SHRUB OAK, N.Y.— After 17 years of Rob Cappelli patrolling the sidelines for Lakeland’s football team as its head coach, the Hornets will have a new mentor this fall in Mike Meadows.
Meadows’ first game as head coach couldn’t have more hype, as the Hornets will host crosstown rival Yorktown at 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 1, on a brand new turf field in their opener.
While Meadows may be new to the head coaching position, he is no stranger to Lakeland or coaching football.
Meadows graduated from Lakeland in 2005, where he was the team’s leading rusher his senior year in addition to playing defensive end.
In that senior season, the fall of 2004 where the Hornets finished 6-4 overall and 5-2 in their league, he ran for a team-high 853 yards on 121 carries for an average of 7.05 yards a carry. His six rushing touchdowns also led the team.
He went on to play Division 1 football at Stony Brook University, where he played outside linebacker and was a captain his senior season in 2008.
Meadows is now entering his ninth season coaching at Lakeland, after eight years as an assistant coach, since 2009.
“Being the head coach of Lakeland means everything to me,” Meadows said. “I am in a position to have a positive impact on the boys in our community. Lakeland football is a big part of my life. My mission as head coach is to continue what coach Cappelli started. I want to build on top of the foundation that has been established. Keeping the core values and traditions of Lakeland football is extremely important.”
Meadows has a vision of what he wants Lakeland football to be and that includes its feeder program, the Shrub Oak Athletic Club.
“My short-term goals are to compete every game and attempt to make the playoffs,” Meadows said. “My long-term goals are to make football a focal point in the community. I want to be heavily involved in our feeder program (SOAC) and continue to have our programs in sync. Lastly, I want to make our boys not only good football players but good, respectful, young men.”
Leading those young men on offense will be senior quarterback captain Michael Capozzi (6-foot, 160 pounds), a captain.
“He will be the focal point of our offense,” Meadows said. “Michael is a great leader with specific skills that fit our type of offense. He worked hard in the offseason and gained 15 pounds of muscle as well as improving his overall game.”
Senior running backs Tommy Barnett (5-8, 150) and John Mule’ (5-11, 165) give Capozzi two great options in the backfield.
“Tommy is an experienced running back that is tough and can make big plays for us,” Meadows said. “He can line up at many positions and be a threat. John is a great athlete with excellent speed and toughness. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and is very physical.”
Senior wide receiver John White (5-11, 165) is another key player on the offensive side of the ball who Meadows said works hard and that the team will depend on.
Senior captain Ray Stretz (6-foot, 250) will anchor the Hornets’ offensive line.
“He is a three-year starter who has improved every single season,” Meadows said.
Anchoring the middle of the defense at linebacker will be senior Justin Rivera (5-8, 190), a team captain.
“He brings passion and a mindset to the defense with his leadership and play,” Meadows said.
Senior Armando Smith (6-2, 205) will also be a captain from his defensive end position.
“He is a very good defensive ball player that leads with his play,” Meadows said. “He put on 20 pounds of muscle in the offseason. He plays very physical with great technique.”
Senior defensive end Tom Briscoe (6-foot, 185) is a vocal leader who Meadows said displays great instincts and physicality.
Senior defensive tackle Alphonse Piliero (5-10, 215) returns after being vastly improved from last season.
“He got into great shape during the offseason and has improved his overall strength,” Meadows said.
Senior Michael Ferretti (6-foot, 165), whose 22-yard field with 1:12 remaining defeated host Highland 3-0 last fall, brings into this season even better leg strength and accuracy according to Meadows.
Senior returnee Dylan Semenza (6-foot, 175), a wide receiver and defensive back along with newcomers, junior linebacker/tight end Phil Dellamonica (5-10, 180), junior linebacker/tight end Lucas Kowalski (5-10, 170) and junior cornerback/wide receiver David Kollbeck (5-8, 135), will all be expected to make significant contributions on both sides of the ball, Meadows said.
With the above talent, Lakeland will look to rebound from a 3-6 season a year ago where as the No. 16 seed it lost to No. 1 Yorktown 39-0 in the qualifying round of the Section 1 Class A tournament.