Here’s my story on the first day of Champions camp at New Rochelle High, from The Journal News and LoHud.com (Josh Thomson will be back tomorrow):
By Rick Carpiniello
NEW ROCHELLE — Whatever Tuckahoe High’s football team does, wherever it goes until the post-season, it is always the small fish in the big pond.
It’s no different at New Rochelle’s Champions Camp this week, where the Tigers are — again — working out with the bigger and much bigger schools.
That never bothers tne Tigers or coach John D’Arco, a big believer in “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“We like being the underdog all the time,” said Shyheim Nixon, a four-year, two-way starter. “Against the big schools, if we do well we look even better. We have nothng to lose, basically. Other schools have to look out for us.”
The small schools in the section, and maybe across the state, should look out for Tuckahoe too. After winning the state Class D title in 2010 (a year in which the Tigers’ only loss came against Bronxville, the state Class C champ), 19 seniors graduated. So last year was a rebuilding year, in which Tuckahoe lost to Bronxville and eventual Section 1 champ Dobbs Ferry, then lost the Class D title game to Haldane in a 6-3 season.
At a small school, any time you have a senior-laden team, the next year is likely to be rough, and D’Arco said he expected it.
“That’s kind of the way it goes,” he said. “I was proud of our guys last year, although, winning six games, some programs are satisfied. With us, it was definitely a rebuilding year and we learned a lot. We gained a lot of valuable experience and we’re ready to go this year.”
Among the 30 players in uniform now, 12 are seniors, and a bunch of the underclassmen got plenty of experience last season.
Nixon, a versatile runner/receiver/blocker/return man who also plays monster (linebacker/corner) on defense, could be the best player in the league, D’Arco said. Nick Reisman, a big running back/linebacker “came on strong last year,” D’Arco added. Junior quarterback Mike Castracucco learned a ton as a sophomore starter. And the Tigers bring back three of their five starting lineman, including three-year starter Joey Bellantoni.
“We’re definitely looking forward to this year,” the coach said.” We’ve done a lot of work (three big-school camps). We literally were in the weightroom on Thanksgiving because we lost to Haldane. We usually don’t get into the weight room until January, but the guys said, ‘Coach, we want to start early.’ We’re definitely lookng forward to this season.
“We’re good. I don’t know how good we are.”
In addition to Bronxville and Dobbs Ferry again, the Tigers will play a non-league game against Rye Country Day, which had the best year in school history last season, going 10-0 with a New England Prep Schools bowl championship.
What doesn’t kill you …
“We’re just looking to get accustomed to each other,” Reisman said. “Last year was a great year just to get experience with each other and we’re looking pretty sharp this year. When we lost to Haldane, I hate that we lost but that was just a huge stepping stone. It shows us what really can happen.”