The 2008 Syosset Braves pony black football team completed a successful season with a record of 8 wins and 1 loss. With this record came the distinction of being the NSFL Western Conference Division Champions, following-up on the 2007 Super Bowl Championship season.
The 2008 team set the tone for games to come by defeating the Levitown Red Devils 35 to 13 with touchdowns by Michael Calisto, Anthony Carchietta, and Robert Speranza, . Next up for the Braves were the tenacious Roosevelt Roughriders, the only team to beat last year's squad. Roosevelt, always a tremendous powerhouse in the NSFL, would run into defensive Coach Paul Napolitano's Syosset defense that stymied the Roughriders and kept them to only a single touchdown. Vinnie Speranza scored on the Brave's opening drive with a great counter and a 25 yard dart down the sideline. This would be all the Braves would yield from the Roosevelt defense until the last minute of play. Coach Ed Klobus' offense surprised the Roughriders by moving the ball from sideline to sideline, stopping the clock with great runs by Robert Speranza and Anthony Carchietta. With only seconds left on the clock, the Syosset Braves punched in a TD with a Robert Speranza 20 yard gallop, helped by great lead blocking from Ryan Klobus, Nick Balos, Jonathan Klobus, Matt McGahan, and David Reiter, giving the Braves a tremendous upset over a rival opponent which outsized the Syosset team.
Next on the schedule was the strong Wantagh Gold Warriors. The Warriors were out to avenge their 2006 and 2007 NFC conference Championship game losses at the hands of this Syosset team. Wantagh's revenge would have to wait another season, as the Braves once again mounted a last minute drive to defeat the Warriors 13-6. Once again the Pony Black defense held off the bigger opponent with crushing tackles from Joseph Greenstein, Justin Napolitano, Derek Napolitano, and Ben Pollack. Daniel Noh also rose to the occasion with two critical tackles on pass plays as Wantagh desperately attempted to push ahead.
Syosset, now 3-0, next faced the always difficult to beat Valley Stream Hornets. The Hornets were no match this season for the multi-formation offense of the Braves. The half-time score was a 30-6 lead with Syosset coasting the rest of the game to a 48-12 victory. Touchdowns by Robert Speranza, Perry Lerhoff, and Ryan Klobus helped extend the Braves hopes of completing an undefeated record. Travis Hammer contributed with a huge effort, tallying a score, two interceptions, and several two-point conversion kicks.
Seaford Broncos, also undefeated, were next on the schedule, requiring the Braves to once again go on the road and take on a much larger opponent. Tremendous blocking was the key in this game for the Braves. Lineman Nick Balos, Matt McGahan, Jonathan Klobus, Joe Greenstein, Justin Napolitano, Adam Pollack, Richie Prestegaard, David Reiter, Anthony Costa and Matthew Kahl proved once again that good blocking is the bedrock of success for any football program. The streak continued, at 5-0 for the Syosset Braves heading into week 6 with the always difficult North Babylon Bulldogs. This game took on a even greater meaning for the Syosset program, as the players dedicated the game to hospitalized classmate Nico Vigliotti.
Nico's courage, demonstrated through his life's battle with respiratory issues, inspired a depleted Braves team to go out and do their best no matter what obstacles lay ahead. Henceforth, after a long tough battle in a game that was fought with extremely high emotion, the undefeated streak would come to an end with a 31-22 defeat. However, the Syosset Braves Pony Black team would learn much more than wins and losses on this day. Each week they would take to the field with the courage of one boy's fight for health, and understand the true meaning of inspiration, courage, and perseverance. This alone would register as a great victory no matter what the scoreboard read on this uplifting Sunday afternoon.
The Braves next game was held on a cold, late October night down on the shores of Lindenhurst vs. the Bulldogs .Syosset came away with a big victory 32-12 with scores by Robert Speranza and Perry Lehrhoff. Lindenhurst scared the Braves by hanging tough through half-time, but Syosset rose to the occasion and finished the game strong before going home at 11pm. West Babylon came into town for the next opponent on our schedule. Coach Napolitano and the Braves defense, led this week by players Ryan Condon, Derek Napolitano, Minjay Park, Cody Miller,Matthew Kahl, Matthew Costa, Daniel Noh, and the Pollack brothers shut down the West Babylon quick outside run, ending any hopes of scoring. Touchdowns by Jonathan Klobus, Anthony Carchietta, and Vincent Speranza put the Braves on top throughout the game. Richie Prestegaard's leaping catch in the end zone from Ryan Klobus and Travis Hammer's continuing streak of eight straight successful 2-point conversion kicks capped off the great day .
