SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – When high school sports start again is unknown, but the Lakeland Hornets will be ready to go.

“Due to COVID-19, a lot of things are up in the air,” said Mike Meadows, Hornets coach and 2005 Lakeland graduate. “Hopefully, by the time we get to the fall, things will be better. The most important thing is everyone’s safety. My approach is to assume we are having a summer and season. We will adjust as needed along the way. I know my boys will be ready to go if we are able to play.”

Should the Hornets be able to play, their first game will be at John Jay (Cross River) at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 11.

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“John Jay (Cross River) is one of the elite football programs in Section 1,” Meadows said. “I have so much respect for coach (Jimmy) Clark and his staff. When the schedule came out, the first thing I noticed was that we were playing at John Jay (Cross River), Week 1, on 9/11. It goes without saying, that this is a meaningful game. We are very excited for the challenge as a program. Last year, they got the best of us, but we feel like we held our own against them.”

Lakeland will have its home opener against Brewster on Thursday, Sept. 17, a day early, due to the Jewish Holiday, Rosh Hashanah.

“Playing a team like Brewster, on a short week, right after John Jay (Cross River), is no easy task,” Meadows said. “I need to make sure, as a head coach, I set up my boys for success, as best I can. I will have to make some adjustments to practice and game preparation for that week.”

The game against Brewster pits Meadows against a familiar coach.

“Coach (Ed) Mulvihill is a friend, and one of the many good coaches in the area,” Meadows said. “They have beat us the last two years in a row, so we need to make sure we are ready to go toe to toe with them. They also have one of the best players in the state in Franco Milano. We have played him as a sophomore, junior, and now, as a senior. I’ve seen his development over the years, and he is the real deal. That being said, I know my boys will be focused, prepared, and excited for that game.”

What will help Lakeland against Brewster is the support it will have in the stands.

“When it comes to community support, it is huge,” Meadows said. “The amount of love and support we get from our school district, students, the Shrub Oak Athletic Club, and community as a whole is amazing. The game-day atmosphere at The Hive, is one of the best in the section. Our students really know how to get excited for the game. It starts with the Lakeland ‘student run-in’ tradition. It really gets my players pumped up. The crowd stays rowdy for all four quarters. It’s become the Lakeland way.”

Other highlights on the Hornets’ schedule are when they host crosstown rival Yorktown on Friday, Sept. 25, and travel to sister school Walter Panas, on Friday, Oct. 16.

“It’s no secret those are our two biggest rivals,” Meadows said. “Lakeland High School is sandwiched between the two schools. Both programs have new head coaches, who I hear great things about. Yorktown has been a consistent top team in Class A. They went to the sectional final last year. Year after year, they reload and are extremely well coached. I am looking forward to that matchup.”

Meadows is looking forward to the contest against Panas as well.

“Panas is another high school in our district,” Meadows said. “What makes our rivalry unique is that the players all went to school together in middle school. Many times, they are competing against their good friends. They also might be teammates for winter and spring sports. Not many high schools experience a relationship like that with their rival.”

The game against Panas is truly a community event.

“I also know our community really buys into that game,” said Meadows, whose team beat Panas 42-14, in 2019. “Last year’s game had close to 3,000 people. That was one of the best environments I ever coached in. As a program, we know that’s a big game.”

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