MAHOPAC, N.Y. – The Mahopac football team has their work cut out for them this fall, with a vastly inexperienced group looking to find an identity, and gain valuable experience.
And precious little time to do it.
Last year‘s team finished at 3-6 and out of the playoffs, a fate that Head Coach Dom DeMatteo and the Indians don’t want to repeat.
Gone from that team is some significant talent, including All-Section wide receiver Reahl Allen, All-League running back/linebacker Tim Cegielski, All-Conference quarterback Anthony Corrado, as well as center Randy Ferrieri, linemen Anthony Perricone and Joe Harney.
Only three players—senior tackle Billy Riley, senior cornerback/wide receiver Zach Estevez, and senior lineman John Ryan—with varsity experience return, from a team that graduated 30 of 42 players.
“We are extremely young, the youngest team I have ever coached,” DeMatteo said. “The kids are excited about football, and we’re figuring out what we are, and who we are going to be. A lot of kids will be playing their first reps in their first varsity game.
“It’s certainly a daunting task,” DeMatteo added. “But the kids are working hard, and we’re making progress. Can we improve on last year? That’s a tough question. We’re very focused right now on just getting better. We’re really taking it one day at a time, so that’s where our focus is.”
DeMatteo was looking at three quarterbacks, and said he may go with a rotation of two in this week’s opener.
Senior Jack Carey, junior Vin Bastone, and sophomore Anthony DeMatteo are all competing for the spot.
“Jack works very hard, he’s the incumbent,” the coach said. “He’s been impressive in the preseason. Vin is one of the most dynamic players we have on the team, especially when he’s running the ball. And Anthony has a very good understanding of our offense, especially for a sophomore. And he has a big arm to get the ball down the field.”
Senior Henry Botchway (TB/LB), sophomores Matt Courtney (TB/S) and Mike Harney (TB/FB/LB), and Bastone (TB/QB/LB/WR) are hoping to see time running the ball. “That whole group has is exciting,” DeMatteo said. “All of them bring different things. They’re all bright, and physical, and they all have that extra gear and can get to the next level.”
DeMatteo is also excited to see Bastone, Estévez, and senior Tom Elliott at receiver. “That’s a solid group, all three can catch the ball,” the coach said. “Bastone probably is the biggest matchup problem, and Zach can be a homerun hitter—he can break away.”
DeMatteo believes his defensive unit—anchored by Dom Perricone (DB), John Ryan (DB), Esteves (CB), Bastone (LB), Harney (LB), and Matt Puckhaber—has potential.
“I’m hoping depth is a strength for our defense,” he said. “We are looking for our line to be physical. I think we can run at the second level. Puckhaber is one of our best open-field tacklers, and he and Zack O’Connor can be good back there.”
Senior Tyler Roa and sophomore Elimir Nikocevic will handle extra points and field goals, while sophomores Adam Montalvo and Craig Perry will compete for the punting job.
The Indians open their season at home, hosting the Yonkers Brave at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6.
DeMatteo said that a few things need to happen in order for his team to find success.
“We have to limit mistakes on opening night,” the coach said. “We have to be mature, not too high or too low. We are inexperienced, so we have to play within ourselves. Opening night, it really is a pretty big atmosphere, so if the kids can follow their natural instincts I think we’ll be OK.
“It’s always exciting, so passionate,” the coach added of the season debut. “No one is giving us a chance to do anything—and they shouldn’t. We need to focus on ourselves and improving each week.”
- Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. vs. Yonkers Brave
- Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. @ Roy C. Ketcham
- Friday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m. @ John Jay (East Fishkill)
- Saturday, Sept. 28, 1:30 p.m. @ Mount Vernon
- Friday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. vs. Suffern
- Friday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. vs. Arlington
- Friday, Oct. 18, 7 p.m. vs. Carmel