The wait is over, two-a-days are done, the dog-days sweat and the grueling roast of summer sessions will moderate some in the coming days, but the heat is on for Section 1 football teams, as the season opens this Friday at a gridiron near you.
The last time the Huskers hoisted the hardware was 1998, and a little known tidbit is the fact that Dan Callahan was the coach back then, having replaced three-time Section 1 and two-time NYS champion Coach Ron Santavicca as the brains behind the brawn of Yorktown football. Since the departure of both men, Yorktown has been striving to get back to the top of the mountain under wholly competent Coach Mike Rescigno, who guided the Huskers to their first championship appearance since 1998 last year when Yorktown (9-1) was shredded by Rye.
He returns senior HB Nick Santavicca, the shifty, speedy and powerful nephew of the former coach, who just happens to be on course to shatter every career rushing record in Yorktown history after going for 1,726 rushing yards (8.3 avg.) and 13 touchdowns in 10 games.
“We are driven by that (Rye) loss and we are super confident,” Santavicca said. “We have unfinished business.”
RB/DB Scott Weaver will also tote the rock and mainstay the secondary.
With the line Santavicca has in front of him, don’t think the numbers 2,000 (yards) and 18 (TDs) haven’t come up in private conversations with three returning linemen, including road-grading Joey Costella (6-0, 220), Steve Veteri (6’, 225) and Joe Blume (6-2, 275). Tom Carson (6-3, 275), Jr., T; Brian Carson (6-6, 285), Sr., T/DT; Dom Cioffi, Jr., G; Anthony DiCanio (stout 5’7”), Jr., OL, and Justin Cavallo (5-10, 195), Jr., G/LB also add to one of the beefier lines in Section 1.
Veteri, Blume, DiCanio, Cavallo and Costella, who ranks among the best lineman in the section, should get the starting nods.
“Costella is as strong as an ox and athletic as can be,” Santavicca said.
Perhaps the biggest question mark at Yorktown is under center where junior QBs Jose Boyer (5’8”, 155), a Notre Dame lax commit with superior athleticism and a leg up, and Kyle Casey (6’3”, 175) each bring different skill sets to the table, but Rescigno is confident in both.
The only thing that might derail the Huskers is, perhaps, the most brutal schedule in all of Section 1. Ranked No.2 going in to the Class A season, Yorktown will face defending Class B champion Lourdes in Week 1, perennial power John Jay – CR in Week 2, defending Class A champ Rye in Week 3 and former two-time champion Somers, a bitter rival, in Week 4. Throw in Sleepy Hollow in Week 5 and you have to wonder: Could the schedule makers have been any harsher to the Huskers?
The starting roster has about as much turnover as any in Section 1, but Coach Tony DeMatteo seems to be one of the few coaches in Section 1 not plagued by a dearth of numbers. Somers’ roster lists more than 60 players, which is something DeMatteo relishes while he builds substantial roles for the majority. It’s all about family at Somers; that and competing for the Section 1 title that was theirs as recently as 2013 when the Tuskers went back-to-back.
Somers (7-2) has lost a ton from last season, but the Tuskers don’t rebuild, they simply reload. In his 46th season as the longest tenured coach in Section 1 history, DeMatteo’s legacy is as safe as mother’s milk, but a 12th Section 1 title would certainly add to it.
Tusker QB’s Grant Tragni, a 6’ 195-pound senior and 6’2” junior Joe Napolitano – each with different skill sets — will lead a cast of talented players from under center while seniors Aldo Kaczmarkiewicz (DE/G) and Tom Castelluccio (T/DT) bolster the line. Castelluccio is a 6, 240-pound monster, who ambitiously triggers and stuffs the run, depending on what side of the ball he’s on. He’s certain the Tuskers are a Class A contender.
“This year’s team couldn’t be more pumped up for the season and we got a lot to show to everyone doubting us,” said Catelluccio, who DeMatteo called unblock-able by one man and among the best defensive linemen in Section 1.
