Hello, friends. Football is back, which is probably something you’ve realized — or, frankly, have been unable to avoid — if you’ve followed along today on Twitter @lohudinsider. It’s a little after noon and our team of reporters has already churned out a ton of information, including tweets, photos and videos for your enjoyment.
Now, let’s get to the details. I’ll update this post throughout the day with reports as they are filed, so check back often to read about several of the area’s best as they begin the 2013 season. For up-to-the-minute updates, stick with us on Twitter.
NYACK, by Debbie Schechter
The Nyack football team, under third-year coach Mike Ramponi, comes into the 2013 season with playoff aspirations after failing to make the playoffs the last couple of years.
“Although we do a lot of work in the summer, it doesn’t feel real till today,” Ramponi said. “It’s good to see the guys that we have out here today — a solid group of athletes and we’re excited.”
And those solid athletes are led by senior quarterback Jordan Mews, who’s beginning his second year under center. He knows he needs to improve, but is also looking to get more chances to run the ball.
“I’ve been wanting to run last year,” Mews said. “We had those plays last year but we never ran them. I can’t wait.”
— Ramponi hopes to give Mews about 8-10 carries per game.
— Adonis Alcime and Trevor Gordon will lead the ground game for the Indians.
— The Indians are looking forward to facing Poughkeepsie and former coach John Castellano. “As a team, we’ve talked about it with each other,” Alcime said. “We talked about how it’s going to be an emotional game. We obviously have to step up.”
RYE, by Josh Thomson
For the final 10 minutes or so of its morning practice, Rye ran through offensive plays. Pass left. Pass right. Pass short. Pass long. But not only was the site of third-year starter Andrew Livingston throwing every play eye-popping, so was the fact he took every snap in the shotgun.
The Garnets utilized the formation last season to take advantage of Livingston’s gifts, but they will increase the frequency of it even further — so much so that last year’s fullback, Conor Murphy, said he considered himself just a running back now.
Rye coach Dino Garr said his team will still deploy two-back sets, but will primarily line up in a shotgun with just one back now that the strong-armed Livingston, a junior, is a third-year starter.
“He’s older and it takes more advantage of some of the skill people we have,” Garr said. “I think that helps us in terms of being more uptempo. But it’s his turn now. He’s a junior. He should take over here.”
Garr said having an experienced quarterback like Livingston for two more years was “a Godsend,” but so are the returning backs who will surround him. Murphy, Shane O’Malley and Chris Santangelo are all senior captains and two-way players who earned significant playing time last season. Rye also returns junior Tim DeGraw, who, like Livingston, has earned snaps for two seasons already, but will return off an injury. He and Murphy both missed significant time last year when Rye missed the playoffs and saw its run of nine straight wins vs. rival Harrison end.
“We grew up and everybody’s always been winning and been great,” Santangelo said. “Naturally, we just want to be the best we can be. It was a big disappointment coming out there and not making the playoffs for the first time in however many years. So we’re definitely hungry this year. We want to get out there and get at everybody.”
Line play could be the most significant area of concern for the Garnets, who graduated four of the six players who earned the majority of starts last season. They’ll try to counter that with faster tempo on offense and an assortment of skill players.
Of course, returning to the playoffs will fuel Rye, too. Anything less with be a disappointment after one of the quietest two-year stretches in recent memory.
“The last two years were definitely disappointing,” Livingston said. “You want to make the playoffs and you want to go far in the playoffs. This year we definitely have the potential to do so. It’s exciting to work hard and have a chance to do that.”
NORTH ROCKLAND, by Mike Zacchio
Even in a rebuilding year, it’s tough to count out North Rockland. Coach Tom Lynch took the Red Raiders to the Class AA final in his second year at the helm after replacing longtime coach Joe Casarella. North Rockland is looking to replace three linebackers, two fullbacks and a running back this season. Senior Nick Imperato will return as the team’s starting quarterback.
“We’re going to be young this year,” Lynch said. “But if they come and play like North Rockland usually plays, we’ll be OK.”
“Our defensive line is definitely one of our strengths with (Eric) Favors, Stanley Johnson, Nick Didio, and Samuel Pierre-Louis back; they all started last year.”
“We should be pretty good against the run. On offense, we have three of our five offensive linemen back, but we have to replace all of our skill — that’s going to be a tough one.”
The most obvious losses come in the backfield and in the linebacking corps. Two-year stalwarts John Dapolito, Nick Connell and Mike Cappabianco are all gone after anchoring the defense on the 2011 sectional champs and 2012 runner-ups. Dapolito will play at Southern Connecticut and Connell at Western New England.
