MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Many questions surrounded the Mahopac football program as the Indians were still without a coach in late June with the season opener only two months away.
Enter Dominick DeMatteo.
DeMatteo, the son of legendary Somers football coach Tony DeMatteo, was named the Indians’ new coach and takes over a team that finished 3-6 last season under Mark Langella. Langella’s contract was not renewed after one season as the head coach.
The 45-year-old DeMatteo is stressing working on the little things in his first season while the championships and rings are more long-term goals.
“We have our outcome-based goals, which are going on in the playoffs as far as we can, competing for a section championship and a state championship, and those are going to always be program goals,” said DeMatteo, who coached Arlington from 2007-2015 before heading to Nyack for a season last year. “But what we’re really focused on this year are the non-outcome-based goals: be present, be on time, give effort and follow the plan. What I’m telling the kids and I’m thinking they’re believing is that if they can really attach themselves to those non-outcome based goals in everything we do every day, then ultimately we’re going to have success with the program.”
DeMatteo hasn’t had a lot of time to incorporate his system, but he said the team has picked things up quickly.
“We’ve been an attack offense since June,” he said. “We hit the ground running and we have not come up for air because we clearly had a tremendous amount of ground to make up. What’s helped with that is that we have a great group of core kids on the team. Currently we have 52 student-athletes on the varsity roster, pretty evenly split between seniors and juniors. They’ve just jumped in and given tremendous effort and they’re working hard. That’s all you can ask for.”
DeMatteo expects senior leadership to be a team strength. The Indians have four senior captains in Ryan Dugan, Matt Posniak, Chris O’Halloran and Justin Munoz.
“We also have some guys up front that can play,” DeMatteo said. “We have some guys on the perimeter that can catch the ball. We’re going to lean on our depth and our senior leadership. We’re going to play a ton of guys on offense, defense and special teams and we’re going to see how it all sorts out.”
Dugan will be the team’s starting quarterback. The 6-foot-5 senior brings size and arm strength to the position. He took over the starting quarterback position midway through last season.
“I’ve known Ryan since he was 9 or 10 years old, he’s been in my youth camp forever,” said DeMatteo, who has lived in Mahopac for the past 12 years. “I know his family well. It’s funny to see him now at 6-5. You’re either 6-5 or you’re not and he’s all of it. He put on some good muscle mass in the offseason. He’s getting the ball down the field and has a pretty big arm. We’re excited to see what he can do.”
Dugan’s primary targets will be seniors Chris and Joe Dalo, who are twins. Reahl Allen, a 6-4 junior, and senior Tom Pesci could also be impact players at receiver. Seniors Alec Diorio (6-4) and Marcel Martinez will line up at tight end.
The starting halfback position has three players in the hunt in senior Alex DiCiccio, junior Tim Cegielski and senior Sal Marchionni. Munoz, senior Nick Hayes and junior John Dundon are battling for the fullback spot.
Mahopac’s offensive line will consist of senior Robert Alleva (left tackle), junior Anthony Perricone (left guard), O’Halloran (center), Posniak (right guard), junior John Maher (right tackle) and junior Tom Vellek (guard/tackle).
“We have three seniors in O’Halloran, Posniak and Alleva and we’re going to lean on them big time,” DeMatteo said.
DeMatteo isn’t shy about mixing it up offensively when it comes to running the ball and passing, but he also knows the Indians need to play to their strengths.
“I’m a big believer in playing the hand you’re dealt,” he said. “I don’t like putting round pegs in square holes. We can play two-back or one-back spread. We can run or pass out of either one. The bottom line is that based on where we are personnel wise and what we’re better at, as well as how the defense is defending us, is going to determine what we do.”
Perricone, Alleva, O’Halloran and Posniak will also be run stoppers and pressure opponent’s passing games on the defensive line.
Four linebackers are competing for starting spots in Cegielski, junior Anthony Corrado, Munoz and Hayes.
Another quartet of players are vying for the cornerback spots in Chris Dalo, junior Drew Riolo, senior John Dignam and junior Simar Bahia. Joe Dalo, senior Anthony Ocello and senior Mark Carey are in the mix for the two safety positions.
Dignam will handle all of the kicking duties of punting, kickoffs, field goals and extra points.
The Indians open the 2017 campaign when they host Ossining at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.
“Every game is important and Week 1 is important for what it is,” DeMatteo said. “You love to start out on the right foot. If you’re fortunate enough to get a ‘W’ then everyone feels good going into the first part of the season. But at the same time, it’s Week 1 and you’re not going to make or break a season on one game. We just want to come out and play well. We want to play hard, play fast and we’ll see what happens from there.”