During Shoreham-Wading River's championship run, there was a special guest at practice every day. Retired Hall of Fame coach Joe Cuozzo, who won 747 games, 699 of them at Ward Melville, liked what he saw.
"They are so fundamentally sound. They move the ball on offense and they don't make mistakes," Cuozzo said from the sidelines at Middletown High School last Saturday, where he watched one of his former defensemen, Tom Rotanz, coach SWR to the state Class C championship with a 10-6 victory over Penn Yan.
Cuozzo's assessment was as accurate as one of Tim Rotanz's shots. The SWR coach's son scored five goals in the championship game to help his father win a third state title. The Wildcats were so efficient they committed only nine turnovers.
"I've always dreamed about this," said Tim Rotanz, who acknowledged he had seen videos of the school's 2002 and 2007 championships and wanted to be part of one himself.
He had a big part, leading the team with 48 goals and 43 assists and was the fourth-leading scorer in Suffolk with 91 points. Rotanz, a junior who has committed to Maryland, scored 13 goals during the team's five-game playoff run that included just one close game -- 9-7 victory over Cold Spring Harbor in the Long Island championship.
The other offensive star was Notre Dame-bound senior Trevor Brosco, who scored 17 goals in the playoffs, including a spectacular seven-goal performance in a 14-4 victory over Bayport-Blue Point in the Suffolk Class C final.
Brosco got the Wildcats off to a fast start in the state title game, scoring after a faceoff win 13 seconds into the game. He was nailed with a flagrant elbow, drawing a penalty and suffering a concussion in the process. Rotanz took advantage of the extra-man opportunity by scoring 13 seconds later and a tone was set.
While Brosco wound up in a hospital for tests and could not watch his team's victory, he was acknowledged after the game by the Wildcats' crowd, which chanted his name during the postgame celebration.
"Losing Trevor was tough to overcome. He brought us this far," Tim Rotanz said.
Shoreham-Wading River built a 5-0 lead before Penn Yan scored two goals just before halftime, a flurry that concerned Tom Rotanz. "The players were upset about Trevor and we had to keep their focus," the coach said. "He was a captain who never said a word. He did it with his actions. He was on varsity since the eighth grade. He's the best midfielder we've ever had."
In typical Wildcats fashion, others stepped up. Brosco's replacement, Mike Loscalzo, won 12 of 17 faceoffs. Freshman Ryan Bray scored two goals with an assist and sophomore Troy Miller contributed a key goal.
Then there was an impenetrable defense, led by Chris Mahoney and goalie Tyler Lutjen. Those two, along with Rotanz and Brosco, formed what Tom Rotanz liked to call his Core Four. "We had four in the middle," Rotanz said. "I always use the baseball term 'if you're strong up the middle, you're going to do well.' "
SWR did very well. They made Joe Cuozzo smile.