BREWSTER — Ed Mulvihill’s eyes darted right and there they were, scattered about the field, some were buzzed, others spiked. Junior Frank Golinello wore his in a shock atop the square face and shoulders that define one of Brewster’s steely leaders.
For Mulvihill, no matter whom in green he spotted, and no matter how possessed they played, he saw a sea of bleach blond. His players dyed their hair to celebrate a 7-0 regular season, following through, almost to a man, on a pact they made in August.
It marks another symbolic moment for one of the section’s most united teams. And if the Bears beat Panas tonight in their Class A quarterfinal, the coach is next.
“He teaches at the junior high school,” senior Ryan Moore (pictured, No. 4) said. “He said he has already prepared his students.”
And why not? So far, the Bears have only won under Mulvihill, who, after 26 years coaching in the district he attended as a kid, was hired last spring. The appointment invigorated the players and a vociferous fan base.
Quarterback Brian McNeill said the team began captains’ practices the day after Mulvihill was hired. The community — one of the section’s most passionate when the program competed for sectional championships in the 1990s and early 2000s — offered its support en masse.
“They really do,” Mulvihill said. “At the A&P, I’m getting stopped. My players will get stopped if they’re wearing their jerseys. This town really rallies around its football team.”
The Bears have blended returning seniors fueled by recent disappointment and an infusion of youth.
Seniors like McNeill (pictured, No. 12), a 6-foot-5 Division I prospect, and leading rusher Fernando Solis have been bolstered by the likes of Golinello (pictured, No. 55) and fellow junior Joe Serrecchia, who started last year, and starting sophomores Kyle Catalano, Joe Buonadonna, Matt Gargano and Joe Guida.
“I think the chemistry is just right,” Mulvihill said.
Brewster has been strengthened by success but also emboldened by outside criticism. The Bears had just the eighth-ranked schedule out of 15 teams in their league. The only playoff opponent they beat was Saunders, which went 6-1 but was ranked 13th in the preseason.
Although Brewster’s perfect record earned it a top seed along with Harrison, it hasn’t quite received the affirmation the Huskies have.
“Without a doubt, (other teams) view us as having played an easy schedule,” McNeill said. “I know that’s what they were thinking, that they’re going to roll over us.”
The relative disrespect has been a source of motivation for the Bears, who know they begin the postseason with outsiders ready to say they told them so.
“We want to win, but we want to prove to people out there that Brewster’s for real,” said McNeill, who threw five touchdowns in last week’s win over Gorton. “We’re not just a team that went 7-0 because of an easy schedule. We’re a good team and we’ll show ’em.”
Brewster’s mentality has been consistent. “You don’t have to win every game,” said Moore, a two-way lineman. “You just have to win the next one.”
And for that they’ll be ready, beginning tonight and continuing wherever this season takes them next.
“I hope they know we’re just about as ready to play them as any of the other section contenders,” Golinello said. “We’re ready to play anybody … at any time.”