MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The last time that Mahopac reached the section championship game was in 2010 when they fell to powerhouse New Rochelle.
“The ultimate goal is to have the championship game here on our home-field,” Mahopac first-year head coach Mark Langella said. “Our goal is to get back to that level of play. It was a festival, a community event. We want to make it worth everyone’s while to watch Mahopac football.”
If the Indians pull it off this year, it will be with a young roster made up of about two-thirds underclassmen.
“We have a lot of sophomores and juniors that will be playing,” Langella said. “It’s going to be an interesting developmental year for us. This is a JV squad playing a varsity schedule, but they are the best that Mahopac has. My goal is to get them accelerated in the program so that they learn our system immediately and make a quick impact on varsity.”
Langella has tweaked the Indians’ style of play this season to adapt to their strengths. Mahopac aims to play more of a spread type of offense with more passing than in past seasons.
“We made the offense more versatile to the type of players we have,” Langella said. “There will be a lot of throwing and option football, very different than in the past. Defensively, we will play the same style of football by blitzing 80 percent of the time.”
Senior Andrew Ryan returns at quarterback in the new fast-paced system. Senior full-back Dino ‘the Rhino’ Milazzo should get the majority of the carries this season. Seniors who were injured last year in Evan Purdy and Robert Hoyt are expected to get plenty of carries as well.
“I feel like our offense is a lot more advanced,” Ryan said.
Right guard Kevin Duffy, who missed 2015 due to injury, will lead the offensive line. The receiving corps will be led by senior Andrew Blecker. Expected contributors are juniors Ryan Dugan, Anthony Ocello, Tom Pesci and Reahl Allen.
The speedy defensive line will feature Milazzo, senior Charlie Burt, senior Dillon McDonough, and sophomore Anthony Perricone. Linebackers Purdy, Timmy Cegielski, Justin Munoz, and Alex DiCioccio will have lots of responsibility this year too.
“We have what we call a five-and-under club,” Langella said. “If you can’t run less than five seconds in a 40-yard dash, you can’t play on the defense. We’re not as strong as the other teams, but we are trying to be faster and more versatile.”
Hoyt will start at free safety on defense, and Blecker is heading the cornerbacks. Junior cornerbacks Joe Dalo, Marcel Martinez and Brendan Diorio should see significant time on the field.
“The defense is definitely better,” Burt said. “It’s a lot more intelligent because we have to make a lot more reads on the field. It’s more powerful and aggressive. Everything is going on really quick.”
Langella, who was Mahopac’s defensive coordinator from 2004-2013, is also putting an emphasis on making football enjoyable for his athletes to play everyday.
“The main thing is to make it more fun,” Langella said. “Football is under attack everywhere in participation with the concussion issues. One of my goals is to make football at the high school level a method of teaching leadership.”
In order to teach leadership, the team was very active in its Indian Pride Program. During the offseason, the players contributed to community service events that included a car wash at the firehouse, helping set up Relay for Life and planting flowers at City Hall in Carmel.
“It builds camaraderie and teamwork,” said Langella, who was a head coach at Irvington for five seasons. “All of the seniors were in charge of the program. We are trying to get all of our seniors to be captains by selecting game captains based on practice week performance. We’re trying to make it an emphasis that kids can find a position and be a part of something.”
Mahopac opens the season on the road at Roy C. Ketcham at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3.
The Indians fell to Scarsdale, 33-28, in the quarterfinals of the Class AA playoffs last season. Success this season will be determined by the team’s commitment, Langella said.
“I can tell you one thing — we have a plan and we’re sticking with it,” Langella said. “The majority of the kids believe in the plan, and that’s most important.”