Zahn-to-Leonard lifts Shoreham-Wading River to Suffolk IV football cha…

Dylan Zahn was right on the money for Shoreham-Wading River.

Zahn’s perfect pass delivered a Suffolk football championship when he found senior Liam Leonard cutting across the middle of the Bayport-Blue Point defense and fired a strike that hit his receiver in stride at midfield.

Leonard did the rest as he broke away from the beaten coverage and finished off a 71-yard catch-and-run for the winning score as Shoreham-Wading River came back for a 26-23 win over Bayport-Blue Point with 1:11 left to capture the Suffolk Division IV football championship Friday night before a crowd of 1,800 at Stony Brook University.

Zahn’s fourth down-and-seven pass from the Wildcats’ 29, caught the Bayport defense with no thorough help in man coverage.

“I nevertheless can’t believe it, I’m shaking, it’s so exciting,” Zahn said. “We had our backs to the wall on fourth down. I saw no thorough help in the secondary. But I nevertheless had to let the play develop and we had to execute. I’m in shock.”

Leonard was equally surprised by the coverage.

“I was running a backside cross, and Dylan threw a great pass,” Leonard said. “And I caught it in stride and just kept running. They’d played great thorough coverage all game and took away some of our plays. But not this one.”

Shoreham-Wading River (10-1) avenged its only loss of the season and will play the winner of Saturday’s North Shore-Cold Spring shelter game for the Long Island Class IV championship at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday (Nov. 27) at Stony Brook University. It was Shoreham’s seventh Suffolk title in the last eight years.

The Wildcats won three LIC’s in a row from 2014-2016 and then additional a fourth crown in 2019 when they pounded Seaford, 49-7.

Bayport-Blue Point (9-2) had forged a 23-19 rule with 8:49 left when Jameson Smith capped a seven-play, 80-yard excursion with an 8-yard run. Sean Anglim made it a four-point rule with his third additional-point kick.

The Phantoms stopped Shoreham’s next excursion and forced a short punt. They took over at their 31 and quarterback Brady Clark went to work to try and seal the win. He passed 11 yards to Sean Druckenmiller for a first down and another 29 yards to Derek Varley for a first down and moved the Phantoms to the Shoreham 25 where the excursion stalled. On a fourth down and five, Clark’s pass fell short of his intended receiver to run the ball over on downs with 1:41 left.

Clark completed 14 of 22 passes for 239 yards in the game.

Operating with no timeouts, Shoreham was called for a holding penalty on its first play, pushing the ball back to the 15.

“It wasn’t looking too good,” said Leonard, who didn’t play football the past two years. “That penalty was a killer, we couldn’t catch a break. We fought to the end and we found a way.”

Zahn fired two completions of 10 yards to Leonard and four yards to Ryan Wilson, but an incomplete pass set up the emotional fourth-down strike.

“I was in the backfield pass blocking,” said Shoreham halfback Max Barone, who had 126 yards on 28 carries and three touchdowns. “It took me a second to realize what was happening after Dylan threw the pass. It was awesome.”

Bayport took over on its 43 and Clark completed four straight passes to the Wildcats 19. His next two passes fell incomplete. With six seconds left he found Varley all alone on the visitors’ sideline at the seven yard-line. Varley tried to dodge inside the converging defense and was smothered by three defenders, led by Dylan Kiely at the Wildcats’ four as time expired.

The teams traded first-half touchdowns as Shoreham took a 19-14 rule. Barone scored on two 2-yard runs and a 3-yard run and Gavin Locascio had touchdown runs of six and two for the Phantoms. Shoreham dominated time of possession, running 42 offensive plays to Bayports’ 13.

“The only thing that matters is the final score,” Barone said. “But to win on such a clutch play – that’s already more noticable.”

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