Early on, it appears as though senior Jason Holland (WR/CB) will be Tragni’s main target while junior FB Messiah Horne (5’9”, 180) is a primary pigskin carrier. Each can hit the home run upon touch, but they will only go as far as LT Marco Fedele, LG Aldo Kaczmarkiewicz, C Mike Esquivel-Live, RG Dan Vendito and RT’s Peter Ferritie and Castelluccio take them.
“I think Messiah is finally ready to make a splash,” DeMatteo said. “We brought him up as a sophomore and I think that was good for him, it was an eye-opening experience for him. It showed him how hard he would need to work to excel because on the lower levels he was just that much better than everybody, he wasn’t really challenged. We’ve challenged him and he seems ready for a big year. We’ll take our shots with Holland, he’s a home-run hitter.”
Run-stuffing Kaczmarkiewicz (DE/G), Tragni, Jon Delfa (RB/SS) and Castelluccio are natural leaders for DeMatteo, the winningest coach in Section 1 history and third in NYS (325).
Somers, which was ranked third in Section 1 Class A, opens the season against reigning champion Rye, the No.1 ranked team in the section. The Tuskers also drew defending Class B champion Lourdes (now in Class A) in Week 3 and Class A runner-up Yorktown in Week 4. DeMatteo will know after Week 4 if he has the makings of a contender or a pretender.
“I think with the way Section 1 has set up the playoffs with a weighted system, we should make the playoffs and be ready by the time they start to make some noise,” said DeMatteo, now in his 15th year at Somers. “I honestly don’t know if we’ll be 100% ready for Rye come Week 1, but I know we’ll be ready by the time the playoffs come around. And if we don’t happen to qualify, then we won’t deserve to be in (the playoffs).”
Chances are, Somers, ranked No.3 in the pre-season, will be there when it matters.
No offense to momma, but these are not your momma’s Sailors no more.
Hen Hud Coach Mike Lynch’s fourth season with the Sailors will likely be his best; you read it here first. And from this point on, folks can expect additional improvement from the Sailors as they prepare this solid freshman class at the J.V. level this season for what should be a great run.
In the meantime, the Sailors will hope to turn around last season’s 3-6 campaign with a handful of experienced players, featuring senior RB/MLB Jordan Artope (5-7, 180), a downhill sledder with power, shake and speed. Artope, a captain, is expected to crack 1,000 yards in Lynch’s offense this season, what would make him the first Sailor RB to do so since Rich Guzi (circa 1989). He is a chiseled load of man and his linemen love to create lanes for him. The All-Leaguer returns as the team’s leading rusher on offense (85 rushes, 516 yards, 6.1 per, 5 TD) and leading tackler on defense (93).
Other RB’s that will see time include junior Mike Moran, Jared Hershman, who returns as one of the fastest players in camp and sophomore Alan Jackson. Jackson has caught the coach’s eye by making spectacular catches on seemingly an everyday basis in camp.
Seniors All-Leaguer Joe Pecchia (5-10, 165), WR/DB; A.J. DiSisto, G/DT and Matt Kempski, T/DT will all return with big-time experience and a “Don’t-Sleep-On-Us” attitude. Pecchia snagged 39 receptions for 457 and four TDs. Junior WR Marquan Anderson is the fastest player in the program. He will be the team’s true vertical threat that has the potential to blow the top off of any defense. Junior TE Tom Maloney has also had a solid camp and will look to fill the void left by Carson “Gronk: Jacob’s graduation.
New to the varsity scene will be junior rookie QB Tommy Calandro, who is competing with junior veteran Nick Cunningham. The two are in healthy competition for time and Lynch knows he can count on either. Cunningham saw limited time last year but made the most of it going 33-for-62 for almost 400 yards and four TDs and figures to draw first crack.
A veteran offensive line returns so expect to see Artope’s rushing numbers to increase as senior C A.J. DiSisto and senior RT Matt Kempski are entering their third seasons as starters. Senior LT Sebastian Burbano and junior LG Jake Anstett are entering their second seasons as starters. Senior RG Harley Sternberg is new to the program this year but has done an admirable job in picking up the offense.
DiSisto and Kempski will be joined by Aidan Barry at right tackle while Ryan LoGuidice (center) and Harley Sternberg along the O-line.
