The Cortland Red Dragons won their first-ever football national championship last Friday night vs. North Central in Salem, Va. Cortland won the NCAA Division III National Championship with a 14-1 record and won the championship game 38-37.
There is a surplus of 40 Long Islanders on the roster. Some of those local collegiate athletes who are members of the Red Dragons include star running back Jaden Alfano St. John from Westhampton; defensive back Eli Alvarez from Patchogue, who attended St. John the Baptist High School; defensive back Allen Flore from Eastport; Brett Harvey from Oakdale, who attended Connetquot; Jack Bonawandt from Manorville, Eastport-South Manor alumnus; Johnnie Booker III from Bellport; Jason Zeva, whose hometown is East Northport and is a St. John the Baptist graduate; and the three-headed monster from Sayville: Ty Kolar, CJ Messina, and Max Llewellyn. Junior Jaden Alfano St. John, a three-year starter, is part of the nucleus of the team. He started in all 15 games, dominating the run game leading the team in rushing attempts (260), rushing yards (1,434), touchdowns (17), and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. His longest run this year was 52 yards. Alfano St. John made 17 catches for 159 yards and one receiving touchdown. He averaged 9.3 yards per catch; his longest reception was 29.
In the championship game, Alfano St. John ran the ball 13 times for 26 yards and made two receptions for 19 yards. Alfano St. John was named All-American in 2023. Eli Alvarez is in his freshman season and attributed nine tackles this year, all coming in a 25-24 home win vs. Grove City on Nov. 25.
Eastport-South Manor graduate Allen Flore is a 6-foot-2, 175-pound defensive back in his sophomore campaign and is a physical education major. Connetquot alumnus Brett Harvey is a 5-foot-10, 200-pound junior linebacker. His major is adolescence education: mathematics.
Jack Bonawandt attended Eastport-South Manor High School and currently is an offensive lineman at Cortland. Bonawandt was a member of National Honor Society and Principal’s Honor Roll at ESM, was a team captain, made the All-Division team twice, and played lacrosse at ESM.
Another burly offensive lineman is Johnnie Booker III, who hails from Bellport. Johnnie is 6-foot-4, 315 pounds, and was a member of the Honor Roll at Bellport High School, was a team captain, earned the Most Improved Athlete Award and Most Outstanding Lineman Award. Senior year, he was named All-Division, played in the Dream All-American Bowl Game at AT&T Stadium in Texas, was a Suffolk County champion with the Clippers, and was a member of the track and field team.
Freshman wide receiver Jayson Zeva was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year with the St. John the Baptist Cougars. Zeva was accredited many honors at St. John the Baptist. He was a member of the National Honor Society, received the National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete Golden 11 Award, was a member of the USA Football All-American watch list, on two occasions attributed NYSCHSFL all-league honors, and was a team captain for the Cougars.
Last season, Sayville’s defensive back Ty Kolar ascribed 51 total tackles (29 solo), and one tackle for a loss, interception, and pass deflected. Former Golden Flashes wide receiver CJ Messina played in five games prior to a season-ending injury. CJ made five catches for 117 yards and scored a touchdown. The touchdown reception was a 70-yard score in a 52-15 win at Morrisville in late September.
In 2022, the Sayvillian placed third on his team in receptions (35) and receiving yards (443); fourth in receiving touchdowns with four; scored one rushing touchdown; averaged 40.3 yards per game and 12.7 yards per catch; and his longest reception last year was 52 yards. Ty and CJ are cousins. Sturdy 6-foot 250-pound defensive lineman Max Llewellyn played in all 15 games in 2023 and recorded 49 tackles (24 solo, 25 assisted), nine tackles for a loss, 4.5 quarterback sacks, deflected two passes, and recovered two fumbles.
Llewellyn had a season high in tackles with seven in two different games. Llewellyn had one assisted tackle in the championship game. Kolar, Messina, and Llewellyn were members of the 2021 Suffolk County Championship team.