At this point in the season the Braves needed just one more victory to clinch the Division title. The game, the last in the regular season, would play out on an unusually warm November evening at Farmingdale vs. the Titans. Quickly the Braves took control of the game and never looked back. Scores by Robert Speranza, Ryan Klobus, Anthony Costa, Justin Napolitano, Joe Greenstein and Matt McGahan secured the Braves victory. Throughout the night defensive plays by Matthew Costa, Derek Napolitano, Nick Balos, Ryan Condon, Richie Prestegaard,Cody Miller, and Matthew Kahl totally shutdown any form of Titan offensive attack. Perry Lehoff intercepted and returned a Titan pass for a 60 yard touch down diminishing any hopes for the Farmingdale team. As the clock ticked down the Syosset Pony Black team celebrated their first Division I title and secured home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
In the first round, Syosset took on their powerful nemesis Glen Cove Cardinals. This Syosset team had never beaten the Cardinals over the past seven years and was determined to change their fortune. This contest would also take on a great meaning to the Syosset Braves, for this would be the annual First Lieutenant Matthew D. Lynch memorial game. Lt. Lynch, a fallen hero of the war in Iraq for the past several years has inspired the Syosset Brave players in the true meaning of courage and sacrifice. One of the hardest hitting games of the season was underway. The battle of the midfield was one of the hardest hitting games of the season and both teams grew weary. Then with a determined drive the Braves were able to punch in a touchdown with a Robert Speranza 15 yard run that included magnificent lead blocking by Vincent Speranza, Anthony Carchietta and Ryan Klobus. Travis Hammer added another 2-pt conversion kick to give the Braves a 8-0 lead. However, Glen Cove fought back and scored in the second half. As they decided to go for the 2 point conversion, Justin Napolitano extinguished all of Glen Coves hopes of tying the game with a perfectly timed blitz and snuffed out their try for a kick. Syosset continued to stymie Cardinals with a tough defensive stand and a nifty fake punt to hold on to win a tier I playoff game 8-6.
Next up was the NFC Conference Championship game, the fourth time in four years this group of boys reached this game. This time around the Braves needed to take on a stacked Plainedge Bobcats team, a program that combined two teams from last year while Syosset continued to compete with two evenly split squads.
The Plainedge advantage was obvious when the Bobcats took the field with a team that towered over the Braves. Plaindedge hit hard and ran the ball with deadly precision. Only eight minutes into the game the Braves were down 19-0. Syosset's Coach Klobus gathered the troops, assured the players they were no quitters, and this game was far from over. The team knew if it could just get on offense they'd make something happen. Sure enough, Syosset got the ball back, abandoned their game plan and went back to their old school smash mouth offense. An offense known for breaking opponent's backs and spirit came alive, and low and behold the Braves fought back by "wedging" the Bobcats all over the field. Before the 2nd quarter was through, the Braves regained the lead with outstanding runs by Robert Speranza. Syosset outscored the Bobcats 34-6 in the quarter giving them a half time lead of 34-26.
The second half became the battle of the mud bowl. Turnovers stalled the Syosset offensive machine and Plainedge capitalized with scores throughout the second half. Plainedge's size took its toll on the Braves with Syosset losing four starters to injuries before this contest was over. Battling to the end, the Braves were unable to hold off Plainedge in the fourth quarter. The final score read more like a basketball game rather than a gridiron match, Plaindege 59,Syosset 48. Even in loss, an outstanding performance of monumental proportion by Robert Speranza, scoring six touchdowns on the day and running for 260 yards is a Syosset record that will stand for years to come. Coaches Ed Klobus, Paul Napolitano, Rich Prestegaard, Ray McGahan and Lane Lehoff could not have been prouder of their team on this day of battle. Valor and courage were demonstrated by the 11- and 12-year-old Syosset team on that swampy Plainedge field. The boys learned the true meaning of being Braves by battling back vs. the goliath Plaindege Bobcats.
Bravery, which was also exemplified in the dedicated games of the 2008 season for young Nico Vigliotti, and First Lieutenant Matthew D. Lynch. Our team throughout the season derived strength from Nico's courage and quest to get better from his struggles with health issues. Secondly, as for the past five years, The Lt. Lynch game played annually, once again exemplified the courage and honor of our fallen hero of the war in Iraq. Best of luck to Nico and thank you for being a pillar of strength and determination for anyone who is blessed to know you and the courage you display.