Logan Vasquez will fill one of those linebacker spots. Favors, the team’s dominant, all-section nose guard, may have to go back to fullback after playing left guard last season.
“I’m looking forward to just getting back in the groove of things — I love playing football; it’s going to be a great season,” said lineman George Morfogen, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound senior. “We have a lot of new guys coming up, and I think we’re going to have a good year and I think we have a chance to go undefeated this year.”
That will mean avenging last year’s championship game loss to New Rochelle, the only team other than North Rockland to win a Class AA sectional title since Carmel in 1998.
“I think after last year, how the season ended (shutout by New Rochelle, 28-0), everybody’s got like a fire inside of them now to just go out there and play their best and win every game,” Imperato said. “We always look forward to (facing New Rochelle) — that’s like our Super Bowl during the season.”
Imperato is looking at a few D-3 schools in the Northeast area, specifically Tufts and Wesleyan. Imperato has Tufts at the top of his list, and wants to major in biology.
“We’ve been working very hard this summer to get ready for this,” Morfogen said. “I think we’re getting really well conditioned this year, I think better than last year. We all work together as a team, we all workout as a team, and we’re trying to make ourselves better.”
NEW ROCHELLE, by Rick Carpiniello
The last time New Rochelle was the defending state AA champ, it went back to Syracuse and the title game … and if Ray Rice hadn’t gotten hurt in the second half, the Huguenots might have gone back-to-back.
“We’ll take that,” New Ro football coach Lou DiRienzo said. “You guarantee me a trip to the Dome, I’ll take that.”
It won’t be easy to repeat … just as it was far from easy to win the Section 1 title, then the state championship for a team that didn’t hit its stride, especially offensively, until the final week or two of the regular season, then got better during the playoffs.
But New Ro lost some superb athletes in graduated quarterback Khalil Edney, two-way star Joe Clarke, speedy Jason Ceneus and the Holden brothers, Terrence and Wijante, among others.
“Joe Clarke was a freak,” DiRienzo said. “You’re not going to replace a guy like that. Will we have another tight end who can catch the ball? Yeah. But you’re not going to teach a kid to be able to leap over buildings in a single bound. When we lost Ray Rice, you can’t get another Ray Rice.
“You can’t teach a kid who runs a 4.8 40 to run a 4.6. But you can have the same desire and the passion and the work ethic those kids have. Those are all lessons we learned from those players.”
— Quarterback Nas Sinkfield-Shelton was a sponge soaking up as much as he could from Edney last season.
“Being behind Khalil last year, it was tough, but it was also it was also a learning curve,” Sinkfield-Shelton, a senior, said. “He’s like my big brother. He’d tell me on the weekends, ‘Next year, be a leader. Take control. Hopefully you can be a good one.’
“It’s big steps. I’m Nas, he’s Khalil. I’m not asking to be what he was.”
DiRienzo said he believes Sinkfield-Shelton surely will be a good quarterback for the Huguenots.
— Like last year’s New Rochelle team, and many others before it, the current edition should be strong defensively – and its defense allowed New Rochelle to progress as the offense struggled through the middle of last season – and with speed and athleticism at most positions. DiRienzo also thinks the line will be a strong suit.
“We have a bunch of speed in the backfield, so if we get going I could see us doing well back there,” said returning junior running back/linebacker Jonathan Forrest.
“Compared to last year, we don’t want to start off slow like we did. But we’re a young team. … there’s a lot on our shoulders. We have a bunch of guys from JV that came up, but we expect to do just like we did last year – take it step by step, game by game, practice by practice, and we’ll see where it goes.”
“It’s way different,” added Sinkfield-Shelton. “We graduated a lot of starters. It’s not like we have new players that never played before. It’s just that the tempo of varsity now is going to be a lot faster and I’m pretty sure they can do it.
“Little pieces of the line, we have speed, defense, and hopefully we’ll be ready to win the first game.”
— Expectations are always high at New Rochelle, but the players and the coach seem to have the focus trained on the here and now.
“Honestly, that was last season,” Forrest said. “This is this year. It’s 2013. We’re focused on getting better day by day and winning football games this year. Coach D says every day is a day to get better, so as long as we’re not taking steps back we’re going to be fine.”
Sinkfield-Shelton added: “Of course everybody (has it) in the back of their minds, defending state champions. Everybody wants to be another state champion, but we can’t focus on the long run. We have to take it game by game, practice by practice.”
