Long Island Fall Sports Wrap

November 30, 2009

Memorable plays and magical playmakers marked this high school sport season on Long Island. The fall saw many dynasties continue – from South Side girls soccer to Ward Melville girls swimming – and new faces reach the pinnacle – welcome to the show Half Hollow Hills West football. 

It also saw several great athletes finish high school careers in style from Holy Trinity running back Anthony Brunetti, a four-year starter, rushing for 2,000 yards to South Side girls soccer star Crystal Dunn fulfilling her promise with a state crown.

Long Island Pulse magazine followed it all with giddy excitement. Here are our highlights:

Best Finish: When Freeport lost quarterback Paul Ketchens to injury in the Nassau Conference I quarterfinals, it turned to running back Kevin Allen to show senior leadership and direct the offense. All Allen did was power his Red Devils to the Long Island Class I football championship. Freeport’s 38-14 win over Floyd ended five years of Suffolk dominance over Long Island’s largest classification. In fact, it was the first Nassau victory since a powerhouse Freeport squad blew out Floyd in 2003. Allen rushed for 1,095 yards and 17 touchdowns in four playoff games and finished the season with a Nassau-record 35 touchdowns. Amazing!

Best Career: Rockville Centre is Soccer Town, USA. And after churning out one great team after another, the South Side girls soccer program produced a player who will go down as one of the best in Long Island history, and certainly the area’s best since Team USA forward Christie Welsh starred at Massapequa in 1997-98. Who? Crystal Dunn.  The four-year player wrapped up her senior season by winning her third state title. She blasted four goals as South Side routed Section V champ Greece Arcadia, 6-0, in the state Class A championship game. Dunn, who signed with the University of North Carolina, tallied nine goals and six assists in the playoffs. Not coincidentally, South Side failed to win a state title in 2008 when Dunn missed all but three games playing for the U.S. under-17 national team. That’s a strong finish to a great career.   

Best Repeat: After dropping a 2-1 decision to Newfield and tying with Ward Melville to open the season, the Comsewogue boys soccer team set aside the shaky start and reeled off 20 straight wins. The culmination came in Oneonta on Nov. 23 with a 2-0 win over Section III New Hartford to claim the state Class A championship. Keith Vigorito, a prolific scorer the last two seasons, put a goal in the title game to help the Warriors win back-to-back championships. Only two other boys programs have repeated as state Class A champ since the tournament began in 1978. Sachem claimed consecutive crowns in 1997-98. Section II champ Shenendehowa won or shared the state Class A title four straight seasons, from 1990-93. So give the Warriors their due.

Best Defense: Great defense defines championship football teams on the high school level. But few defenses in recent memory have done more than the unheralded group at Garden City. The Trojans’ immovable D allowed four touchdowns—and 28 points – all season to finish 12-0. That includes nine shutouts. The highlight came in the Long Island Class II title game when Garden City shut down previously unbeaten North Babylon to win 9-6. A fumble recovery on special teams set up the winning 38-yard field goal by Ryan Norton. Now that’s clutch.

Best Marketing Mogul: Nobody jumped onto the national stage quite like Half Hollow Hills West basketball standout Tobias Harris. He was considered a top 100 recruit heading into the summer. But through relentless travel with his AAU team and workmanlike effort at countless skills camps, the 6-8 Harris became one of the most talked-about talents Long Island has ever seen. Adding to his national profile: Harris Twittered his every move and became every basketball fan’s friend on Facebook. After several high-profile visits this fall to hoops hotbeds, from Syracuse to Kentucky, Harris waited until the day after the early signing period ended in mid-November to announce – on ESPNU and in Times Square, no less – that he was attending the University of Tennessee. P.T. Barnum’s got nothing on this kid.

Blog originally posted at LI Pulse.com

Newsday: Henry Read

October 1, 2000

Newsday logo
Title: INSIDE HIGH SCHOOLS / These Guys Are Real Winners
Publication: Newsday – Long Island, N.Y.
Author: Jason Molinet
Date: Oct 1, 2000
Start Page: C.30
Section: SPORTS
Text Word Count: 940

IT WAS an encounter for the ages. Sixty-two seasons of Suffolk football history gathered Friday morning in a second-floor room at Bellhaven Nursing Center in Brookhaven.

