October 23, 2013 —
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — There were smiles, hugs and laughter among the players. There were tears of joy shed by parents and friends. And there were words of praise and affirmation from coaches including those from the opposing team. But above all, there was a great sense of pride after Sullivan West, in the midst of its most disappointing season in recent memory, found the heart, the grit and the wherewithal to stand its ground on Homecoming and Senior Night to defeat two-time Section Nine Class C Champion James I. O’Neill 26-25. In a game defined by four iconic defensive milestones as well as the offensive moxie to score four TDs against the talented Raiders, Sullivan West revealed its true colors for the first time this season.
Behind the league loss two weeks ago to Liberty that barred Sullivan West from returning to the playoffs and last week’s disappointing meltdown that prevented a potential win over Class B Highland, many figured O’Neill to be the next team to hand the Bulldogs more heartache. O’Neill ousted Sullivan West 39-14 in last year’s semifinal playoff tilt. But the Westies rose to the occasion, showing pride and perseverance even though their postseason aspirations were already by the boards. For seniors Zach O’Connor, Cody Franskevicz, Travis Roeder, Jared Meola, Jacob Murphy and Devin Mirch, who were honored before the game, this final contest on their home field was a special occasion, and each and every one of them left his imprint on the hallowed outcome. After the introduction of the seniors Assistant Principal Scott Haberli then crowned Joe Campanelli and Kelsey Brockner as this year’s Homecoming King and Queen. Sullivan West overcame a 13-0 deficit to tie O’Neill by halftime.
The Raiders were missing their talented quarterback/safety Keegan West, who had suffered a broken thumb and torn ligaments in a losing effort to Burke a week ago. The maroon tide was vying to halt a rare two-game losing streak. Thanks to the Dawgs, that streak now stands at three. The Westies got three TDs from quarterback Richard Shevak and one from senior Jared Meola, as well as timely pass receptions from Brian Stauch, Cody Franskevicz and Zach O’Connor. But it was the defense that deserved even more kudos as it forced a fumble at the Dawgs’ one yard-line by Raider standout Malik Chambers, which was pounced on by Mirch. O’Connor also halted an earlier two-point conversion try by Chambers that might have been the difference maker.