Today began at Hackley for a story on senior Mustafaa Dais, the area’s top senior recruit. I’ll have more on him in the morning.
Afterward, I drove down to Irvington to catch up with the Bulldogs, who were hit hard by graduation. Here’s my report:
Compared to the last two years when I checked in on Irvington during the preseason, the mood was different, the lessons from coaches a little more rudimentary. Not surprisingly, graduation was not kind to the Bulldogs, who lost 16 seniors, about half of which were two-way starters.
“It is a little different,” said coach Mike Oliva, who is now in his third year with the program. “Last year, there were a lot of expectations. This year, expectations are still high. We still want to do well. We still want to win every game, compete in every game, but a lot of it’s going to have to do with the JV. How are they going to adjust? That’s the big thing.”
Luckily for Oliva, he’s now been with the program for three years and the program is fully entrenched in his Wing-T offense. In fact, he has involved coaches from all levels at practice and teams from the youth level to the JV run similar formations to the varsity. That should help younger players acclimate themselves to varsity. The question will be if they can handle the speed and competition level.
Irvington’s three senior captains are among the few players who were key contributors last year. Anthony DiNardo is a three-year player who will start again at tackle and who will now play middle linebacker, the key position on Irvington’s defense. Nick D’Arrigo, the younger brother of Dillon, last year’s QB, will be the team’s primary runner and shift from linebacker to safety. Andrew Wassman will also earn carries at halfback and play outside linebacker.
One weapon that I saw plenty of Wednesday (and you can see in the video) was kicker Max Kandler. The converted soccer player was good from 42 yards and boomed extra points. He’s also an athlete who can play the skill positions on offense and defense.
Two backs who should see their share of touches earned some playing time late last season. Sophomore Dillon Morley started at safety last season against Woodlands while Victor Rodriguez scored a touchdown late in the year vs. Roosevelt. Junior Andrew Brennan earned reps with the first team on Wednesday and has a chance to claim the starting QB job.
For more on Irvington, check out my video above.