MAHOPAC, by Sharieka Breeden
The Indians have six captains this season, so leadership is not a question. With 24 players graduated, the team will look to seniors Frank Dellacamera (FB/SS), Brendan Donahoe (HB/FS, Marsilio Langella (C/NG), Ethan Ryan (QB), Michael Longo (FB/DL) and Eric Girono (HB/LB).
For coach Tom Donahoe the team being well conditioned on both sides of the ball will be a key factor in their success.
“We expect their best effort on every play and in everything they do on and off the field,” Donahoe said.
“It’s about improving every day and every practice and, when the season starts, improving every game,” Donahoe said.
“This is a very intelligent and enthusiastic group of guys,” Donahoe added.
— Senior tight end/defensive end Ryan Simone is considering several schools in his final season for basketball and football. For football, Simone has Byrant, Wagner and Albany on the list. As for now, his focus is on finishing his two year varsity career strong.
“Anything over two losses is inexcusable,” Simone said. “We should have a high record and I am looking forward to it. The connection is there. I am really looking forward to playing every down like it’s my last.”
— Ryan, the senior quarterback, said he thinks the team can do something special this season.
“I have a lot of confidence in these guys because we have a lot of chemistry and I have been playing with them since I was little,” Ryan said.
— Langella, a senior center/nose tackle, said he will prepare for every game the same, but is looking forward to New Rochelle on September 17 at 7 p.m.
CARMEL, by Sharieka Breeden
On the first day of practice Carmel coach Todd Cayea focused on the fundamentals of the game.
“We are going back to the basics and paying attention to details and stuff. We are getting the big picture stuff in,” Cayea said.
This season the Rams will depend on senior Mark Gualano, senior Chris Vozella and senior Bill Silke for team leadership as they are led by a young quarterback, Joe Rodriguez, who is a sophomore.
“The seniors have been very enthusiastic and positive verbally,” Cayea said.
As for Rodriguez who started five games last season, Cayea notes evident progress.
“He has shown a lot more confidence that he did last season and a little more pocket confidence,” Cayea said.
Cayea is searching for more consistency on the defensive side of the ball.
— Mental preparation will be key for a team that graduated six players on offense and seven on defense.
“We need to cut down on mental mistakes and not turn the ball over,” Cayea said.
“Last week we went to through the Marine Corps. program,” Silke said. “It shows our mental toughness. We have also gone from Carmel to John Jay camp and bonded with each other so we know our strengths and weaknesses.”
— “We are all going to work hard and win some games this season,” Rodriguez said. “ We are like a big family so we are going to go into every game with our all.”
BREWSTER, by Sharieka Breeden
Brewster, which finished with an 8-1 record last season, will have some new competition to face during the season. Among those on the Bears’ schedule is Harrison, a perennial contender.
Brewster graduated quarterback Brian McNeill, who passed for 1,200 yards as well as lineman and linebackers, yet the team is embracing the change and accepting the challenge.
For senior Liam DaRos, who will be the starting quarterback this season, relying on what he referred to a strong weapons on the outside will be key.
“We have a stronger schedule, but we have the same goals,” DaRos said. “We look forward to playing Harrison. We know they are good and in order to be looked at the same way, we have to step up to teams like that.”
Teammate and senior Frank Golinello added: “We have the same mentality as last season,” Golinello said. “We are ready to play anybody, anywhere and not back down.”
— For senior safety Joe Serrecchia communication and physicality are two words that him and his teammates must convert to actions each game.
“Last year we were a hard hitting team with six people to the ball every time,” Serrecchia said. “It’s always the entire team coming down on a player.”
When asked if the team could keep that type of on-the-ball action up this season, Serrecchia confidently replied: “Definitely. 100 percent.”
— The schedule changes are a distant thought for coach Ed Mulvihill.
“We don’t control the schedule so we don’t even talk about it,” Mulvihill said. “The schedule is not important. We focus on ourselves and taking care of business that way.”
SLEEPY HOLLOW, by Rick Carpineillo
The next step for Sleepy Hollow won’t be any easier. The Horsemen went 1-7 in 2010, 5-4 in 2011 and 8-2 last season when, with a good playoff draw, Sleepy reached the Section 1 Class A championship game, where it lost to Somers.
