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.
A great late interception by Stauch stymied another O’Neill comeback effort. By far the biggest stand of the night came after O’Neill scored a shocking, late TD on a halfback option pass to close within 26-25. The Raiders lined up for the two-point conversion in an attempt to author a come-from-behind win, but Sullivan West dug in for its biggest stop of the season and halted Chambers in his tracks to stave off defeat.
The story on www.sportsinsightsny.com  entitied, “Enshrined In Memory,” gives the details of the unforgettable night and its aftermath. Earlier in the week at the OCL Cross-County Divisional IV Championships, Sullivan West took first, second and third, with inspiring runs by Corrine VanWagner (19:58), Kelsey Dutton (20:09) and Courtney Meyerer (20:17). Newcomer Ethan Seidl (17:29) was third in the boys race. Eldred eighth-grader Kayla Maas (23:49) topped the girls in Division V. Tri-Valley won the boys and girls teams titles. Sullivan West volleyball seniors Kelsey Brockner, Morganne Brooks and Skye Feinman were honored before their final home match. In soccer the boys and girls had night game, senior night contests against Liberty. The boys fell to the Indians 3-0, but the girls played an inspiring overtime game as they battled the Lady Indians for 100 minutes to a scoreless tie. That tie propelled Liberty to the sectionals as they finished their league record with a .500 mark. Sullivan West senior soccer players honored included Gavin Owen, Owen Andrews, Jasmine Davis, Marianne Durkin, Krysten Herbert, Sienna Klaber, Jasmina Mujanovic, Hayley Puerschner, Heather Sattler, Sydney Sipple and Kat Sosa. For albums of photos, visit www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com .