Owls Season Ends in Playoffs Loss to Wantagh

Owls Season Ends in Playoffs Loss to Wantagh

Lynbrook’s 5-3 season ended in a disappointing loss to the Wantagh Warriors on Saturday, Nov. 4 in the first round of playoffs. 

The first quarter looked like it would be a bad start for the Owls, but they managed to flip it around with a fumble recovery on the punt return by senior Jaylin Walker. Lynbrook would get into the endzone thanks to a rushing touchdown from senior Michael Fagen to put Lynbrook up by 7 early against Wantagh, the Number 2 seed.

Things started to go South for Lynbrook following the kick-off. Sophomore Frank Sirufo, who was a key part of their defensive line, would suffer a broken finger during the drive. Wantagh would put points on the board with a touchdown, but a blocked kick by senior Max Dantona would help Lynbrook hold the lead heading into the second quarter. 

Then, Wantagh took over. Fifteen unanswered points following the touchdown would give Lynbrook a final chance to respond before halftime. Coming up short due to an interception from Fagen in the redzone would leave the Warriors in front heading into the half, 21-7.

Wantagh would receive the ball to start off the second half, but the Owls would limit the damage, causing the Warriors to punt the ball early in the third quarter. With no response to the great defense on the previous drive, Lynbrook had only 12 minutes left to keep their season alive. It looked like Lynbrook would be able to close the margin on the scoreboard. A great defensive possession gave Lynbrook everything they needed to get back into the game. However, time was not on their side. An interception at the goal line would give Wantagh the ball deep in their territory with five minutes remaining in the game.

It would only get worse from there. A fatigued defense could not hold their ground against the rushing game, and a 96-yard touchdown would be the final nail in the coffin for Lynbrook’s season.

Following the loss, coach David Yaker gave his input on what could’ve been done differently to change the story of the game. “We would have to play an almost perfect game in order to pull out the upset victory. We got into the redzone two times, and came away with zero points. This can’t happen against good teams like Wantagh. When we get that close, we need to be much more efficient.”

Senior Ryan Shapiro identified some critical factors: “If we had played defense in the first half like how we played it in the second half, we score touchdowns on our two offensive redzone trips, which we didn’t score on.” However, he continued, “The team played a really solid game versus the second best team in the conference.” 

With the 2022 season officially in the books for Lynbrook football, Yaker has a message as to what he wanted the seniors to take away from not only the game, but the season in general. “I put a hashtag at the beginning of the season that read #HYDAHYDE. At the time, we played a game where the team would think about what it stood for. Someone got it right: How You Do Anything Is How You Do Everything.” He continued, “It would become the motto of the team, and everyone that wore green and gold embraced that creed. We played hard in every game because we did anything that way, with great intensity, focus, and fun. From the very beginning, this team welcomed me with open arms and embraced me as a coach. This group will hold a special place in my heart forever. I simply could not be prouder of a group of young men and to be the coach of the Lynbrook Owls.”

This season meant a lot to Shapiro, as he’ll “forever remember this season as the last time playing football. I learned so many lessons in a short amount of time and created so many new friendships and connections.”

Entering the season, Lynbrook was ranked as the eleventh best team in their conference. For the Owls to prove the critics wrong was huge, and Yaker showed how proud he was of this team for this great accomplishment. “We talked all season about trusting the process, and this team did just that. We were able to prove the doubters wrong, as this team didn’t just show up on Saturdays, they showed out. They showed what Lynbrook Football is all about, and in this world, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone but yourself, day in and day out.”

The only thing that Lynbrook can do is put the game in the past. The future is looking bright for Lynbrook. The class of 2024 has shown promise throughout the season, and in the upcoming season, they will be filling the open spots and will be given a chance to succeed. 

After playing with the juniors all year, Shapiro thinks the team can have a great season. “I think that they are going to be a really good team if they trust the process. It’s all about starting workouts now, in the offseason, and continuing until next fall. It’s going to be a grind until then, but once the regular season starts, the senior season goes by in the blink of an eye. The work they do over the offseason pays off throughout the season.”

Coach Yaker is excited for what is to come in 2023. “There is an old saying in sports, ‘A year older is not a year better.’ There is no doubt that we are excited about what is coming to us from JV and middle school.” Returning varsity starters Ramon Calderon, Craig Leszcak, John DiFiore, Mike Hendrickson, Amah Agwu, and Frank Sirufo all made huge contributions this year, and that doesn’t include the skills that are coming up from JV. “The work starts now for next year,” Yaker said. “We need to replace a lot of great talent and even better kids. We get to work immediately, and the more people we have on board, the better we will be next year. Conference III is a bear of a conference, and if we want to be taken seriously year in and year out, we need to get bigger, faster, and stronger. We have the guys to do it, and I know there is hunger in that locker room.”