“Every year we expect to be in the championship,” Sleepy coach Steve Borys said. “We expect to make the playoffs and make a run at the whole thing. That’s always the goal, every year. We’ve certainly got the kids to back that up. Now we’ve got to go on the field and execute and get a couple of balls to bounce the same way.”
“In past years,” said running back Dante Ellis, “the team kind of fell off, but last year and the year before that the team realized that we need to get something going for the next generation of Sleepy Hollow players to come up. So we built this family and we took it far.”
— It won’t be the same cast. Sleepy lost nine starters on defense, but it has a load of its skill players back on offense, including Ellis, Dominic Onwe, double-threat quarterback Devin Lopez, and running back Isaiah Sanjuan. So is the left side of the offensive line, and some talented replacements up from the last year’s JV.
“We lost a lot of seniors,” Lopez said. “The whole defense is gone. We’re going to rebuild that and hopefully make another run for it. We lost a lot of great captains last year, so the seniors this year have to step up, like Dante, Dom, Isaiah and lead the team back to the championship.”
Borys said, “Last year we had a balanced attack. We had a good passing game; we threw for 1,200 yards, and that opened up the run. Our running game wasn’t just one back. Devin did a great job running, but we also had Dante, Dominic, Isaiah. They all made contributions. Our defense was opportunistic. It wasn’t the Steel Curtain by any stretch of the imagination, but they made plays for us when they had to.”
— An interesting moment during the second session was when Borys had all his athletes remove their helmets and read the warning label therein, about how the helmet is not to be used as a weapon, and the dangers of leading with the helmet. Borys then told his players that any such use of the helmet would not be tolerated on his team.
— The coach also explained his hilarious YouTube video of a dance routine that mimicked actor Christopher Walken.
“My great friend at Eastchester, who is a video producer there, Michael Goldstein. We shoot videos and I help him out with his class. That was his inspiration.
“They always say big guys can’t do things and they’re clumsy. I wanted to prove that stereotype is untrue. They always say linemen are non-athletes and they just eat chicken wings. The chicken wing part is true, but we’re also athletes, too.”
EASTCHESTER, by Rick Carpiniello
Eastchester’s football players, especially those on offense, have had a little bit more on their plates this offseason … and a little more fun.
Coach Fred DiCarlo is implementing the “Pistol” offense … a kind of spread-out version of the “Wildcat.”
“It’s not going to be our sole offense,” DiCarlo said. “But we plan on using it to spread out teams. It might not be half of our offense, but we’re not just going to use it once or twice a game. … It could be a couple times in a series. It could be a whole half. If it’s working we’re going to use it. We’ve been practicing to use it. We plan on using it. It’s going to be part of our offense.
“I think it’s more fun. It’s different. We’re doing a little bit of everything with our offense. It’s challenging to get the work in in practice, but I think it’s a lot more interesting.”
That’s fine with quarterback Anthony Gallucci, who took over at the position for the final three games of last season, including the Eagles’ only two wins (2-6).
“At first it was a little challenge, but we got reps and now it’s just fun because we get to spread people out and allow more outside running; just more space,” he said.
“We’re just adding another element to the offense. I definitely think it’s going to help us. It’s the same (triple) offense, just from a different formation.”
— Eastchester is up against a setback already. Senior fullback/safety Mike Marsico is in a boot after suffering a severe ankle injury playing basketball over the summer. He is Eastchester’s top returning player.
“He’s going to be probably three weeks into the season, we’re hoping, when he’s back,” DiCarlo said “The first report was mid-October, so we’re hoping it’s a little quicker than that.”
— Two-way returning lineman Thomas Puccini, who had to learn the shotgun snap for the Pistol formations, has an additional reason to be optimistic. He was part of the Eagles’ JV team that went 7-1 his sophomore year, in 2011.
“This is kind of the same group,” he said. “I know varsity and JV are different, but I feel we can work well together, we know each other well, and we know what we can do.
“We’ve got really good expectations this year. I think we’re very good, I think we have the talent, we have the potential. As long as we work hard we have high expectations.”
Gallucci added, “We’re going to take it week by week. We’re going to work hard, focus and we’re expecting to do good things this year.
“I think the work ethic this year is higher than it was last year, which is where it needs to be.”
DiCarlo said that progress was made late last season.
“We feel we have coming back a lot of experience and being ranked a little bit lower we feel we can be competitive with a lot of teams on our schedule,” he said. “I think we’re going to have our eyes open in our first game against Tappan Zee. It’s kind of hard to gauge. We finished off a little stronger last year. Halfway through the year we started to play better. T hat didn’t show in the win column, but there were a lot of games we were competitive in, then we won our final two.”
