and Calhoun are located just 4.54 miles from each other but Saturday afternoon was only the sixth football meeting between the two schools, whose programs both date back more than a half century.
The Warriors sent the many Calhoun fans that flocked to Wantagh High School for the 2011 opener unhappy with a convincing 27-0 win. A major reason for Wantagh’s decisive Conference II win in the Warrior coaching debut of first-year head coach Tom Casey was forcing seven Calhoun turnovers, including five in the first half.
“When you create that many of turnovers only good things can happen,” said Casey, a 30-year coaching veteran who took over the Wantagh program after serving the last two years as an assistant at Seaford. “The whole defense played extremely well.”
“We just made too many mistakes,” said Calhoun football head coach Joseph Bianca. “You can’t give a team like that those opportunities.”
Wantagh tight end Brian Von Bargen was particularly opportunistic when it came to capitalizing on Calhoun mistakes and missed opportunities. After Calhoun cornerback Brandon Furia was unable to hold onto a sure interception at the Wantagh 12-yard line, Von Bargen hauled in a 20-yard touchdown reception on the ensuing play for 14-0 Warriors lead. Von Bargen also returned an interception 75 yards for a score to give Wantagh a 27-0 lead with 2:22 left in the first half.
“He’s a great athlete and he showed his talents [Saturday],” said Casey of Von Bargen, who also caught a 24-yard touchdown reception to give the Warriors a 20-0 lead. “Brian Von Bargen put on a show.”
Wantagh opened the scoring when running back Matt Balzano took a swing pass from quarterback Nick Mullen and raced from one sideline to the other and with the help of solid lead blocking raced 88 yards for a touchdown with just over 10 minutes left in the second quarter. Mullen finished 4-9 for 124 yards and three touchdown tosses.
With the game still scoreless late in the first quarter, Calhoun nearly drew first blood but kicker Angelo DiMatteo’s 31-yard field goal attempt felt just short. Calhoun also had other possessions that crossed into the Wantagh side of the field but were ended by turnovers.
“We had our opportunities,” said Bianca. “We didn’t capitalize and they did and that was the difference in the game.”
Saturday was Wantagh’s debut of a new Delaware Wing-T offense that puts a large emphasis on running the ball. Casey saw positive signs of the offense against Calhoun but also seems room for improvement.
“When running something new, if one player breaks down the whole play breaks down,” said Casey. “You really need all 11 guys to work together.”
Wantagh is next in action this Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for a home game against longtime Conference II power Garden City, who the Warriors from the playoffs last year in the county semifinals. Calhoun will look to get on the winning track in its home opener against Carle Place with kickoff at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’re going to go back to the drawing board and get ready for next week,” said Bianca. “We know we have a good team, we just can’t make mistakes.”