Tom Cassese, 55, has coached football at Comsewogue for 28 seasons.

Henry Read, 88, was the only football coach Seton Hall High School in Patchogue ever had. He started the program in 1940 and retired when the school closed its doors in June, 1974.

Cassese and Read are from different worlds, yet they will be forever linked. They are part of an exclusive club. When Comsewogue beat Hauppauge on Sept. 15, Cassese tied Read as the winningest football coach in county history with 176 career victories.

Comsewogue failed in its last two outings to move its coach past Read in the record books, so Suffolk football’s illustrious past met its bright burning present quite literally on equal terms Friday. Cassese, who owns a 176-66-3 mark, went to Bellhaven, where Read and his wife of 66 years, Margaret, now live. And they talked about, what else? Football.

Read, who has wispy white hair and an engaging smile, sat in a wheelchair while Cassese hovered over him.

“You know, I haven’t been defeated since 1973,” Read said, his smile lighting the room. “I don’t have that worry anymore.”

Poor Cassese. His team fell to Kings Park, 21-6, the previous afternoon.

Read kept up the offensive. “You lose again,” he said, “they’ll send you over here [to the retirement home].”

“When can I move in?” Cassese asked.

But Cassese, among a trio of coaches closing in on Read-Sachem’s Fred Fusaro and East Islip’s Sal Ciampi are the others – was energized by the meeting.

“It was just a pleasure to have met someone who’s led such a great life,” Cassese said. “And his wife said he still follows all the high school sports. You could sense it was something that was important to him. He still cares.”

Read has been away from the game 27 years, nearly as long as Cassese has been coaching. But you don’t have to tell Read how the game has evolved. His Seton Hall teams went from the single-wing offense to the wing-T. Read coached in an era when the quarterback drop-kicked extra points. Along the way, Read turned a tiny Catholic school into a Long Island sports powerhouse because he was an innovator himself.

“Mr. Read had some crazy formations,” said Ken Hughes, a 1946 Seton Hall graduate who played quarterback for three seasons. “He used to lay awake at night thinking about them. They all worked, but they were unusual, I’ll tell you that. All of his players had a lot of respect for him. To this day, I call him Mr. Read.”

The Seton Hall Eagles won 11 league titles, had four unbeaten seasons, posted a 24-game unbeaten streak from 1969-71 and produced one NFL player, John Schmitt, who played center for the Jets from 1964-73. But talk to Read and you realize it wasn’t about the wins.

“I built that sports program from nothing to the point where kids wanted to go there,” said Read, who also coached boys basketball and baseball and served as athletic director and boys dean. “I enjoyed the kids, but I was very strict. I wouldn’t last an hour with today’s kids.”

In the early years, Read, from Providence, worked as a tobacco salesman in the early part of the day and coached sports at Seton Hall in the afternoon. He was a volunteer coach from 1940 until he was hired full-time in 1948.

His athletic success helped the fledgling coed Catholic school- its campus is home to St. Joseph’s College today – grow in size and esteem.

“He just loved coaching,” said Margaret, 89, who met her husband while the two were studying to be teachers at SUNY-Farmingdale.

Former players gush at his genius as a coach. The record stood as a monument to Read’s coaching success long after he left the sideline. To him, it’s a footnote to a fine career, one he doesn’t mind surrendering to Cassese or the next ambitious coach to come along. But the record is not what he will be remembered for.

Read and his wife raised 11 children. Today, they have 49 grandchildren and 38 great-grandchildren. In their heyday, the couple ran a day camp in Patchogue. Read gave one-time Utah Jazz coach Frank Layden his first varsity coaching job.

“I’ve gone to visit him over the years to get that touch of inspiration,” said Pete Cheviot, who led the state in scoring and was an All-Long Island running back for Seton Hall in 1970. He played at Brown University.

Read also was the one who encouraged Hughes, like many of his players, to go to college. In Hughes’ case, the coach broached the subject of playing football at Boston College at halftime of a game.

“I never heard of Boston College and probably never would have gone to college if it hadn’t been for Mr. Read,” said Hughes, a BC graduate who retired in 1990 after teaching 30 years in the Patchogue- Medford School District. “I owe a great deal of debt to him. He did everything he could for the kids at Seton Hall. He was Mr. Seton Hall to us.”