Here’s Mike Zacchio on his stop in Orangeburg:
Tappan Zee coach Andy DiDomenico has rebuilt a football program before. After losing 18 players to graduation in June, he will have to do it again.
Walking through the halls of his old high school, DiDomenico said that despite the new faces on the roster, the goal remains the same — playoffs.
“The group that graduated last year set the bar high and we want to aspire to that,” he said.
DiDomenico was the one who turned around the Dutchmen program, leading his alma mater to its first playoff appearance and win since the state-playoff format was instituted in 1993.
The roster is junior-heavy, with six returning seniors sprinkled in among them. DiDomenico said that the Dutchmen should have a strong core of linemen on both offense and defense, headlined by seniors Dylan Thomas, Liam Donohue and Jake Hernandez.
“These guys are three-year varsity players,” he said. “They’re on the offensive line, and that’s where you win football games.”
DiDomenico said that the team is still feeling out its quarterback situation, adding that they are “not traditional in that regard.”
As of right now, it looks like (another) Liam Donohue, a junior, will take the lead as the team’s QB, although he is more of a mobile quarterback. DiDomenico said that junior Alec Albright will also take snaps.
“Guys have to step up, you know how it goes,” DiDomenico said.
As rare as it is to have two players with the exact same name on a roster, DiDomenico has a method of separating the two when calling for one of them. If he wants Liam Donohue, he’ll call, “Liam Donohue.” If he wants Liam Donohue, the quarterback, he’ll call, “Wrong-way Donohue.”
During his sophomore year, Donohue ran in the wrong direction on the first play of his varsity career, cementing his nickname for at least the 2014 season. When the elder Donohue graduates, the name may also leave, but for now, the name stands.
Donohue said that the goal for the season is “obviously” to get to the playoffs, but that “it’d be nice to get a few wins first.” The Dutchmen open their season on September 5 at Somers, the two-time defending Class A champ.
The first day of official practices didn’t come without a few hiccups. Half of the athletic equipment was sent to the middle school, while the other half was sent to the high school.
DiDomenico laughed it off as “working out the kinks.”
Thomas said that with the team losing almost all of its defense, the secondary will be a primary focus for the Dutchmen. Thomas added that Albright may be a two-way player for Tappan Zee and play some defense, as well.
During his stroll through the halls, DiDomenico ran into one of his former players, Dan McGann, in the weight room. After a quick catch-up, DiDomenico asked McGann if he wanted to help coach the team. McGann said that he and several other players from last year’s roster were interested in lending a hand.
“We preach family here,” DiDomenico said. “It’s not a transactional relationship; we want to build relationships that last.”
Here’s Mike’s footage of Tappan Zee’s first practice: