In all, I had a decent look at about 17 teams over the last nine days, including stops at Iona Prep, White Plains, Harrison, Mamaroneck and Carmel. You’ve already heard from me about the first two. Here’s a quick breakdown of teams I checked out Thursday afternoon before heading home to monitor the NBA Draft.
Other than Iona Prep, I don’t know if I’ve seen a team that was more impressive than Harrison. The Huskies looked crisp in their head-to-head with New Ro, running with regular success against a defense I know will be one of – if not the – best in the section come October. The backfield consists of players who earned serious playing time a year ago – Mike Amicucci, Robert Waldman, Jake Marino and, of course, QB Vin Nicita – and it looked like it. The only time Harrison appeared a little out of sync wont come as surprise. It was when the Huskies did the unthinkable, running their option out if the shotgun. I don’t remember ever seeing that.
As some of you probably saw this week on my Twitter feed, a non-Harrison coach contacted me raving about the Huskies, calling this their most talented team since 2006. They certainly looked strong against New Ro, but keep this in mind: Harrison usually looks very strong in the summer. 1. Art Troilo’s teams are always meticulous, so they seem further along in the preseason than most others. (Harrison was the best team at last year’s preseason White Plains scrimmage.) 2. The option requires time to prepare, and teams at camps and scrimmages are preoccupied with themselves, not prepping for defending the option.
Having said that, Harrison looked bigger than New Ro and was right there athletically. I left impressed.
NEW ROCHELLE – This was my second look at New Ro, but first with Lou DiRienzo in the house. He was at his son Andrew’s graduation last Thursday.
The Huguenots definitely appeared further along in their offensive progression. Last year, you saw them in the shotgun in certain moments. I’ve already seen a lot more of it this summer. Perhaps that will carry over into the season.
One item of note: Sophomore Jon Forrest will definitely take over as the starting fullback. He’s already a strong runner and should be one of the area’s best underclassmen. He is part of New Ro’s greatest strength – its returning skill players. The Huguenots have become known for their linebackers, but DiRienzo told me the backfields will be their strength. In addition to returning QB, Khalil Edney, and Forrest, New Ro will feature Terrence Holden and Jason Ceneus. They will be a force on D.
New Ro looked small up front outside of Justin Douglas, but Joe Clarke and Ray Ganley are so strong and such good athletes they should provide plenty of power on both sides of the ball. DiRienzo said his team will be fine if it gets something up front.
Overall, the coach gave his team a “fair” grade when asked for an assessment. He left Iona Prep camp impressed after the Huguenots played Iona tough (losing three TDs to two). Even without leading rusher Shaq Townsend, who was away at camp, that’s a good showing. Iona has been the best team I’ve seen so far this summer. Plus, we KNOW New Rochelle is just scratching the surface. No team in the area seems to improve more from June to November than the Huguenots.
With my stop at Harrison and the draft looming Thursday night, I didn’t get a chance to catch up with Anthony Vitti. His team will have some rebuilding to endure without that great two-year tandem of Parker Thelander and Will Parkinson that proved so productive, but one guy jumped out at me. Parkinson’s sidekick last year was Mat Marino, a rising senior who actually finished with better stats last season than Parkinson.
I was a big fan of Parkinson’s game. Now, I can say the same for Marino. He seemed like he was open on every passing play and he never dropped the ball. He’s definitely a player to watch this season – if Mamaroneck can get protection.
Well, it could be another one of those years in Tuckahoe. Three linemen are back, along with nearly all of last year’s primary ball carriers, guys like Shyheim Nixon, Nick Reisman and Kayvon Reid. The schedule will be brutally hard, with Bronxville and Dobbs Ferry and a challenging crossover against Rye Country Day. Not to jump the gun, but that is the formula for another deeeep state playoff run. Retuning talent, experienced linemen, tough Class C-heavy schedule.
I joked about that very thing with John D’Arco. I can’t say he was as optimistic as two years ago – when he basically told me in August his Tigers were a future state champ (they were) – but the confidence is definitely there.
SLEEPY HOLLOW -
Like Vitti, I didn’t have a chance to check in with Steve Borys, whose team was busy. But it’s all about finding skill players to replace L.J. Garrant and Nick Vallo. The big men remain in place – namely RT Frank Curnaj and TE/DE Zeke Sierra – and the new guys seemed capable of taking advantage. Like always, Sleepy had a bevy of fast, elusive guys carrying the ball. They just need that experience.
Stepinac is definitely a team in transition. Last year, the Crusaders had a gaping hole to fill at quarterback, but they were well-stocked with talent at other positions. This year, they’re charged with filling several more openings, particularly on defense. Austin Taps, Donnie Simmons and Garfield Heslop won’t be there rushing the passer and gobbling up backs.
They expect to be strong up front thanks to three top linemen returning. The imposing Dan Pomposello leads that group, but juniors Brian Harris and Michael Carlucci were both starters as sophomores. They will protect QB Dan Hoffer, who moves in full-time as the starter. No player I’ve seen all summer throws it better than he does. If anything, Hoffer’s still learning to keep his booming arm in check.
In addition to grooming new stars on defense, Stepinac will need to develop new offensive weapons around Hoffer. Expect more of a traditional spread attack with the absence of all that Division I talent at the skill positions. Key guys to watch are Ryan Burnett and Justin Thomas. They have some experience and will be counted on as playmakers.
I don’t expect another championship game run, but Stepinac should be intriguing.