale” giveaway. Oh, and there’s the beach. Whatever your excuse, the Cyclones are a must-stop on any minor league tour.
Best Promo: “A salute to pregnancy” featuring pre-game Lamaze in centerfield, a craving station of pickles and ice cream, and many other tie-ins. And if you agree to name your child Brooklyn or Cy, the team promises free tickets for life. July 19 vs. Auburn Doubledays.

Staten Island Yankees

Where: Richmond County Bank Ballpark (seats 7,171) in St. George.
When: 38 home dates, June-September.
Cheapest Ticket: $6.
The Skinny: The Yankees have won four New York-Penn League titles since relocating to Staten Island in 1999. The short-season Class A affiliate of the Yankees has cultivated a fierce rivalry with the Cyclones. Like Brooklyn, Staten Island is usually the first stop for touted Yankees prospects. Robinson Cano and Chen-Ming Wang are two current big leaguers who started off as Baby Bombers. Take the scenic route to the game: The Staten Island Ferry terminal is next door. The dense neighborhood has also been designated a historic district. Season ticket holders get all-you-can-eat concessions, and by season’s end begin resembling the mascot, Scooter the Holy Cow. Cross the Verrazano at your own risk, but the park is worth a visit.
Best Promo: The Yankees put on a fireworks display after each game. And with the Statue of Liberty in the distance—who could ask for more? For an unforgettable seat to the Independence Day fireworks over New York Harbor, get tickets to the July 4 game against the Lowell Spinners.

Road Trip

Minor league baseball is thriving in the Northeast and within an easy drive of Long Island. Most are within three hours, including several Yankees and Mets affiliates. So hit the road and see tomorrow’s stars today. The list:

Triple A—International League


Team Location Affiliate
Pawtucket Red Sox Pawtucket, RI Boston
Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Moosic, PA Yankees
Lehigh Valley Ironpigs Allentown, PA Philadelphia
Syracuse Chiefs Syracuse Washington
Rochester Red Wings Rochester Minnesota
Buffalo Bisons Buffalo Mets


Double A—Eastern League


Team Location Affiliate
Binghamton Mets Binghamton Mets
Connecticut Defenders Norwich, CT San Francisco
New Britain Rock Cats New Britain, CT Minnesota
Trenton Thunder Trenton, NJ Yankees


Class A—South Atlantic League


Team Location Affiliate
Lakewood Blue Claws Lakewood, N.J. Philadelphia


SS Class A—New York-Penn League


Team Location Affiliate
Brooklyn Cyclones Coney Island Mets
Staten Island Yankees St. George Yankees
Oneonta Tigers Oneonta Detroit
Tri-City ValleyCats Troy Houston
Batavia Muckdogs Batavia St. Louis
Hudson Valley Renegades Wappingers Falls Tampa Bay


Independent—Atlantic League


Team Location
Long Island Ducks Central Islip
Bridgeport Bluefish Bridgeport, CT
Newark Bears Newark, NJ
Somerset Patriots Bridgewater, NJ
Camden Riversharks Camden, NJ

LI Pulse: Confessions of a Mortgage Predator

April 1, 2009

April 2009 issue of LI Pulse magazine.

Title: Confessions of a Mortgage Predator; Selling greed and mortgages during the real estate boom
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: April 2009
Start Page: 62
Word Count: 1,642

“Hi, my name is Joey Walnut and I’m calling about your mortgage with Ameriquest,’’ proclaimed a young man into the phone receiver, hoping the voice on the other end would respond with curiosity and not rage.

In a white-washed office space in a non-descript strip plaza off a traffic-choked artery in Nassau County, Joey begins each cold call in similar fashion. A swig of Vodka-spiked Pepsi between prospects takes the edge off. He repeats the process more than 100 times each evening, following a list of random leads and reading off a tight script.

“It’s really not an easy job to call people at their house at night,’’ said Joey, a college grad. “It really isn’t. So a few drinks would loosen you up. And some people would do coke because it makes you go insane and you’d pound away at the phone.’’

Think Jim Cramer insane. And the goal was mad money.

The payoff comes six to eight weeks later when leads turn into closings and his company collects up to 10 percent of the loan when all the fees are tallied. That’s a $30,000 chunk of gold on a $300,000 mortgage. Everyone gets a piece of the pie, right on down to a cool $5,000 windfall for so-called loan officers like Joey.

These cocaine cold-callers were living the high life, indeed.