SOMERS, by Dan DeFrancesco
With almost the entire team gone from its run to the Class B state quarterfinals in 2012, the Somers football team had plenty of new faces at the first day of practice. New faces, though, doesn’t necessarily mean different expectations for the Tuskers.
— Tony DeMatteo’s biggest concern entering the 2013 season is his team’s schedule. The Tuskers open the season at Poughkeepsie, followed by a home game against Rye, two perennial contenders in Class A. DeMatteo was only able to schedule one day of scrimmages (the Tuskers will host Stepinac, Panas, Arlington and Carmel) due to the late start of the preseason. The longtime coach said he had to get creative during the offseason.
While the Tuskers will run three sessions a day, a good portion of time will be spent in the classroom implementing plays and formations with the new players. It’s a practice DeMatteo started last year, and something he believes had a huge affect on the success the Tuskers had. This season DeMatteo said Somers is schedule to have five more lecture days than last year.
“It seems to be working,” said DeMatteo of the lectures. “It seems like we need to have at least as good a preseason as last year to have any kind of shot. It’s going to be up to what we do preseason whether we’re going to be ready to play a team like Poughkeepsie or Rye.”
— DeMatteo has a stable of players looking to replace the hole left by first-team all-state honoree Stefano Bicknese in the backfield. He said he’ll look to use several backs. Junior Matt Morgante and senior Erik Carnazza will play right halfback. Senior Connor Vlasaty and junior Joe Spor will play left halfback. Junior Tim Fazzinga, senior Marc Fiocco and junior Matt Senzamici will take on the fullback duties.
“We have some back that can run,” DeMatteo said.
“It’s really good because we get a lot of breaks in between,” Vlasaty said. “We run a quick offense because we shift a lot. So if a backs getting tired we just put another back in.”
“We have a lot of depth this year that can come in and get the job done,” Morgante said. “That gives us versatility. We got a lot of fresh guys so that keeps the defense off-balance.”
— Senior Tim Cousin will take over the starting quarterback duties after backing up John Decker last season. DeMatteo said the fact Cousin did get to play in a few series every game last season has prepared him for taking on the starting role.
“He is far more advanced, right now, than he was at this time last year,” DeMatteo said. “He’s really got a good grasp (of the offense), so I think he’s going to be fine.”
DeMatteo has also been impressed with juniors Nick Lombardo and Matt Pontbriand. Both quarterbacks played well in the Tuskers three offseason camps and could push for playing time depending on how their preseason goes.
— While the Somers backfield might be in good shape, it’s what’s in front of them that is the problem. DeMatteo said a huge aspect of preseason will be getting the offensive line in order. Currently, according to DeMatteo, the Tuskers only have one legitimate big man in senior John Chrysogelos.
— On the defensive side of the ball, DeMatteo is happy with the teams secondary. Morgante is expected to be a lockdown cornerback. Senior Matt Arita, Vlasaty and Spor will round out what DeMatteo believes to be a solid secondary. Fazzinga, senior Manho Sin, Carnazza and Senzamici make up the linebacking core.
— As is the case with the offense, the front line of the defense is a sore spot. All five positions are currently up in the air.
— Among all the new faces are even newer faces. Due to the success of last year’s team, several players have come out for the team, many with no football experience. Senior Marc Fiocco, a lacrosse player, is a newcomer that has stood out for DeMatteo.
“He’s got a lot of ability,” DeMatteo said. “He’s way behind, but he’s got the potential to really do something.”
Junior lineman Mike Smith, a JV player last season, has also impressed DeMatteo early on.
— Despite the fact that almost the entire team is new, DeMatteo’s expectations still haven’t changed. He considers himself “a now kind of guy”. DeMatteo said he’s not worried about what happened last season, or what will happen in two seasons.
“We do not rebuild at Somers,” DeMatteo said. “We reload. I’m not coming in here with a brand new team and telling the seniors that we’re going to play a lot of young kids to get ready for two years from now. We’re getting ready for this year. That’s my philosophy.”
MOUNT VERNON, by Jermaine Dennis
Mount Vernon’s football program is embarking on a new culture in the locker room with first-year head coach Severin Cornelius at the helm.
A former assistant coach for the program from 2005 to 2007, Cornelius has tried to eliminate the memories of last year’s 1-8 season — replacing it with hopeful rhetoric of being competitive in the section.
“We are trying to establish a culture of success,” Cornelius said. “We are trying to instill in the kids a work ethic.”
Getting the players to accept his philosophy wasn’t as daunting as you would expect when a new coach comes into town. Instead, players are excited with what Cornelius and his staff have offered.
“I’m looking forward to a complete turnaround,” senior captain Kammal Henry said. “We are trying to do bigger and better things this year. … We have new coaches and we just want to see if it is going to make a difference.”
Part of the reason for Mount Vernon’s recent struggles is lacking eligible players. Academic ineligibility hurt the Knights last year as they only had 19 eligible players on the roster at one point.
With the new coaching staff emphasizing education, the Knights have over 50 students on the roster — a number coach Cornelius hopes to improve on.
“Our focus was to make sure the kids are on schedule to graduate,” Cornelius said.
On the field, the coaches brought a new spread offensive system. Players and coaches excitement around this system is apparent and hopes there will be great success to come soon with it.
“I think we are going to be a mental smart and hard-hitting team this year,” senior captain Qua’dreonz Taylor said about his expectations for the team. “Speed and quickness will be a part of our game.”
WHITE PLAINS, by Jermaine Dennis
White Plains coach Skip Stevens and the Tigers had a long offseason after winning only one game last year. Although they were solid on defense, the offense just didn’t produce enough to points to edge out many close games.
So the coach decided to try something new. During the first day of practice on Monday, coach Stevens and the rest of the coaching staff walked around with stopwatches in attempt to speed up the tempo, especially the pace of the offense.
“This move is to get us to do more skill work to improve our offense,” Stevens said of picking up practice pace. “We want to be in the best condition possible.”
Players seemed to enjoy the move. Flying around the field during the practice from one drill to another, the team was all on one accord. For the Tigers, more offensive plays should equal more point production.
“We have a lot of returning skill position players that can make some plays,” Stevens said. “If we can them the ball as much as possible than we have a great chance to produce.”
Even though coach didn’t discuss what happened last season, the players still remember. By the end of the season, the team was left with the bad taste of defeat and their goal this year is to keep themselves from repeating the same outcome.
“No one wants to have the same feeling we had last year,” senior tight end Lukas Repetti said about their difficult season. “The message is no fooling around. Everyone is really focus this year and we look to do much better.”
MAMARONECK, by Josh Thomson
Twenty-six. That’s how many seniors Mamaroneck graduated from last year’s 6-2 team — a number that’s enough to make even the most optimistic coach shudder, much less one whose roster now stands on the wrong side of 30. That senior class helped produce one of the Tigers’ best seasons in recent memory, but their absence hasn’t tempered the excitement at Mamaroneck.
“There are certainly more expectations than there were here last year,” senior Ross Garfield said. “Being a senior, it’s fun taking on that role.”
The Tigers’ outlook has changed after last year’s success, but also because they return a strong junior and several key seniors with experience. Seniors Garfield, Ryan Shudy, Louis Rubio, Jordan Garofalo and Jesse Velleu all contributed last year. And juniors Marquez Jackson-Allen, Alex Parkinson, Andrew Sommer and Will Giddon all started as sophomores.
The junior class includes a number of football-first athletes, headlined by Jackson-Allen, one of the section’s top running backs and linebackers. Classmates Sommer and Giddon have shifted from tight end to offensive line, which was the area hurt most by graduation.
“Last year when we were coming up, coach told us that we were the guys, we were the future. He said, ‘You guys have to take this. This is your program moving forward,'” Sommer said. “A lot of our guys have embraced that. We have a lot of leadership everywhere.”
The competition for snaps at quarterback is ongoing with junior Daniel Gottlieb and sophomore Bill Flatow the leading candidates for the job. The 6-foot-5 Parkinson, whose brother, Will, plays at Towson, should be the top target for whoever is named the starter, although Garfield will play alongside him.
Although last year’s success was a boon for the program, it came with the team ranked 15 out of 15 teams in the preseason. The Tigers thrived against an easier schedule, but that won’t be possible this season. They were ranked third out of eight teams in their league.
To continue to build in the right direction, the program needs to follow up on last year’s success.
“They weren’t just happy being there,” coach Anthony Vitti said. “I think we want to take that next step as a program and be up there.”
RAMAPO, by Debbie Schechter
The Gryphons enter into the season under new leadership. Athletic coordinator Duff Pannell stepped out from the desk and takes over the head coaching job from Dan Zotter.
