SOMERS, N.Y. - Heading into just his junior season, Jack Kaiser is already one of the best fullbacks to ever play for Tony DeMatteo, the veteran coach said.
Kaiser rumbled for 999 yards and 24 rushing touchdowns during a standout sophomore season and DeMatteo is looking for even more this year.
“I don’t know if he’s the best fullback I’ve ever coached, but he’s in the top five already,” DeMatteo said. “I expect him to have another big year. He’s definitely gotten stronger and we’ve got some tools around him.”
Somers has skill players galore as the Tuskers pursue their fourth section title in the past eight seasons. With a young squad that started 0-2 last year, Somers rattled off six straight wins and reached the Section 1 Class A semifinals, falling to eventual champion John Jay (Cross River).
That experience of getting off to a slow start and rebounding toughened Somers and prepared them for the future, DeMatteo said.
“We had a brand new team and they had to understand what it took to win,” he said. “We had a very good preseason (last year) but when preseason was over, we kind of regressed because they thought it was all over. That’s what I’ve been telling this team is that it’s the end of the beginning. We’ve now got to try to get better every day. They didn’t do that and we lost the first two games. That woke them up and that’s when we went on a run.”
Somers’ last section title came in 2016 when the Tuskers went on to win their first state championship in school history.
Joining Kaiser in the backfield is speedy senior captain Charlie Balancia, who recorded 1,067 all-purpose yards last year and is getting looked at by Division 1 colleges. The Tuskers have a wealth of talented halfbacks and fullbacks, including senior Nick Rossi, junior T.J. Deagan, senior Zach Lupinacci, junior Justin Pufahl, sophomore Derek Marcus, senior captain Charlie Grinrod and junior Cole Zampaglione.
“We’re kind of loaded in the backfield,” DeMatteo said.
Jackson Kossow, a junior, returns at quarterback after splitting time last season. Sophomore Matt Kapica is an excellent No. 2 quarterback, DeMatteo said.
“It’s his show to lose,” DeMatteo said of Kossow. “He’s smart and he can throw, but he can run, too. He’s a definite threat.”
Senior Kenny McGrane, a team captain, will be a weapon at wide receiver along with fellow senior Daniel Rios.
“They’re both dudes,” DeMatteo said. “They’re going to have great years.”
Senior Anthony Gionta and sophomore T.J. Olifiers are two other options at receiver.
The offensive line is where DeMatteo is most concerned with just two returning starters. Dom Cheek, a senior captain, started at center last season but might move to guard. Senior Joe Griffith returns at left tackle. The right tackle spot will be a split between senior Tommy Gall and freshman Jake Polito. Polito is the first freshman DeMatteo has had on varsity since Matt Deiana, a 2010 graduate.
The defensive line is led by Grinrod and Cheek with the third spot up for grabs.
Linebacker is a concern because DeMatteo has to use Kaiser there and hopes it doesn’t affect his offensive production. Junior Anthony Cheek, junior Shane Repp, sophomore Ethan Krauss, junior Julian Casciano and senior Dom Vinci are some players in the mix for linebacker spots.
The secondary has a wealth of playmakers in the mix, including Balancia, Rossi, Rios, Olifiers, Gionta, junior Nate Rosenzweig, McGrane, Zampaglione and Pufahl.
Punting duties will be handled by Kossow. Alex Cabo, a junior, and Kapica are in the mix for the field goal, extra point and kickoff responsibilities.
“Kossow is excellent,” DeMatteo said. “Cabo has been hurt with a very bad pulled hamstring but if he’s healthy we’ll have a strong kicking game.”
Senior Bruno Imhof was named the team’s special teams captain.
The Tuskers set out on their quest this week, opening up on the road against Horace Greeley at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6.
“I have never not set a goal to win a sectional championship in 50 years,” DeMatteo said. “To me, I don’t want to come and tell my team, ‘Listen, we’ve got a lot of young guys. We’re going to get ready for the next two years.’ What does that do to the seniors? My goal, every year, has been to win a sectional championship so that’s what it is this year.”
But he knows it won’t be easy with a number of talented teams in the way.
“Class A is the toughest class with John Jay, (Our Lady of) Lourdes, Somers, Yorktown and Rye,” DeMatteo said. “Any one of those teams can win the section.”
- Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. @ Horace Greeley
- Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. vs. Yorktown
- Friday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m. vs. Rye
- Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. @ Tappan Zee
- Friday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. @ Fox Lane
- Friday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. vs. Nyack