Joey — his name has been changed to protect his identity – worked at various mortgage brokerages for three years beginning in late 2004. And while his story may not reflect the industry as a whole, it is emblematic of a decade-long real estate boom that turned homes into ATM machines and saw greed swell to towering heights.

“I was amazed at how many people were involved in the loan and knew this wasn’t helping the situation for the person,’’ said Joey, who is still in sales but got out of real estate in 2007. “Bank reps. The bank taking on the loan. Brokers. Underwriters. Lawyers. The title company. There’s just a lot of people getting paid on each loan.’’

Buy a new car. Consolidate debt. Take an extravagant vacation. A lower monthly payment. There were a million reasons why homeowners looked to refinance. The nexus of rising home values, low interest rates and loose banking practices spawned the great mortgage grab. Long Island, home to mortgage heavyweight American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. and in the shadow of the world’s financial hub, proved to be fertile ground for brokers.

All of which made the subsequent housing collapse all the more spectacular. American Home, the region’s sixth-largest employer, imploded in August 2007. Mortgage companies were the first to suffer as home values leveled off and lending guidelines tightened. The misery spread quickly.

Twenty-five banks nationwide have been shut down by federal regulators and 2.22 million homes sank into foreclosure a year ago, according to Hope Now Alliance. The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller U.S. national home price index recorded an 18 percent drop in home values in the fourth quarter of 2008.

While New York hasn’t been as hard-hit as Arizona, California or Florida, the sting can be felt on every corner of Long Island as the real estate bubble gave way to a wider recession. The housing market alone has amassed some grim statistics. Suffolk endured 5,855 foreclosures last year, according to RealtyTrac, the fourth-highest in the state. Nassau saw 4,099 foreclosures a year ago.     

“Banks and brokers created the problem. It’s not the borrower’s fault,’’ said Syosset-based attorney James G. Preston, who oversaw 30 closings a week at the peak in 2004. “They sucked these people in.

“If you look at the people selling this stuff they’re kids — young men and women just out of college. It’s like selling stock. They were motivated by money. They were quintessential sales men. Give them a product and let them go.’’

Looking back, the housing bubble was hard to miss. There were legitimate people such as Preston earning a living on the gold rush and prospectors such as Joey panning for riches with the backing of dubious operators.

Some mortgage brokers struck it rich. But especially banks, which played the ultimate game of zero accountability. They outsourced their sales force to mortgage brokerages and then spun off the loans to Wall Street as mortgage-backed securities, raking in a percentage off each transaction – all without consequence.

“One of the real problems is the disconnect between the person selling the loan and the people who owned the loan,’’ said Preston, whose business has gone from 90 percent real estate to just 10.

Banks needed to show sales growth. But when you’ve already leant to everyone with good credit, what do you do next? You create financial products for everyone else. The result fed the rise of mortgage brokers and forced anyone who owned a home to fend off nightly calls – and the temptation — to refinance.

Joey was lured to the mortgage game by the friend of a friend, who bragged of $250,000 paydays and backed it up by driving a red Ferrari.

He started as a cold caller and graduated to loan officer within three months. All while working in an office space straight from a Hollywood script — a large vacuum with folding tables, phones and chairs and little else. This is the pit where newbies as young as 18 earned their stripes as cold callers who made more than 100 phone calls a night looking for leads. At least 97 percent of those never amounted to anything more than voice mail or irate hang-ups.

“Some people drank and some people did drugs,’’ Joey said. “It was out in the open.  It was like nothing. My boss said, ‘If you have to do coke to make money, then do coke.’ That was the mindset.’’

The point was to relentlessly pursue the next lead. The cubicles off to the sides were staffed by loan officers, who armed with someone’s credit history, shopped potential customers to banks in search of favorable rates. Shadowy managers lurked in offices at the back, pushing everyone to do whatever it took to close.

“It was a shitty version of ‘Boiler Room.’ Just nowhere near as much money,’’ Joey said. “We’d go into the meeting room and the boss would say, ‘Do I have to throw my fucking keys on the table?’ He’d throw the keys to his Beamer and then the keys to his house. Just like ‘Boiler Room.’ ‘Is this what I have to do to get you guys to work?’”

Closing meant using tactics that bordered on illegal. Initial meetings were marked by blank pages in place of good faith estimates, which were supposed to disclose all closing costs. Inflating incomes of borrowers for what are called stated income loans was not uncommon. Few mortgage companies operated this far out on the edge. Joey happened to break in at one with all the cred of a pro wrestler. 

