Rundown: Carmel 7-on-7 football
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Yorktown's season will be all about adapting to new surroundings.
First, the Huskers will be without a true home field for the duration of the year while the turf on Charlie Murphy Field gets replaced. The artificial surface was installed back in 2003.
Coach Mike Rescigno didn't try to sugarcoat the unfortunate situation.
“Brutal,” the coach said. “It's not easy to pitch it to a senior that it isn't a big deal because it is a big deal. But I told them there's one thing that we can do to make it easier: win.”
As of now, Yorktown is slated to hold its preseason camp and first two “home games” at Walter Panas High School.
“We are going to try and make it a home field kind of feel for us,” Rescigno said. “Panas was gracious enough to extend themselves and lend us their facilities, which is huge for us because we need a place to work and it is local.”
According to Rescigno, the goal is to return to their real home for a Week 7 homecoming game against Pelham.
“It is the best of a bad situation,” he said.
But the changes don't end there. Yorktown — which has competed in Class AA the past two seasons — will bump down and compete in Class A for the 2012-13 campaign.
“It doesn't make it any easier from a scouting perspective and getting used to who you are playing against,” Rescigno said of the move. “But I guess we've gotten used to it. It keeps you on your toes. We are looking at it as a positive.”
Another positive is the return of starting quarterback Nick Mariano, who broke onto the scene last year as a junior. The UMass-bound lacrosse star proved to be a threat on the ground and through the air, completing 54 of 90 passes for 1,147 yards and five touchdowns while also carrying the ball 87 times for 936 yards and six touchdowns.
“That's a big plus,” Rescigno said. “We lost a lot of guys. Our offensive line and whole backfield pretty much graduated. (Mariano) is the primary returnee for us and we are building around him. That's the plan. I'm thrilled to have Nick back. He's a heck of a player.”
Mariano will also have his favorite target back in tight end Christian Dedkuvaj. The 6-1, 220-pound senior captain hauled in a team-high 27 catches for 504 yards and two touchdowns in 2011. Newcomer Ricky Corrado, a 5-11, 190-pound junior, is another weapon at tight end. According to Rescigno, they will utilize both by running multiple tight end sets.
Junior Daniel Delbene (6-1, 180 pounds) also figures to see some passes come his way. He's a big target with the ability to line up at tight end or split end.
Of course, the Huskers' aerial attack all depends on whether or not Mariano will have time to throw the ball. Right now, that's not exactly a given. Yorktown graduated its entire offensive line from last year. Rescigno — a former offensive lineman at Hofstra University — believes his inexperienced unit will rise to the challenge.
“The new linemen that are stepping up know they have big shoes to fill,” he said. “They are going to bust their butts. I know they will. They have already been asking about walkthroughs and practices. I think we have kids who want it and that's half the battle."
Indians coach Pat Keevins didn't mince words when reflecting on last year's underwhelming campaign.
“A record of 3-6 is not what we expect from our program,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Fortunately for Keevins, he has a lot to work with. The Indians return a slew of talented underclassmen that composed the core of last year's team.
“Last year we headed into the season with a ton of unknowns and we ended up starting five sophomores and a freshman got a ton of playing time,” Keevins said. “They had to feel their way out and it was pretty rough first half of the season. But they started to find their way as the season progressed and we got a couple good wins down the stretch against some good teams.”
Ketcham finished off 2011 on a high note, going 3-1 over its final four games with quality wins over Clarkstown South, Ramapo and Suffern.
“Certainly we have a different confidence level going into the season,” Keevins said. “We have most of our skill guys returning and a number of linemen.”
The top returnee is undoubtedly junior quarterback Kevin Duke, who hit a growth spurt in the offseason and looks noticeably bigger on the field. He showed his ability to sit back in the pocket and pick apart defenses last year, completing 86 of 194 passes for 1,148 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Duke's top target, J.J. Mulvey, also returns to form one of the section's best quarterback-receiver combos. Mulvey hauled in a team-high 28 balls for 423 yards and three touchdowns in 2011.
In terms of the backfield, Elon Walters returns to lead the charge. Walters led the Indians in rushing last year with 395 yards and three touchdowns on 65 carries. Versatile threat Marquis Smith is another weapon both rushing and receiving the ball. He had 204 yards of total offense and four touchdowns (three rushing, one receiving) in 2011.
The X-factor of Ketcham's offense could be WR/RB Jacob Morgenstern, who saw time on varsity last season as a freshman. He's the younger brother of former Indians star Aaron Morgenstern, a 2010 graduate who went on to play at Colgate University. Jacob Morgenstern has the speed, size and instincts to make an impact all over the field. He could very easily become Duke's go-to target over the middle.
In the trenches, starting T/DT R.J. Oliver is back. Another player to keep an eye on is Cody Levy. The 6-6 junior started at left tackle last year and is ready to blossom, according to Keevins.
Overall, Ketcham has the tools to make a pretty serious impact in Section 1 Class AA.
“We always hold our expectations high,” Keevins said. “We want to finish in the top eight and make a playoff run. Last year that was our goal and we were unable to do it. This year they will be held to a higher standard.”
In 2011, Byram Hills' defining moment came in a 16-7 upset win over previously unbeaten Beacon. It was the Bobcats' second straight victory and knocked the Bulldogs right out of the Section 1 Class A playoff picture.
Byram Hills' role of spoiler also coincided with a pretty impressive season. The Bobcats went 6-3 on the year, eclipsing their win total for the previous two seasons combined.
In 2012, coach Jim Naughton doesn't envision his team skipping a beat.
“One of the things we talked about at the end of the year was setting high expectations for ourselves,” Naughton said. “We expect to compete and we anticipate having a very good season.”
Byram Hills' top returning player on the defensive side of the ball is Brady Condron, a three-year starter at inside linebacker.
Offensively, running back Brandon Rosen is expected to have a bigger role. He will look to fill the shoes of workhorse back A.J. Kalmancy. Connor Morley, who showed a spark last year as a sophomore with a handful of big runs, returns at fullback.
According to Naughton, the greatest unknown is in the trenches.
“A big question for us is our offensive and defensive lines,” he said. “We have some experience at the skilled positions, but we are really young on the line.”
Matt Decristoforo is slated to start at quarterback after handling the duties last season on JV.
Follow Isaac Cass on Twitter @MSGV_Icass