Chaminade embracing its new role as the hunted, not the hunter in CHSFL

Chaminade's Robert Speranza Jr. takes off downfield for Chaminade's Robert Speranza Jr. takes off downfield for a big gain against Iona Prep. (Sept. 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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Gregg Sarra Newsday Columnist Gregg Sarra

Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer. ...

The flow at practice is up-tempo -- always. Most teams condition after practice. Chaminade conditions during practice. The Flyers run a no-huddle offense and 70 to 80 plays with no break, working on stamina and to condition for the fourth quarter of games when it counts.

There is this adrenaline rush you can feel at Chaminade. Maybe it's the high-intensity approach of coach Stephen Boyd, a former NFL Pro Bowler. Maybe it's the belief that they're the team to beat. After all, the Flyers are the CHSFL's defending champions.

Or maybe the high-octane, do-everything-at-warp-speed philosophy comes from the abundance of superior athletes on the roster. It's as if everyone is always ready to go.

The Flyers are the hunted this year. They were the hunter for so long, but they finally took the CHSFL football title that belonged to St. Anthony's for the better part of the past decade (and then some). And now the Flyers no longer find themselves chasing the giant that is St. Anthony's in South Huntington.

"We are the defending champion and someone has to come and take that away from us," Chaminade senior tight end Jack Graffagnino said. "It is a different mentality here. We don't feel any pressure. We apply the pressure. We are very focused on what we have to do and what's at stake."

Graffagnino's sentiments are felt everywhere in the Chaminade locker room. Senior captain Sean Cerrone, who emerged as one of Long Island's top quarterbacks last year as a junior, echoed Graffagnino's thoughts.

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"We have guys who know how to win and we have guys new to the locker room that want to win," Cerrone said. "We had guys win jobs in camp and have already contributed in our first two wins."

Boyd points to Cerrone as the reason why these Flyers can make a serious run at another title. He also understands that because of heavy graduation and the influx of new talent, it will take some time for everyone to mesh.

The key to all of this may be Boyd's patience with young players. Throughout Saturday's 22-7 win over second-seeded Iona Prep, Boyd could be seen teaching, not chastising, his players. He used adverse situations in which poor decisions resulted in bad plays to be supportive and create a learning environment.

"We have a new group, a completely different locker room," Boyd said. "I did worry with all the new faces -- but we're only five weeks into this season. What I don't want is my quarterback to take the world on his shoulders because it's a team sport and we all have to contribute to succeed."

Boyd said winning last year was a phenomenal experience. But he cautioned that with success comes lofty expectations.

"We have an exceptional leader in Cerrone," he said. "He's got the great demeanor and personality. He's quite an athlete, but I want him to see that the season is about the process and not worry about every result on every play."

A great motivator for the Flyers came in the preseason seeding by the CHSFL coaches. Despite the championship banner that hangs at the school, Chaminade was seeded third behind Iona Prep and top-seeded St. Anthony's.

But the stigma that Chaminade is second fiddle to St. Anthony's no longer applies. The Flyers know that it is the Friars who now have something to prove come Oct. 25 when Chaminade rides into South Huntington for what promises to be an unforgettable CHSFL showdown.

"We won't get caught up in all the things we can't control," Graffagnino said. "We'll embrace who we are and go out and play to our potential, and the rest will fall into place."

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