They targeted mostly working class minorities in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens. And they pushed the most profitable mortgages, such as the crippling MTA loan.

“This loan killed people,’’ Joey said. “The real interest rate was 7.5 percent. But they only paid one percent interest. The rest – 6.5 percent – would get added on to their loan balance. So if the real amount they owed was $1,500, they would only pay $1,000. The extra $500 would get added to the loan. They weren’t paying down the house and the loan amount was going up every month.’’

In the end, this loan also helped kill off the once-lucrative mortgage industry.

“Obviously, there were a lot of people out there pushing that because of lot of people are in trouble today,’’ said Peter J. Elkowitz, president of the Hauppauge-based Long Island Housing Partnership, a non-profit which helps negotiate better terms for struggling homeowners.

Don’t blame Joey, who got close to clients and gave them his cell phone number. It was the system that was corrupt. Joey tried to be genuine through the entire process – up to the point of disclosing the true extent of closing costs. This was a strange dance brokers engaged in with homeowners.

Many clients knew what they were in for. They had refinanced before and came back for more. Such was the magic of rising home values. Take the case of a truck driver from East Islip who regularly checked in on the status of his loan.

“He called up drunk once and said, ‘I need this money so bad.’ I think he had a gambling debt,’’ Joey said. “When we got to the closing he didn’t care about the fees. We charged people so much money. But in many cases they are taking out $50,000. All they are thinking about in their head was, ‘I’m going to get a check for $50,000.’’’

It would be easy to shake an angry fist at predatory loan brokers. Or point a finger at the banks, which have bankrupted countless families while siphoning off bailout money at the expense of us all. But when “Greed is good,’’ is co-opted as the mantra of an entire generation, you know the root cause of the real estate bubble is much deeper and complex than anyone is willing to admit.

One thing everyone can agree on is the great cash grab is over. Everyone somehow feels dirtier for it. Even the cocaine cowboys who put homeowners into loans they couldn’t afford — they internalize the guilt while offering up Suzie Orman-like insight.

“The fault lies with everyone,’’ Joey concludes. “There were so many people involved. It wasn’t just us. The banks were approving these loans. The lawyers were closing these loans. The people who we were refinancing knew they were going to get an adjustable rate and that it would adjust in two years. Everybody had their own reason to do what they were doing.’’

LI Pulse: Hofstra Softball

February 1, 2009

February 2009 issue of LI Pulse magazine.

Title: Hofstra Softball
Publication: Long Island Pulse magazine
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: February 2009
Start Page: 54
Word Count: 910
It begins with alarm clocks blaring at 5 a.m. While the rest of Hofstra University remains sequestered in sleep, a small group of dedicated young women trek down to the locker room and then practice bubble that was once home to the New York Jets.

The Hempstead campus has yet to stir as Casey Fee and her softball teammates get their heart beats racing while pushing through endurance sprints on the field turf. There are weight training sessions too. All done before the first class of the day.

“It’s so cliché, but we work our asses off,’’ said Fee, a senior second baseman and former Long Beach standout.

Olivia Galati sat in on a few of the sweat-drenched sessions and knew this place was special – once she got past the initial shock. The St. John the Baptist senior is one of the best high school pitchers Long Island has produced in the last two decades.

So landing her would be a real coup. But how many teenagers eagerly sign up for such self-inflicted punishment?

 “Athletes on campus, we all know each other and they have respect for us,’’ senior pitcher Kayleigh Lotti said. “They see us train. They hear stories about how hard we work. But regular students? Not a lot of people know how good we are.’’

This is Hofstra softball. Bill Edwards enters his 20th season at the helm of the preeminent college program on Long Island — and University of Connecticut women’s basketball aside — perhaps the most consistent wins factory in the Northeast. It certainly holds claim to another distinction: the best team you’ve never heard of.

Consider what the Pride did last spring. Hofstra won a school-record 45 games and set an NCAA softball record by capturing the program’s 11th straight conference championship.

All that success is winning over fans. Galati signed a letter of intent with Hofstra in November. She represents an even brighter future. “They win the conference every year. I had a gut feeling I belong at Hofstra,’’ Galati said. “My goal — we — want to make it to the College World Series. We’re going to shoot for that.’’

It wasn’t always this way. Hofstra softball has a checkered past, and a history going back to 1951.