Mike Smith, a Marist-bound lax stud, Hershman, Nick Marra and Barry – four lacrosse players who were coaxed back to the gridiron, will supply depth, skill and brawn. Pecchia was slated to be the main receiving threat but will have some help with the return of Smith, Hershman and Marra, three versatile players. All three are all-section lacrosse standouts with solid athleticism.
Tom Maloney, Harley Sternberg and Ryan LoGuidice are expected to have impact rookie seasons on the varsity.
The Sailors have some depth and they talk continually about changing the culture, which just might translate to postseason football for the first time since 2012.
“We are ready,” Artope exclaimed! “This is the best our offense has looked in years. We’re looking to make noise in the playoffs.”
Artope and his fellow seniors are conjuring up positive thoughts of year’s past, reminiscent of the Killer B’s Robbie Bosco and chase Bernard (fall of 2006). He’s one of seven returning starters who hope to alter the notion that the Sailors are simply Class A also-rans.
“I think of this pressure as an incentive to work harder and push my teammates to be the best that they can be,” Artope said. “I’m confident in my abilities and with the help of my new and veteran linemen Sebastian Burbano, Jacob Anstett, AJ Disisto, Harley Sternberg and Matt Kempski we will be better up front.”
Hen Hud’s no-huddle spread is a far cry from the old days, and the new mindset, coupled with an absurd amount of interest at the lower levels, plus a loaded freshman class, provides all the hope the Sailors need to change the culture now and in the future.
Hen Hud, ranked a lowly No.13 by Section 1 coaches, enters 2015 as a team no one should sleep on in a Class A field that has no clear favorite, but the top five teams (runner-up Yorktown, defending champion Rye, perennial powers Somers and John Jay-CR, plus improving Sleepy Hollow) are likely to be among five of the eight teams to qualify for post-season action.
“I’m excited about the direction this program is headed in,” Coach Lynch said. “We have had the most competitive camp since I took over the program four years ago. We have a nice mix of veterans and newcomers that should be able to make significant contributions to the team in 2015.”
Don’t sleep on the Sailors, lest ye face a nightmarish outcome.
In his 16th season at the helm of Lakeland football, Coach Rob Cappelli is among the most tenured coaches in Section 1 these days.
Playoff success has been both fleeting and cruel the last two years and the football gods have ranked the Hornets 14th out of 19 Class A clubs, which the Hornets are taking in stride.
“Our goal is to be competitive and try to improve from week to week,” Cappelli admitted, despite having gone 10-8 over the last two seasons, 5-4 last year. “We are young and inexperienced. However, the kids have a tremendous work ethic and have performed well during the summer.”
Some of those that have exceeded expectations are QB Trevor McCarthy, who at, 6’2” 175, can stand in the pocket and set up his receivers with adequate downfield vision, including captain Nick Vazquez, a stout 5’11” 190 pound TE/DE, TE Patrick Morelli (6’, 185) and split end Kevin Prunty, a senior captain who goes 6’, 175.
When McCarty isn’t dropping back he’ll be handing off to senior captain Keir Maley and junior Sean Makar. Maley, a 5’10” 180 pound RB/DB, burst onto the scene last year and showed effective flashes of what Cappelli hopes to be a consistent workload behind senior G/T Anthony Nusbaum (another captain).
“Maley is an outstanding running back,” the coach said. “And Anthony Nusbaum is a big guy on our line for him to run behind.”
Junior C Brian Farole (5’11”, 200), senior OT Jason Cottrell (6’, 240), senior OL Adonis Montalvo (5’10, 260) and 6’4” 220-pound senior Nick Jarosz round out a decent-sized O-line.
“Offensively, we will have the ability to run and throw the ball and be a more balanced offense,” Cappelli said. “We are carrying almost 40 on varsity, which is the most in my career. Defensively, we have seven new starters and we will look to do a better job on third down and forcing turnovers.”
That might help the Hornets go from “also-ran” to playoff contenders, provided they can handle a schedule that includes Class AA host Fox Lane this Friday.
“The past two years we have been 5-4 overall while beating some teams that have gone to the playoffs, however we have not been a beneficiary of this new schedule system,” Cappelli said.
