SHRUB OAK, N.Y. – Lakeland football is ready to go for its opener at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6 at Brewster.
Third-year head coach, Mike Meadows, said his team is looking to improve on its 2-7 season in 2018.
“We have done everything as a coaching staff to prepare our boys to take the next step,” Meadows said. “Our players have worked extremely hard the entire offseason and summer. We want to establish a winning culture and compete every game. Although we have a tough schedule, we are up to the challenge and expect to ‘hammer down’ week in and week out. We want to be a positive representation of our community on and off the field.”
The Hornets will go into the season with plenty of returning offensive talent, including senior captain Jason Green, an All-League offensive tackle.
“He is the anchor of our line,” Meadows said. “He has a ton of experience and is a great athlete for his size. When he is playing his best, he is dominant and a D-1 talent.”
Another captain is junior quarterback Tyler Santucci, who was a starter as a sophomore last year.
“He had a tremendous offseason and is bigger, faster, and stronger,” said Meadows, a 2005 Lakeland graduate, who played Division 1 football at Stony Brook University. “He has a strong arm and is a tremendous leader. We put a lot on his shoulders because we know he can handle it. We are looking for him to take the next step at his position.”
Senior running back/captain Matt Makar is coming off a second-team All-Section season, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards.
“He is a dynamic back that is highly skilled,” Meadows said. “Our offense will go where Matt takes us.”
Junior wide receiver Mark Cummins is also a key returnee for the Hornets.
“He was a big-play threat for us last year,” Meadows said. “We are looking forward to him taking his game to the next level.”
Cummins will also play a key role defensively as a linebacker.
“He is the leader of the defense,” Meadows said. “Mark is highly skilled and physical. He started as a sophomore, has a defensive mentality and loves to hit.”
Green is also a key two-way player, playing defensive end.
“Jason is a great run stopper and can rush the passer at his size,” Meadows said. “He worked on his explosiveness this offseason and is trying to be a complete football player. He has a ton of talent.”
Playing a key role on the line is senior returnee center Brandon Gu.
“Brandon really improved as a football player as the year progressed,” Meadows said. “He worked extremely hard this offseason and put on 20 pounds of muscle.”
Senior outside linebacker, returnee Jake Difede, will also play a key role defensively.
“He looks the part and backs it up,” Meadows said. “Jake has really focused on learning his position as best he can. He can be a dominant linebacker for us.”
Senior kicker Kian Ray gives Lakeland a strong leg.
“Last year, Kian really focused on being a consistent kicker for us,” Meadows said. “He has put in the work and look forward to him taking the next step and being a big part of the offense.”
Senior split end/defensive end Landon Ruggieri, a captain, is another key returning player.
Lakeland also has four key newcomers, including senior captain Jorge Duque, a defensive/offensive tackle.
“Jorge suffered a torn ACL before week 1 and missed his entire junior year,” Meadows said. “He is itching to get back on the field and help his team win. He is a great leader that is very strong and tough.”
Junior wide receiver/linebacker Danny Libretti is an old-school football player, Meadows said.
“Danny is very physical and at the same time very smart,” Meadows said. “He has a great feel for the game. He will be a major contributor to varsity.”
Junior wide receiver/safety Rob Nardelli is a smart football player who knows how to use his 6-foot frame to make plays, Meadows said.
Another newcomer the Hornets will rely on is junior linebacker/running back Adamo Labriola.
“He is very physical and fast,” Meadows said. “He has a nose for the ball and is very reliable.”
- Friday, Sept. 6, 7 p.m. @ Brewster
- Friday, Sept. 13, 7 p.m. vs. Poughkeepsie
- Friday, Sept. 20, 7 p.m. @ Beacon
- Friday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. @ Our Lady of Lourdes
- Friday, Oct. 4, 7 p.m. vs. John Jay (Cross River)
- Saturday, Oct. 11, 7 p.m. vs. Walter Panas