Karen Andreone, the athletic director at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset, remembers her stint at Hofstra well. Her team beat then-powerhouse Adelphi and won a New York state softball title in 1979. After an assistant coach was downsized and scholarship money siphoned off, according to Andreone, she left following the 1980 season and the program endured a mostly-lost decade.

“After I left, my former players called me crying,’’ said Andreone, who went 36-24 as Hofstra coach from 1978-80. “The program was so awful.’’

Andreone’s departure coincided with growing pains on campus. But the University not only recovered, today it thrives as one of the top private institutions in the Northeast.

Softball bounced back too — eventually. The program went 16-22 in 1989, the year before Edwards jumped from Commack High School to the college game. What he stepped into was a mess. But school administrators were committed and backed Edwards the entire way.

“When I took over, there was an old pitching machine, a bucket of balls and a few bats,’’ Edwards said. “I had one-and-a-half scholarships. And that’s it. It was ridiculous.’’

While Edwards had no prior college experience, he transformed Hofstra softball as the sport grew nationally. College softball is still dominated by the West Coast powers. An Arizona or California school has won 22 of the last 25 NCAA Division I national championships.

Times are changing. Louisiana-Lafayette reached the College World Series last season, becoming the first small-conference program to crash the party. Hofstra could be the next.

“It is one of the fastest growing sports around the country,’’ Edwards said. “There’s soccer. And softball is right behind it. Kids are turning out for softball. Summer leagues are exploding. Back in the day, there were two summer teams on Long Island. Today there are 75.’’

A broader talent pool helps. But everyone, from Edwards on down, points to conditioning and coaching as the key to the Pride’s rise from mid-major conference contenders to players on the national stage.

“We teach the fundamentals and then discipline those fundamentals,’’ Edwards said. He’s is so highly regarded that Edwards flies around the country teaching courses for the National Fastpitch Coaches College.

Aside from pre-dawn workouts during the off-season, there’s practice each afternoon. The fundamentals of the game become second nature as a result. Situational awareness grows instinctive. And all the hard work creates an attitude that’s impossible to miss.

The Pride came just one win away from a berth in the College World Series in 2004 and hosted an NCAA Regional last spring. With the bulk of the team back, Hofstra opens the new season with its best opportunity yet. Its quest begins Feb. 13 in Tampa against Illinois. The home opener is March 26 against Rutgers (free admission).

Lotti, the two time Colonial Athletic Association pitcher of the year, is a hard-throwing windmiller in a sport where pitching dominates. Fee is one of three all-conference hitters returning. While each plays to their strengths, there’s a common denominator coursing through them.

It’s a fellowship only an athlete or a soldier could understand.

“We’re the scrappy players from the Northeast,’’ Fee said. “Teams know we’ll never give up. We’ve got that extra edge.’’

Friars Football: Friars Atone With Title No. 7

November 18, 2007

Friars Football championship 2007

Title: Lucky 7: Friars Atone With Title No. 7 In Thriller Over Mount
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-18-07
Word Count: 563

Just as he had done so many times this season, senior quarterback James Brady held onto the ball until he could no longer. Then he sprung the trap — at the expense of his own body.

With Mount St. Michael Academy defenders closing in Sunday night, Brady waited until the last possible second and then pitched the ball to his left and into the hands of junior running back Nicholas Mercurio. Brady paid a price, taking a physical wallop. But so did Mount St. Michael.

The aggressive Mountaineers defense suddenly found itself outflanked. Mercurio blew through a seam untouched and didn’t stop until he reached the end zone 39 yards later.

His breakaway touchdown with 4:37 left in the CHSFL Class AAA championship game set off an eruption of euphoria on the St. Anthony’s sideline. And the ensuing two-point run by Atiq Lucas put the final touches on a rousing 26-20 come-from-behind victory. No. 7 Mount St. Michael made one last drive inside the Friars’ 20 in the final minute, but quarterback Jayson Holt was stopped 1-yard shy of a first down at the 16 with 46 seconds left, allowing the St. Anthony’s faithful to exhale.

Mission accomplished. Top-seeded St. Anthony’s (10-1) stunned the Mountaineers (5-6) in the title game for the second straight season to capture the program’s seventh straight CHSFL crown and 10th overall.

And to think, many naysayers piled on when the Mountaineers handed St. Anthony’s a 22-12 loss in the Bronx Week 3. The defeat snapped the Friars’ 64-game league winning streak. But these Friars shook off the setback and kept the dynasty alive and thriving as they celebrated on the turf at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

While Brady was masterful orchestrating the offense, it was emerging junior Atiq Lucas who delivered once again. He rushed for 42 yards on nine carries, added three catches for 53 yards, scored on a lightning 25-yard end around and added a two-point conversion.

Another gifted back, senior William Ruggiero, pieced together a workmanlike effort. He managed 39 yards on seven carries and scored on runs of 2 and 9 yards. Mercurio finished with 61 yards on five attempts. That diversity and depth, along with a hard-nosed offensive line, paved the way to success.

The defense surrendered 194 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries to the elusive Holt, but St. Anthony’s did just enough to negate his stirring effort. The D came up with two fourth-quarter fumbles and stopped the Mountaineers twice inside the red zone in the final minutes.

With the teams deadlocked at 12, Mount senior running back Isiah Moody took the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards up the right sideline. Holt hit Thomas Cardona on a pass into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 20-12 Mountaineers lead.

A big return on the ensuing kickoff by J.B. Andreassi set up the Friars at their own 48. Brady marched St. Anthony’s the rest of the way, capped by Lucas’ mad dash for a 25-yard score to close the gap to 20-18. Brady’s two-point pass was broken up, and so the Friars still trailed into the fourth quarter.

But the defense, led by Scott Vallone, turned up the heat. Vallone recovered a Holt fumble at the Mount 39 with 4:50 left. Mercurio took the next play to the house. And the St. Anthony’s legacy of gridiron greatness continues.


With Rutgers coach Greg Schiano looking on from the St. Anthony’s sideline, his prized recruit put together a memorable performance in his final game in a Friars uniform. Defensive tackle Scott Vallone corralled Mount St. Michael quarterback Jayson Holt on fourth-and-9 from the St. Anthony’s 22-yard line. It took two St. Anthony’s teammates to finish off Holt, but the Mount quarterback eventually went down 3 yards shy of the first down. Credit Vallone, who also recovered a critical fourth-quarter fumble, recorded two sacks and finished with nine tackles. That’s championship football. Schaino must have been proud.


The St. Anthony’s defense turned away Mount St. Michael in the red zone twice in the final 10 minutes. With The Friars trailing 20-18 with 9:16 left, junior defensive end Rafiq Wallace crashed through the line and slammed into Mount St. Michael quarterback Jayson Holt, knocking the ball free. Junior linebacker Paul Alessandri recovered the fumble at the Friars’ 13. Not only did it keep the Mountaineers off the scoreboard, it gave the Friars momentum going into the final minutes.


TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Mount St. Michael…….6…..6…..8…..0 — 20
St. Anthony’s…………….6…..6…..6…..8 — 26
SA — Ruggiero 2 run (kick failed)
MSM — Holt 4 run (run failed)
MSM — Holt 15 run (run failed)
SA — Ruggiero 9 run (run failed)
MSM — Moody 97 kickoff (Cardona from Holt)
SA — Lucas 25 run (pass failed)
SA — Mercurio 39 run (Lucas run)

Friars Football: Championship Preview

November 12, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Monday Morning Quarterback / Championship Preview
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-12-07
Word Count: 519

Rematches don’t get much more exciting. Throw out the records in this one. They certainly didn’t matter the last time St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael Academy football teams faced off Week 3.

Remember? The Friars took a national ranking and a 64-game CHSFL winning streak dating to 1998 into the Bronx. And Mount struck for three first-quarter touchdowns en route to a 22-12 win in the rain and mud.

Their respective seasons diverged from there. St. Anthony’s (9-1) rebounded while the Mountaineers (5-5) struggled. And yet, fittingly, here they are in the CHSFL Class AAA title game.

The playoff history between St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael runs deep. But you have to dig deep to find it.

Yes, the programs faced off in the title game a year ago, a 21-20 thriller won by the Friars. That marked the first playoff meeting between the rivals in seven seasons.

But these teams have a past. This will be the 10th playoff showdown between the programs — all since 1987. St. Anthony’s leads the series 6-3, with four of those games each decided by a single point.

The only history that matters to the kids on the field are the last two years. Just take the signal callers. The Friars rallied behind James Brady (check out the feature on Brady here) to win the title last November. Jayson Holt, the Mountaineers’ quarterback and kicker, had an extra point blocked in the waning moments of that game.

Don’t think it wasn’t on his mind when the teams met earlier this season. Holt did as much as anyone to sink the Friars that day.

