LINCOLNDALE, N.Y. — Somers varsity football coach Tony DeMatteo has been hosting preseason camps for years, but this season’s summer training at the high school was different.
Neighboring Mahopac’s varsity team as well as powerhouse New Rochelle were invited to practice on Monday through Thursday afternoon last week.
“With the concussion issue and all the problems with football, we teach these kids not to use their head and use all the techniques with the shoulder,” DeMatteo said. “The one sport where the right things have to be taught is football, so the more they practice, the better off they are.”
The defending Class A champion Tuskers more than held their own against the competition as they prepare for a potential state title repeat.
“We have a number of guys back (from last year),” DeMatteo said. “But we’ve lost some heavy hitters. They are going to be hard to replace. We’ll see what happens but we’ll be in the hunt.”
Senior linebacker Antonio Vieira knows what it takes to go the distance, but feels that the squad has a few kinks to sort out first.
“We’re on the road but not quite there yet,” Vieira said.
Another senior in lineman Nick Gargiulo sees the experienced squad making steps toward becoming a great one once again this season.
“We’re definitely on our way,” said Gargiulo, who recently verbally committed to Yale University for football. “We have a couple veteran guys coming back on the line. We just have to keep working like any other position and see what each guy can give you. We’re definitely motivated and staying level-headed. We all know what it’s like to win it (state championship) and how great it feels. It’s just an extra motivator to go out and do it.”
Dominick DeMatteo, Tony’s oldest son, is Mahopac’s new varsity coach and knows how much it aids his Indians to compete with the defending Class A state champions in Somers and the defending AA section champions in New Rochelle.
“It helps us on so many different levels I don’t even know if I can put it into words,” DeMatteo said. “It’s one thing to say you strive to be the best, it’s another to put yourself in a situation where you’re working towards it.”
The interactive camp ran segments in which each of the three teams practiced blocking and tackling technique separately before combo periods.
These activities pitted two squads against each other via inside-run plays, seven-on-seven drills, and one-on-one work in the secondary.
At the end of each afternoon, there was an 11-on-11 scrimmage between the rotating teams.
“We’re all related through Coach ‘D’,” Somers senior quarterback Kevin Olifiers said. “Coach ‘D’ and coach (New Rochelle head coach Lou) DiRienzo are best friends and his son is at Mahopac. Half the coaching staffs are DeMatteos. We got into it, but it was controlled. We all feel like we benefited from it so we’re excited to see where it leads us.”
Somers rolls on with a strenuous preseason until the start of school. From now until the end of the year, diligent practice and the desire to complete the difficult tasks are going to be very important.
Olifiers got the word. “Coach ‘D’ came in about three months after we started our weightlifting and goes, ‘There are a lot of people that have won a state championship once, not a lot of people have done it twice,’” Olifiers said. “So that’s what keeps us motivated.”
Dominick DeMatteo said it’s a team effort between the three schools at the camp.
“One of the things that’s tremendous is the collaboration amongst the staffs,” Dominick DeMatteo said. “With the leadership of my dad, Louie DiRienzo, and myself, all of our assistants are working together and we’ve created a great atmosphere for these kids.”