Believe it! Wolverines are LI champs
The evolution of a football program that went from empty bleachers to full houses, from apathy at the high school to a frenzied pep rally before Long Island Class II championship game Nov. 25, began Sept. 25, 2010. That's the day Newfield defeated perennial power East Islip for the first time in 50 years. That's the day the Wolverines began growling.
"The East Islip game really changed our mind-set and we knew what we were capable of,'' linebacker Julian Santiago said.
"The atmosphere, the fans, everybody bought into us,'' linebacker Tom Diubaldo said. "They actually cared. They came to the games and showed us some support.''
That support grew from a few hundred loyal friends and family to several thousand who packed one side of the stands at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium to watch Newfield edge another traditional powerhouse, Garden City, 14-7, to win the school's first LIC.
"It takes a great team to beat a great team,'' Garden City coach Tom Flatley said afterward. With 235 victories and four Long Island championships, Flatley knows what greatness tastes like. For coach Joe Piccininni and aptly named Newfield, the hunger for a title ended in 2011.
"For the kids, it's going to be something they'll never forget,'' Piccininni said. "This is forever. It solidifies us as a program. Newfield is for real.''
Reality kicked in Nov. 25, when Newfield took the lead early in the fourth quarter on Santiago's 1-yard plunge and held off the Trojans in the final minutes, setting off a postgame scene of jubilation that included many players rushing to the stands to share the moment with friends and family.
"Our fans are incredible,'' said quarterback-defensive back Mike Silva, who scored the game's first touchdown and led the Wolverines with 76 yards rushing. "Most of them either go to our school, are parents or are former students, and they go everywhere with us.''
Wolverine Nation was loud and proud Nov. 18 at Stony Brook when Newfield rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to stun East Islip, 14-13, in the Suffolk II championship. It seemed fitting that the road to a historic championship went through the Redmen, a tradition-rich program that had dominated Newfield until last year.
"The journey has been incredible,'' said Silva, who had 102 yards rushing against East Islip. "We had a goal from the summer and it came true. We had to win. We couldn't appreciate just being Suffolk County champions and losing in the LIC. That couldn't happen.''
In addition to Santiago (651 yards rushing, 102 tackles) and Silva (1,053 yards rushing, four interceptions), many others contributed. Ron Denig provided tough yardage at fullback (551 yards) and led the defense (146 tackles) all year and with six tackles in the LIC. James Manginelli (83 tackles, 12 sacks) had two sacks against Garden City. Zachary Powell led the team with 1,155 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns. Diubaldo made 90 tackles.
"It's a tribute to the kids,'' Piccininni said. "They believed in themselves and each other and did what it took to get it done.''
There are believers everywhere at Newfield now.