Meanwhile, Brady saw his fumble scooped up and returned for the decisive touchdown in his only loss as a starter. Don’t think that won’t be on his mind Sunday at Hofstra.

Who will write the next chapter in this intense rivalry?

Mount St. Michael vs. St. Anthony’s

WHEN: Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium
RECORDS: Mount St. Michael (5-5); St. Anthony’s (9-1)
THE SCOOP: Top-seeded St. Anthony’s held off No. 5 Iona Prep, 23-20, while No. 7 Mount St. Michael upset No. 6 Chaminade, 16-8, in CHSFL Class AAA semifinal action. It sets up a rematch of last season’s title game won by St. Anthony’s. It also pairs the Friars with the lone league mate to have beaten them over the span of 64 games. Mount St, Michael handed St. Anthony’s a 22-12 loss in Week 3. Stopping Mount senior quarterback Jayson Holt, an elusive runner, is the key for the Friars.


This marks the 10th playoff showdown between St. Anthony’s and Mount St. Michael Academy &mdash all since 1987. St. Anthony’s is 20-5 all-time against the Mountaineers. The Friars also hold a respectable 6-3 edge in the playoffs, with four of those games each decided by a single point. A look back:

•1987 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 43-20

•1990 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

•1992 quarterfinal: Mount St. Michael, 28-12

•1993 semifinal: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

•1995 semifinal: St. Anthony’s, 42-41

•1996 final: Mount St. Michael, 21-7

•1997 final: Mount St. Michael, 40-14

•1999 quarterfinal: St. Anthony’s, 28-11

•2006 final: St. Anthony’s, 21-20

Friars Football: Friars Hold Off Iona Prep Attack

November 9, 2007

Friars Football semifinal 2007 

Title: Gaels Force: Friars Hold Off Iona Prep Attack, Earn Title Shot
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-9-07
Word Count: 250

Iona Prep senior quarterback Ryan O’Neil and his reputation as the most prolific passer in the CHSFL didn’t mean much to a St. Anthony’s defense that manhandled him Week 2 and had rarely been beaten deep this season.

Once again, the 6-2, 170-pound O’Neil took a beating each time he dropped back to pass Friday night against the Friars. But he also beat them deep and nearly ended the Friars’ seven-year run on top. O’Neil completed 24 of 39 passes for 325 yards and three touchdowns — all to speedy junior wideout Chris Alfano.

The defense did just enough to stymie No. 5 Iona Prep, turning away the Gaels at the goal line in the second quarter and sacking O’Neil on fourth down with 58 seconds left as top-seeded St. Anthony’s pulled out a 23-20 win in a CHSFL Class AAA semifinal before a rain-soaked crowd of 800 at Cy Donnelly Field in South Huntington.

St. Anthony’s (9-1) will face the Chaminade-Mount St. Michael winner for the title next weekend at a date, site and time to be announced on Monday. The Friars are the six-time defending champions.

Credit St. Anthony’s senior quarterback James Brady for carrying the offense. The team piled up 243 yards on the ground, led by Brady. He ran for 111 yards on 19 carries and scored what proved to be the game-winner, a 25-yard burst with 11:50 left. Nicholas Ferrara’s point after attempt made it 23-14.

Brady also completed 5 of 13 passes for 112 yards.


The offensive line did its job, as usual. But what really made all the difference for the Friars was the relentless fashion in which James Brady, William Ruggiero and Atiq Lucas carried the ball. Each churned out second-effort carries that had to be deflating to the Iona Prep defense. Brady finished with 111 yards on 19 carries and a 25-yard touchdown run. Ruggiero plowed ahead for 94 yards on 11 carries and a 2-yard score. Lucas added 71 yards total offense, including 35 yards on three carries. He turned a counter into a twisting 23-yard touchdown, shaking off a myriad of defenders.


The Friars’ second-quarter goal-line stand probably saved the season. Iona Prep drove 63 yards — highlighted by a 28-yard strike from Ryan O’Neil to Tim Murray — to the St. Anthony’s 5-yard line. Jeffrey Mack carried the ball 4 more yards, setting up second-and-goal from the 1. Iona Prep tried to shove the ball down the throat of the Friars’ defense on each of the next three plays. The last, a blast off right tackle by Darlos James with 6:40 left, was stuffed by a wall of back and gold. Not only did James get stopped short, he was hurt on the play.


TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Iona Prep………………….0…..7…..7…..6 — 20
St. Anthony’s…………….7…..3…..6…..7 — 23
SA — Lucas 23 run (Grennen kick)
IP — Alfano 10 pass from O’Neil (Beckett kick)
SA — FG 29 Ferrara
IP — Alfano 35 pass from O’Neil (Beckett kick)
SA — Ruggiero 2 run (kick failed)
SA — Brady 25 run (Ferrara kick)
IP — Alfano 62 pass from O’Neil (kick failed)

Friars Football: Semifinial Preview

November 5, 2007

Friars Football Features 2007

Title: Semifinial Preview
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-5-07
Word Count: 120

Iona Prep vs. St. Anthony’s

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: South Huntington
RECORDS: Iona Prep (5-4); St. Anthony’s (8-1)
THE SCOOP: St. Anthony’s shut out Xaverian 24-0 while Iona Prep downed Staten Island power Farrell, 38-8, to move on. These teams meet Week 2 with St. Anthony’s pulling away 31-21. Ryan O’Neil will attempt to air it out against a stingy Friars defense. St. Anthony’s has two great safeties and a string of three straight shutouts.

Mount St. Michael vs. Chaminade

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Mineola
RECORDS: Mount St. Michael (4-5); Chaminade (5-4)
THE SCOOP: Chaminade advanced with a thrilling 19-14 win over Holy Trinity while Mount St. Michael upset Staten Island upstart St. Joseph by the Sea, 22-14. Chaminade pulled the upset of Week 7 with a last-second 15-14

Friars Football: Friars Pull Away From Xaverian

November 3, 2007

Friars Football Quarterfinals 2007

Title: Second Effort: Friars Pull Away From Xaverian With Strong second Half
Publication: Frairs
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: 11-3-07
Word Count: 232

It took every bit of 34 minutes, but top-seeded St. Anthony’s finally found the end zone Saturday night against No. 8 Brooklyn-Xaverian. The Clippers stopped St. Anthony’s at the goal line just before halftime, but the Friars erupted for three touchdowns on consecutive drives in the second half to pull away, 24-0, in a CHSFL Class AAA quarterfinal.

Atiq Lucas helped get the offense rolling in the third, converting a third-down pass for 16 yards and breaking a 12-yard run on the next play. He set up the first touchdown with an 11-yard counter to the Xaverian 1-yard line. William Ruggiero scored the first of three touchdowns on the next play to put the Friars up 10-0 with 2 minutes left in the third.

St. Anthony’s (8-1) amassed 348 yards of total offense, highlighted by 252 yards on the ground. Lucas accounted for 135 yards (87 rushing) while Ruggiero finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. Quarterback James Brady completed 7 of 16 passes for 85 yards and rushed for 55 yards on nine carries.

The game marked the fourth shutout of the year for the defense, which has not given up a point in 12 straight quarters. St. Anthony’s will host No. 5 Iona Prep in a semifinal on Friday. Iona Prep advanced with a resounding 38-8 road win over Staten Island power and No. 4 seeded Farrell. Xaverian finishes 0-9.


The maturation of Atiq Lucas took a quantum leap forward against Xaverian. Coach Rich Reichert promised to use the fleet junior back more come playoff time and 5-11, 175-pound Lucas responded with a stirring performance. He fumbled away his first carry and dropped a sure touchdown pass in a first half that mirrored the Friars’ sluggish offense. But Lucas proved to be a game-breaker in the second half. He finished with 135 yards of offense, including 87 rushing yards on five carries and three catches for 48 more.


James Brady was sandwiched by Xaverian’s Davon Robinson and Oday Aboushi for a 4-yard sack, setting up third-and-10 from the St. Anthony’s 27-yard line early in the third quarter. The senior quarterback responded on the next play, firing a dart to Atiq Lucas for a 16-yard gain to keep the drive alive. The Friars drove 73 yards on 11 plays, scoring on a 1-yard burst by William Ruggiero with 2 minutes left in the quarter. Nicholas Ferrara’s point after kick put St. Anthony’s up 10-0.


TEAM………………………1…..2…..3…..4 — FINAL
Xaverian…………………..0…..0…..0…..0 — 0
St. Anthony’s…………….3…..0…..7…14 — 24
SA — FG 33 Grennen
SA — Ruggiero 1 run (Ferrara kick)
SA — Ruggiero 19 run (Grennen kick)
SA — Ruggiero 1 run (Ferrara kick)

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