“I tell people all the time that it’s easier to motivate kids than it is to motivate adults,” Pannell said. “Their minds haven’t been shaped yet. They still have dreams in the stars. They don’t have a problem trying to do things that people believe are unachievable. Working with the kids has lifted my spirits.”
Pannell didn’t get the job until late into the summer, but with much of the coaching staff having returned from last year it has made the transition easier. However, there are still some players who believe they were behind the eight-ball, so to speak, when preparing for camp.
“Some of us have been out here practicing when we weren’t even sure if we were going to have football,” Rojay McDonald said. “It’s a relief that we have a good coach here working with us.”
— Rasso Anderson, Preston Personna and Carlentz Desire are the three senior captains.
— McDonald will be key for the Gryphons running the ball. Cam Santana is expected to start at quarterback.
— Rounding out the coaching staff this year is Chris Harris on the offensive and defensive line. Harris graduated in 2000 and played football for the Gryphons.
“He makes you work,” Desire said of Harris. “That’s what we need and we love having him. He’s been teaching us technique.”
SUFFERN, by Debbie Schechter
The Mounties come into the season with a real quarterback competition. Chris Gragnani, a 1,000-yard passer, graduated so the position is up for grabs.
“We’re looking to have an elusive, mobile, out of the pocket quarterback, a bootleg-type passer a la Doug Flutie,” Mounties coach Bill Delaney said.
Everyone was excited for day one.
“We’ve been working hard all summer,” captain Gabe Cohen said. “We had spring, summer workouts. We’ve been attending all of them. I thought we had a good day one. I am hoping that it gets better as we go along.”
— Justin Rosenblum, Jared DeCosta, along with a couple of younger kids are all vying for the chance to be the No. 1 QB.
— Cohen could be used as a Wildcat specialist, according to Delaney.
— The Mounties want to have a both and speed and power threat at tailback “kind of like the Giants a few years ago”, Delaney said.
Cohen and Brandon Caldwell are said to be the top two tailbacks. Caldwell will also play cornerback.
CLARKSTOWN SOUTH, by Mike Zacchio
Vikings coach Mike Scarpelli has redone his entire way of practicing after 11 years at the helm. In addition to bringing in two former high school head coaches — Rich Conklin of Nanuet and John Naughton of Byram Hills — to run the team’s offense and defense, respectively, Scarpelli has also cut down on practices.
A team that used to run three-, sometimes four-a-days has now trimmed their work load to just double sessions. Scarpelli hopes the schedule will keep the team rested, but, more importantly, healthy.
“I’ve done everything — I’ve gone away to camps, been home, done four practices (in one day), we’ve come back with the lights on — and this has been the smoothest (practice) since I’ve been here as far as efficiency,” Scarpelli said. “That probably has a lot to do with the experience I have … the make up of the coaches and the make up of the kids. (The team) understands it — they don’t look at this long practice schedule and think, ‘Ugh, I have to come back.’”
Scarpelli said the Vikings will have to fill some skill positions — mainly quarterback, halfbacks, split ends — but said that the group of players have enough varsity experience to keep the team competitive.
Scarpelli said junior Nick Palumbo and senior David Schiff will battle for the quarterback position, but that South has several “interchangeable” players that can fill in at multiple positions.
“I think we’re going to sneak under the radar, I think we’re going to surprise some teams,” Scarpelli said. “I think maybe we’ll be that sixth, seventh, or eighth playoff team.”
— Hassan Auwarter, a 5-foot-11, 235-pound halfback said the Vikings have responded well to the new coaching staff.
“Everyone’s looking good — offense is looking good, defense is looking good — we have a whole new playbook in, and everyone looks like they’re getting used to their spots,” he said. “It’s just more experience. It’s going to be better for us because we have more knowledge from different coaches so it’s just going to rub off on us.”
— Eric Margolis, a big 6-foot-4, 205-pound target, will be one of the team’s passing options as well as a returner at safety.
“We have a strong offensive line, we just need to get used to the offense and defense because its different coaches and different systems,” he said. “From the beginning, we’ve connected with (the new coaches) very well.”
“It’s three guys with years of experience that have been head coaches at other places which have been successful, so it will only bring us more success.”
HARRISON, by Josh Thomson
LAKELAND, by Nancy Haggerty
Lakeland went 3-5 last yaer but included were one-point losses to Panas in OT and Yorktown in the last minute, a three-point loss to Hen Hud (last 30 seconds) and a two-point loss to Byram Hills when the Hornets’ field goal try was blocked as time expired.
