Commack capitalized on two Ward Melville weaknesses – blocking and tackling – to pull off a 21-7 win in the Division I football opener for both teams on Saturday.
Heroes: Commack senior Brandon Cook scored on a six-yard run early in the game to give the Cougars a lead they'd never relinquish. Cook also scored Commack's third touchdown of the game on a one-yard run with 11 seconds left. Commack linebackers John Donovan and Rob Rosciano, both juniors, led a defense that scarcely let the Patriot offense run or pass with much success. For Ward Melville, junior Brendan Hegarty scored the Patriots' lone touchdown of the game.
Turning point: Ward Melville seniors Justin Joseph and Benjamin Danieli collided trying to pick off a pass intended for Commack junior Paul Maline with just over three minutes left in the first half. They still nearly pulled it off, but the ball bounced off their hands and Maline caught it anyway, completing a 39-yard touchdown pass that put the Cougars up 13-0 and gave them enough room for them to win the game. Jack Miller kicked the extra point.
Commack coach Joseph Reggio: "A win is a win is a win ... we'll take it. The defense stepped it up when they had to. Our offense put it in at the end when they had to."
Ward Melville coach Rob Neugebauer: "We couldn't block or tackle, so when you don't do those two things you don't win games. It's just that simple. ... We obviously didn't get the job done today."
Bottom line: It's too early to tell whether this game will be a sign of things to come for either Commack or Ward Melville. Neither team played in top form – as can sometimes be expected in the first game of the year – so there's lots of room for improvement on both sides. Case in point: Ward Melville gave up an interception midway through the third that stopped what had been a promising series of plays, and one of two key Commack fumbles allowed Ward Melville to score early in the fourth.
Who's next: Commack visits Central Islip on Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m. Ward Melville visits Brentwood on Sept. 17 at 1:30 p.m.