Whitman High School students flooded through the gate and charged toward the football team gathered in the end zone. Cheerleaders joined the scrum, touching off a moment of sheer jubilation.
Never has a win over 1-6 Centereach, a perennial afterthought, been so celebrated.
That Whitman beat Centereach, 51-24, Saturday before a raucous Homecoming crowd – that was nice. But the win, the score, the opponent were all secondary to a far more significant fact. The Wildcats ended a decade-long drought on Homecoming.
“We finally broke the curse today,” said Whitman center / defensive end Kieran Elmore, who opened running lanes on offense and recorded a sack on defense.
“I’m too excited,” said Whitman senior running back Joel Aleman, who ran for 176 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries. “We finally won Homecoming.”
Related: Game Photos l Homecoming Parade l Marching Band
It also signaled to Wildcats fans young and old that Whitman was finally a factor in football. The 2011 team won four games and qualified for the Suffolk playoffs for the first time in 23 years. That was no fluke. Whitman improved to 4-3 in Division II and is once again in the playoff conversation.
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No one will mistake Whitman for football prince Sachem North. A mere return to respectability is reason enough to celebrate in Huntington Station Saturday night.
“My goal for these guys is – hopefully – to get back-to-back playoffs,” Whitman third-year Coach Robin Rosa said. “I have a great senior group. They are the heart and soul. They lived through a 1-7 season as 10th graders. They worked in that weight room and did everything you could possibly want as a coach.”
The top eight teams reach the postseason. If Whitman wins Week 8 at Riverhead, then the Wildcats are in. If not, Whitman needs help.
If style points matter, Whitman jumped in front of Centereach, 26-0, and looked good doing it.
Junior quarterback Mitchell Bermudez got the Wildcats in gear, breaking a 52-yard touchdown run on the game’s third play from scrimmage.
The 5-foot-10, 280-pound Elmore ended Centereach’s first possession with a tackle for a loss on fourth-and-3 at the Whitman 26-yard-line. Elmore has verbally committed to Division I FSC Bryant University and he played like it, a disruptive force at the point of attack.
Whitman jumped in front 14-0 on Jaron Batts’ 77-yard punt return with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
But it was the rushing attack, led by the likes of Elmore and right guard Rick Rizzo, that blew the game open. Whitman rushed for 410 yards.
“We had the mentality today that no one was going to stop us,” Elmore said. “This is a great win, just great.”
Suffolk Division II FootballTeams 1 2 3 4 F Centereach 0 0 12 12 24 Whitman 14 12 12 13 51
W – Bermudez 52 run (run fail)
W – Batts 77 punt return (Aleman run)
W – Aleman 3 run (run fail)
W – Aleman 47 run (run fail)
C – Odister 73 run (kick fail)
W – Bermudez 34 run (kick fail)
C – Leonard pass from DeLorenzo (run fail)
W – Batts 32 run (kick fail)
C – Leonard pass from DeLorenzo (pass fail)
W – Harrison 26 run (kick fail)
W – Lindor 35 INT return (Bustamante kick)
C – Rende 1 fumble recovery (kick fail)
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