SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— Somers was decimated by injuries last season. On just the eighth play of the year, star lineman Tommy Castelluccio tore his ACL.
It was a sign of things to come.
The injury list kept getting longer and included Matt Pires, who broke his ankle in the second game of the season.
Pires announced his return in a big way with two touchdown receptions and Somers put Section 1 on notice with a 41-12 victory over host Lakeland in its season opener on Friday, Sept. 2.
“We knew last year we were losing an insane athlete,” junior quarterback Kevin Olifiers said. “Whether he’s a running back or a wide receiver, he can do it all. He’s got great hands and speed, so that’s a deadly combo. I don’t think many corners in the section could cover him.”
The senior actually used to play halfback, but at the suggestion of assistant coach Anthony DeMatteo, he was moved to wide receiver in the offseason.
“I love it,” Pires said of being a wide receiver. “I should have played it all my life.”
Olifiers lofted a pass down the sideline, hitting Pires in stride on a 42-yard touchdown reception. Cameron Pepe’s extra point split the uprights to give the Tuskers a 14-0 lead with 56 seconds left in the first quarter.
“The kid was five yards in and when they do that it’s usually a fade, so I just made a move on him and the ball was right there,” said Pires, who had three catches for 75 yards. “A perfect pass and there’s no better feeling.”
With just eight seconds left in the second quarter, Olifiers connected with Pires again on a 6-yard slant pass to send Somers into halftime with a 28-6 advantage.
“I just made a quick move outside, came in and the ball was right to the chest,” Pires said.
Senior Messiah Horne had a huge game on the ground, totaling 157 yards on just 10 carries including two touchdowns.
Horne broke free for a 55-yard touchdown to give the Tuskers a commanding 35-6 lead with 5:10 left in the third quarter. He also had a 25-yard touchdown run 15 seconds into the second quarter, highlighted by a stiff arm to put Somers up 21-0.
Olifiers was 7 for 10 passing for 139 yards including the two touchdown passes to Pires. He also had an 8-yard touchdown run to get Somers out to a 7-0 lead.
“Setting the tone was everything to us,” Olifiers said. “We wanted to come out and prove that even though we had that preseason hype, we were still the 4-5 team that had to come out with something to prove.”
Lakeland showed signs of life in the second quarter when Dylan Semenza hit Pat Morelli on a 50-yard touchdown strike with 3:24 left in the first half. Junior Nick Gargiulo blocked the extra point and Somers held a 21-6 lead.
“That’s sudden change; that’s what I’m always preaching,” Somers coach Tony DeMatteo said. “No one plays a perfect game. I don’t coach a perfect game — no one’s perfect. Something wrong is going to happen. You have to adjust to the sudden change. I think they did a good job with that.”
Somers senior Thomas Tooma added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Junior Antonio Vieira had seven carries for 42 yards and also made two catches for 38 yards. Fellow junior Ryan Elliott had one catch for 25 yards.
Senior Erik Hagenah paced Somers’ defense with six tackles, while senior Dan Venditto and junior Vinny DiFilippo each had five. Gargiulo and Elliott each recovered a fumble. Senior Kody Tirpak blocked an extra point. Elliott, junior Zack Kornblatt and senior Nick Vece each forced fumbles.
Somers will face Sleepy Hollow in its home opener at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9.
“We had a great preseason and it showed tonight,” DeMatteo said. “It really doesn’t mean a whole lot though because now the process starts. Everybody’s going to get better or worse. I was not impressed with the way we played tonight mentally. Too many penalties and too many mistakes. Somewhere down the road that’s going to hurt us. We’ve got to go back Monday and start all over again. I just think they were a little outmanned. [Lakeland’s] young and small and we have a lot of kids. I don’t think this was a real measuring stick for us this week.”