My favorite visits of the summer often come with the coaching staff at Tuckahoe, where they have two things that don’t mesh often enough on the football field: Talent and fun.
When I walked in late in their afternoon practice, the Tigers were running through their offense. The options there are endless with FB Nick Reisman, HBs Shyheim Nixon and Kayvon Reid and QB Michael Castracucco all returning. They are now as experienced as they were green a year ago. But that group endured a season’s worth of ups and downs on the heels of a state championship. So are they ready to compete for another?
John D’Arco certainly likes what he sees in that backfield. Nixon is one of the top returning players in Class C/D – a destructive runner, receiver and return man who ranks with the section’s top playmakers. He is one of only two players who played a key role on that 2010 team, but expect him to reach a higher level as a senior.
The quartet in the backfield will be infused with some youth. One is junior Daryl Taylor, who returned to Tuckahoe from Stepinac. He might be the fastest player on the team and has earned playing time at WR. (There won’t be enough touches for him at RB.)
Taylor is actually a rarity for the Tigers, who return nearly 20 players on a 28-man roster. That includes four returning starters on the offensive line: Joey Bellantoni, Bryan Maden, Andre Olivo and Mike Arborn. Bellantoni started at guard as a sophomore on the state championship team. Arborn actually has moved from center to tackle thanks to the rise of 6-foot-3, 180-pound John Gleason, who has added size in the middle of the line. They’ve even added Billy Magner, the son of former Bronxville coach Bill Magner, as an assistant, a position he previously held at Fordham Prep. He and former all-state center Kevin Chen have worked with the linemen.
The change in attitude for Tuckahoe has been apparent to D’Arco. He said the team has been fueled by last year’s loss to Haldane in the Section 1 Class D final. The group began working out the Monday after Thanksgiving – about six weeks or so earlier than usual. The Tigers went on to attend camps and 7 on 7s at Mamaroneck, Stepinac and New Rochelle.
“We’ve done so much this offseason, I haven’t even had time to go on vacation,” D’Arco said.
Last week, they spent a few days upstate at Camp Pontiac with Class AA schools from Section 1 and huge schools from the PSAL. D’Arco said his team showed its maturity, handling its business despite three practices a day.
Now, it’s the dawn of a new season for a team with two goals: compete against Class C’s best and refocus for a state playoff push. There’s reason to believe Tuckahoe has the ability to achieve both.