With a somewhat manageable set of games over the first four weeks, it will likely come down to Week 5 vs. rival Panas and Week 6 at a vastly improved Nyack to determine whether or not this is the year the 14th-ranked Hornets get back to the playoffs for the first time since their 2009 semifinal loss to eventual Section 1 champion Roosevelt.
Coach Dan Patronik’s Panthers (4-5) were dealt a serious blow when their best two-way player, senior RB/LB Joey DeLuca sustained a serious leg injury that will force him to miss significant time. As the captain hits the rehab trail, others will need to step up to the plate.
Junior Chris Bizzoco (RB/OLB) and senior Nick Mlynar (RB/OLB) are expected to pick up the slack. The Panthers are young under center with sophomore QB Brandon Hodge taking over. Though skilled and gifted, he is a rookie with growing pains ahead of him, particularly in the wake of DeLuca’s absence. Hodge is a player, though, and the offense is in his hands.
The addition of Taizon Barrett (DT, G Jr. 6-0 275) will provide a huge boost to the defense. Barrett is back in Pantherland after a one-year stint at Stepinac. Barrett made the Panas varsity club team as a freshman. Thomas Ferarri (LB/FB) and Kevin Dykman (WR/DB) are additional key returning vets for a Panther team that could find the sledding tough this season with their No.7 pre-season rank and no DeLuca for the first few weeks.
Senior QB Matt Catalano will light up the Brewster skies this season; that much is given. What Coach Ed Mulvihill is uncertain about is the number of rookies expected to take the field this season.
“We will be young this year but it is encouraging,” the coach said. “The best asset is that it looks like we will have some depth. It depends on how quickly the team can gel, but there is optimism entering this season. Hopefully, we can get back to the playoffs.”
Brewster, ranked No.9 in the pre-season, will find out quickly if its defense can stop the run as Hen Hud’s Artope looks to get the A-Train rolling in Week 1. But the pivotal point of the season will come in Week 3-4-5 when the Bears face No.5 Sleepy, No.6 John Jay and No.3 Somers, all of which may be better than their pre-season rank.
Catalano belives his troops are ready.
“I really liked watching our defense play Saturday,” said Catalano, who threw for nearly 1,700 yards last year. “Although we lost some key players to our defense from last year, the starting defense was very aggressive and physical. Our linemen were fantastic. They opened up holes for our backs on the offensive side and stopped the run and gave penetration on the defensive side. Our running backs also played excellent.”
RB’s Jack Guida, Jeremy Meissner and Mike Buonadonna will need to continue to do so in order to have teams honor the run and open things up vertically for one of Section 1’s premier QBs.
The Indians can be scary good this season if the men in the trenches can get it done in front of a slew of very talented skill players, including QB Dan Foley, who is hell-bent on getting the Indians back to their first Section 1 title game since 2010. Foley’s main cohort on offense will be versatile RB Christian Donahoe, the son of Coach Tom Donahoe, who has some serious weaponry, including TE Zachary Carlin, FB Tommy Murray and RBs Erick Gagne and Joe Cavaciuti.
MLB Chris Kocovic is a beast on the other side of the ball, and he looks to lead a 5-2 defense that has been consistently effective over the years. “Koco” runs an efficient 4.7 (40) at 6’ and 225 pounds and has All-Section potential carved within a chiseled frame. If the O-line, bolstered by senior Mike Paolello and John Velek, can hold up their end of the deal, the Indians could be Final 4 bound for the first time five years.
“These guys are going to have huge years,” Foley insisted, noting that he and Donahoe are totally in synch. Whether or not the Indians can contend with defending Section 1 champion John Jay EF, which has been in three of the last four AA championships, and the rest of the Class AA contenders (New Rochelle, Arlington. North Rockland, Mamaroneck), remains to be seen.
The Indians remain a tough out for most foes and expects to be more than an “also-ran” this fall with a second-straight trip to the playoffs and a strong post-season showing #Final4orBust.
