SOMERS, N.Y.— After a humbling 34-13 loss to Yorktown in Week 3, Somers’ football team had to do some reevaluating last season.
A 21-point loss turned into a 36-point win in the Section 1 championship game as the Tuskers crushed the rival Huskers in the rematch. That win catapulted Somers into the state playoffs and it went on to win its first state championship in program history.
The Tuskers sure aren’t going to sneak up on any teams in 2017.
“This season we do not have the luxury of being under the radar,” senior Kevin Olifiers said. “Every game we play, each team will give us their best shot at beating us. We are humbled by that but we also prepare for that by following coach [Tony DeMatteo’s] game plans and giving full effort each and every practice. We are ready for the challenges ahead of us.”
DeMatteo agreed with his quarterback.
“We can’t hide this year,” DeMatteo said. “We came off a 4-5 season (in 2015) and we got knocked around by Yorktown in the third game (last season). We kind of snuck up on everybody. When we played Yorktown in the sectional championship they had destroyed Rye, they killed us in the [regular season]. So we kind of snuck up on them. That’s not going to happen this year. We have a target on our back and it’s going to get harder every week. We have enough (players) back where we should be competitive. Everyone’s going to be after them and they’ve got to get ready every week.”
Although many key players are returning, two all-world talents in Matt Pires and Messiah Horne have graduated.
The dynamic duo combined to score 51 of the Tuskers’ 63 offensive touchdowns. Horne was the workhorse, running wild for 29 touchdowns as he racked up 2,254 yards, an all-time Tusker record which also lands him third on the all-time Section 1 list. Pires, a wide receiver, caught 13 touchdown passes, utilizing his lightning quick speed and shifty moves en route to the end zone.
“That was probably a once-in-a-lifetime deal for me,” DeMatteo said of the duo. “I’m not usually in a one-back (offense). I’ve had some great receivers but Pires is in a class by himself. We’ve got to be more precise and more disciplined. There were home runs made last year where they were just making guys miss. We’ve got to be better blocking downfield. We’ve got to spread the ball around more. We’re going to be in a four-back offense and they’re all going to get the same amount of touches.”
It will be a committee approach to compensate their production.
“To make up for the loss of Matt and Messiah we plan on spreading the ball and passing more this season,” Olifiers said. “We have a lot of veteran players capable of making up for the production. Expect a lot of kids getting touches this season.”
Olifiers, a captain, threw for 14 touchdowns and rushed for four scores last season. He will be more of a factor in the running game this season.
“He looks like he’s going to have a breakout year,” DeMatteo said of Olifiers, who will be backed up by junior Nick Maestri. “We’re going to run him more than we have in the past. We know he can throw the ball but he’s going to get his chances to run also.”
Olifiers will be handing the ball off to seniors Rob Fazzinga, Mike Somoza, Cameron Pepe, Drew Cassin and Vinny DiFilippo. Senior Antonio Vieira, a captain, and fellow senior Tyler Carr will be the team’s fullbacks. Conor Jaykus, a junior newcomer at halfback, is also looking promising according to DeMatteo.
Yale-bound senior Nick Gargiulo, a 6-foot-5, 270-pounder, protects Olifiers’ blind-side at left tackle and is a team captain. He was named second team all-state last season in Class A. Gargiulo is also the only two-year captain DeMatteo has ever coached.
“He’s worked very hard, he’s in great shape and he’s an unbelievable leader,” DeMatteo said. “He’s a pleasure to coach.”
Chris DiCintio returns at left guard, but the center and right side of the offensive line are all new faces. Senior Jack Farrell will be snapping the ball to Olifiers with junior Liam O’Loughlin and senior John Aloisio battling for the right guard spot. Junior John Squitieri will start at right tackle with senior Rob Curma out right now due to a shoulder injury. The duo will likely split time when Curma returns.
Jack Gilroy, a senior captain, is the team’s tight end and is a strong blocker with good hands. Fellow senior Vincent Cartelli is another tight end for the Tuskers. Other capable tight ends include junior Max Germaine and senior Logan D’Anna.
Senior Justin Lancaster, the team’s backup quarterback last season, moves to wide receiver and will be a top target for Olifiers along with seniors Connor Gill and Anthony DeCoro.
The defense will be a big-time strength for the Tuskers with many starters returning. Gargiulo (tackle) and DiCintio (noseguard) are back on the defensive line. Junior Matt Soden, who has battled injuries the last two years, is expected to produce on the defensive line.
Vieira, who was fourth team all-state last year, returns at linebacker. DeMatteo called Vieira, who is a captain, the second best linebacker he’s ever coached in his 50-plus seasons.
“No. 1 is a kid by the name of Chili McCallister that played for me at Roosevelt,” DeMatteo said. “He actually died at the age of 28 with cancer. We put in a stunt in this year that we call ‘chili’ and ‘chili dog’ in his honor. It’s going to turn Vieira loose.”
Gilroy and Carr will be the team’s defensive ends.
“Defensively we return a lot of key pieces but also have some voids to fill,” Gilroy said. “Chris DiCintio is expected to have a great year defensively and Conor Jaykus is also a name to look out for at the corner position. So if those two guys step up the way we all expect them to I think we will be a strong unit who can swarm to the ball and create a bunch of turnovers.”
Senior Ryan Elliott returns at cornerback with Jaykus and senior A.J. Stellato battling for the other spot. DiFilippo, a team captain, is the free safety with Cassin at strong safety.
Olifiers handles the punting responsibility with Pepe in charge of kickoffs, extra points and field goals.
Class A is loaded once again with Rye, Our Lady of Lourdes and Yorktown looking like top contenders again. The Tuskers travel to Rye for Week 2 on Sept. 8 and will host Brewster Sept. 15 and Lourdes the following week. Yorktown is not on the Tuskers’ regular season schedule this year.
Somers opens the season when it hosts Poughkeepsie at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 1.
As the defending state champions, the Tuskers know that the target is placed firmly on their backs.
“The team embraces the pressure put on us. We use it as a motivational tool,” Gilroy said. “Last year we kind of snuck up on everyone and were able to shock everyone. But this year everyone is circling us on their schedules and basing how their season goes based on how they do against us.”