I thought it was strange when a big white SUV with Maryland plates pulled into the parking lot at Harrison High School just in front of me this afternoon. That was until I saw the man who climbed out of it.
Although he was the main attraction at times, Ray Rice did not overshadow today’s top performer: Harrison. The Huskies looked sharp in their get together with New Rochelle, which included both 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. They were tough and physical. And, like I said this afternoon on Twitter, what a difference a year makes. My last summertime look at Harrison came last summer on the turf at New Rochelle. The Huskies looked inexperienced and disorganized. Art Troilo and his coaches spent their time teaching players who looked like they couldn’t quite grasp the message. Now, they do — and it showed.
We all knew how young Harrison was last year. Those players took their lumps and earned their experience the hard way at times. But the front seven — led by senior LBs Tanner Knox and Brandon Bonistall and two DLs, sophomore Charlie Credendino (6-3, 290) and senior Mike Callari (5-11, 240) — often won the battle upfront with the Huguenots inexperienced offensive line. And that was without Duke Alvora, a four-year starter who tore his ACL playing lacrosse this spring.
Although it’s only the last day of June, to watch Harrison hold its own without one of its top players should be considered a harbinger of good times this fall. Especially considering the scrimmage came against New Rochelle, a program Troilo called “the benchmark in the county.”
“We brought back so many kids,” Troilo said. “When we get (Alvora) back, I think we’ll be a team that’ll contend.”
It’s more than a physical defense. On offense, the 220-pound Knox played the role of bruiser. He will be the featured ball carrier for Harrison, which also returns a pair of starting senior RBs in Alex Acompora and Steve Ricciardi. But the Huskies threw quite a bit today and may open up their offense more than usual. Sophomore QB Vincent Nicita has sprung to 6-2, 190 pounds and has taken command of the offense.
“I thought he ran the offense extremely well,” Troilo said. I asked him about whether this could lead to more diversity in the offense. “Whatever we’re strong at, that’s what we’re going to do,” he said. “Sometimes you make things fit. We try to utilize what we have.”
Harrison hopes that will include Alvora. the 6-foot, 240-pound senior tore his ACL but did not damage any other ligaments in his knee. Alvora had surgery and Troilo said the recovery has gone well. Alvora attended the scrimmage and appeared to be moving well enough to expect a full recovery in time for the season.
New Rochelle will need the next couple months to refine itself, too. The Huguenots face a lot of turnover along their offensive and defensive lines and the absence of three top defensive players, Lou DiRienzo, Lewis Edney and Quinton Witherspoon. And that doesn’t even include the loss of skill players galore, like Edney at QB, Julian Griffin at RB and Jonny McGhee at WR.
The lines remain a work in progress, which showed when pads met pads against Harrison, although big senior NT Malcolm Allen played like a man who will push the pile.
That said, I had a quick chat with assistant coach Keith Fagan during a water break. He said the coaches feel confident about a bunch of skill players who earned experience during last year’s run to the state final. Junior SE/S Shaquille Evans and senior HB/CB Jordan Lucas lead that group, and will be joined by the Cargill twins, seniors Christopher Cargill and Christopher Cargill. Six-foot-5 QB Kaliqu Butts has a lot of potential under center. You may remember him from last year’s state final, when he played in relief of an injured Edney.
But no matter what New Ro looked like today, don’t dismiss them. I know you won’t. I’ve covered the Huguenots early in the season enough to learn that. Take two years ago when they lost to Carmel at home in 3OT, only to trounce the Rams in the Section 1 title game. That’s the way New Ro works. No one improves more from the Summer Solstice to Thanksgiving.
Check back later for notes and observations from the conclusion of Tiger Camp.