The thing that might preclude the Indians from doing so is an absolutely brutal schedule that includes a Week 1 tilt at Mamaroneck (which was supposed to be a home game but for some reason the Tigers won’t be paying Putnam County a visit any time soon), a Week 2 visit from the defending champion Patriots, a Week 5 visit from Coach Dominick DeMatteo’s Arlington Admirals and a pivotal Week 6 trip to New Ro’. Mahopac will have to split those four games at the very least and then defeat Clarkstown North and Greeley with no wiggle room to spare.
The Rams (4-5) have a ton of experience under center in senior QB Joey Rodriguez, the only four-year signal caller in the history of Rams football, and 22 years of experience on the sideline in venerable Coach Todd Cayea, an old-school mentor. The two have the know-how to carry out a game-plan and expect to be among the top eight teams this season and reach the playoffs.
“Joey has looked great thus far,” Cayea said. “He’s paid his dues the last three years, and now we’ve got some kids who can run under his ball and he has shown some great touch and leadership. We’ll take some shots with him.”
Rodriguez and WRs Ryan Sullivan and Quinn Willman should supply plenty of downfield action in an offense that likes to air it out, and the RBs, including Kwashon Correa and John Morris and junior David Vega.
Defensively, Carmel junior NG/OL Nick McDonald, who goes 250 on a good day, is a son-of-a-run-stuffer, who should pose a threat on both sides of the ball once he returns to full health. Senior Joey Kenna is a tough center. Whether or not the Rams can hold up in the trenches will determine whether or not they can get past their No.10 ranking and into the top eight to make playoffs.
“We’ve got some really good skill position players, no doubt about it, but we’ll only go as far as our O-line takes us,” Cayea said. “If we can minimize the self-inflicted wounds, we’ll be a better team than people expect. But we’re not good enough to overcome our own mistakes. It’s a great bunch of kids and we’re ready to get it going.”
Juniors, Ryan Sahle and Nick McDonald, will join seniors Anthony Schneider, Joe Kenna and Luis Casillas in the trenches on the O-line. Morris (LB), Dominic Caporale (DB) and edge rusher Josh Beauchesne all saw time on defense last season.
It’s been a long seven years since the Tigers qualified for the postseason, but Coach Matt Mello likes his chances this season. With reigning Class B champion Our Lady of Lourdes having moved up to Class A, it opens up a spot for another Class B team that has missed out on the four-team playoff field.
PV returns 19 players from last year, including QB Zach Girvalo. Senior Mike Dellabate and Luis Fernandez will take over the RB duties and they are both in incredible shape, according to Mello. Kyle Anderson will be running FB.
The team’s strength lies in its offensive line with four returning starters. “This will be one of our strongest and most athletic lines we’ve seen,” Mello said, citing C Jake Reyes, guards Constantine George and Mike Ruta and tackles Bryce Hamilton and Tommy Carroll.
“We plan on being one of the top four teams this year,” Mello said. “There has been a lot of change in Class B with new coaches at Westlake (John Castellano) and Edgemont (Brian Connolly), and Lourdes is now out. Nanuet returns some really good talent (couple of D-1 OL/DL prospects). Our players are very excited about the season and have been preparing well. We have a lot of depth and a belief that we can compete for a section title if we continue to put the time and effort in.”
Coming off a 4-5 season, the Class D Blue Devils will face some extremely tough competition, given their numbers and those of their competition.
“Our coaching staff is excited about the upcoming season,” Blue Devils second-year Coach Ryan McConville said. “We have a difficult schedule and face some of the best teams in New York. The standards and expectations are going to continue to be high and we are going to push our guys to reach beyond it. We want to be the best team in Class D and hopefully we can rise to the challenges of the season.”
Seniors Stephen Junjulas (WR), Anthony Percacciolo (TE) and Zack Markey (DL), along with juniors Chris Pidala (DL) and Sean Gannon (WR) are returning veterans who saw a ton of time last year.
The QB is young, sophomore Brandon Twoguns, the kid with the coolest name around. He is poised to break out and show his wears. Sophomores Anthony Lombardo (DL), Luke Junjulas (DB), Joe DiGregorio (RB) and freshmen Sam Giachinta (RB) and Justin Markey (FS) will also make their mark.