“Our goal is to finish playing all four quarters. We need to develop mental toughness and finish at 48 (minutes),” said Lakeland coach Rob Cappelli, who is in his 14th season.
Lakeland graduated its entire offensive line but Cappelli appears optimistic, noting about 15 players are coming up from last year’s 7-1 JV team.
The quarterback is three-year starter Brian Prunty. all-section honorable mention running back/linebacker Jimmy Flaherty returns.
Of Prunty, Capelli said, “He has a very good arm and a great understanding of the game. He makes good decisions and is a good leader.”
Lakeland opens September 7 at Saunders.
OSSINING, by Nancy Haggerty
Coach Dan Ricci said Ossining (3-5 last year) has lost “a ton” of players to graduation. In fact, only 10 remain. But 70 kids are trying out for varsity and JV.
“We’ve got good skilled kids. We just have got to fill our line holes,” Ricci said.
Returners include senior all-section QB Justin Davidov.
Last year, Davidov did a lot of running. This year, he will throw more, Ricci said. During Monday’s practice, Davidov was spot-on, hitting receiver after receiver on 40-yard motion-bootleg throwbacks.
Ricci said Davidov has spent a bunch of time in the weight room and can now bench 255.
The backup QB is senior Michael Pappolardo, who started the last three games last year after Davidov broke his ankle vs. Poughkeepsie.
The under-the-radar but probably soon-to-be-well-known element is kicker Alex Tejera, a 17-year-old senior. He played soccer for Ossining for a couple of years but now is on the New York Red Bulls Reserves, as an unpaid player on a pro team. He was on the team last year and will be again this year. The Red Bulls forbid him from playing soccer elsewhere.
He is buddies with Davidov and decided to try kicking this year. He has been at it for a couple of months.
Accurate, he is not – at least not yet. But Tejera was booming balls that would have gone 60 yards had they not hit up high in the netting behind the goal posts. The coach says he can bury kickoffs in the end zone.
“He wants to play-play but his dad doesn’t want him to get hurt. I don’t blame him,” Ricci said, noting Tejera is eying D-I soccer offers. Tejera said he is considering UCLA, Univ. South Florida, St. John’s, UNC, Maryland and UVA, among others.
Davidov said Ossining was winning every single game it played at one point last year, blaming losses on “execution down the stretch.”
He likes this year’s team chemistry, saying kids had worked out together after last year’s season.
Steven Orts, senior tight end and defensive end, echoed Davidov’s sentiments, saying, “We were not getting killed. They all came down to the wire.”
“Some young guys have shown really good skill,” Orts said.
He added the goal was to win the league and take a “shot at the section championship.” Beating Sleepy Hollow, of course, is a priority.
Griffin Gallagher, senior lineman, who went out last year with a torn ACL, said he is 100 percent now.
“I have no worries on it. I trust it. I know I can push it. It’s stronger than ever,” he said.
Gallagher said his team has “a lot of heart” and, “for sure” will finish better than 3-5.
PANAS, by Nancy Haggerty
Coach Dan Patronik said about 80 kids are trying out for JV and varsity. He is the Panthers’ three-year varsity coach. Before that, he coached JV for five. Panas was 5-3 last year.
Twenty kids have graduated from that team but 20 are returning. Of the starters, the Panthers have lost only two defensive and two offensive players.
Even newcomers aren’t all that new. Panas competed in 7 on 7 tournaments, winning Stepinac’s.
Panther players also attended a Hudson Valley football camp.
Defensive big names returning include linebackers Mike Zingaro and Russ Mylnar and “lockdown” corner William (Trey) Hodge III.
Panas opens September 6 vs. Yorktown.
Offensive returnees include Liam Hagans, an all-league player and John Brophy, all-section tailback. Steve Kelly, a defensive lineman and offensive tackle is “back and bigger than ever,” the coach said.
Panas will mix up its offense.
“We just like to shove it down the throat but we also like to throw it around a bit,” Patronik said.
Liam Hagans, John Brophy and Mlynar will be captains. Hagans said he expected the team to be smaller but with “more skilled, better players.”
“We’ll have more of a balance running and passing and try to get the ball in more players’ hands,” he said.
Brophy said the team has more chemistry.
He blames himself for last year’s 21-20 loss to Brewster. He fumbled inside the Bears’ five with 20 seconds to play. He said he wants the ball “100 percent” this year against Brewster.
Mlynar pointed out that that game included two blown coverages and two missed Panas field goals.