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Miller Place aims to be 'a special team' this season
Line-play, work ethic - not seeding - will guide Miller Place
One is a number that doesn’t mean much to the Miller Place Panthers. Sure, they’re the top seeded football team in Suffolk Division III - a conference that boasts perennial powerhouse Sayville, but the group doesn’t see the ranking as anything more than non-essential bookkeeping.
“There’s definitely expectations, but we don’t look at the number one seed as this big thing,” senior lineman Chris Buchalski said. “It just sets our schedule. We’re still going to come in week in and week out and play hard and physical.”
Buchalski, who racked up 44 tackles and three sacks last season, is committed to play at Villanova next year. But for now, life as a Wildcat is still ages away. For one more season, he is a Panther, and he intends to make it count.
“Going to Villanova is a great opportunity,” he said. “But I’m really focused on making an effort here at Miller Place to do the right things, so we can do something special. We have a great division. We have a deep division. But, we’re definitely a special team.”
And no preseason ranking has ever handed a team success.
“We can’t look past any team and we can’t beat ourselves,” Buchalski said. “I think the only way we lose this year is if we beat ourselves.”
At 6-5, 275 pounds, Buchalski is part of an offensive line that boasts tremendous size. Mason Rodriguez is 6-3, 280 pounds, and James McNulty measures 6-4, 295 pounds. The line is not only big and experienced, it’s deep. Six linemen who saw a “good amount” of playing time, including three starters, return, according to head coach Ron Petrie.
The crew will have to block for, among others, senior Brett Osman, who hopes increased explosiveness will lead to another 1,000-yard season.
“That’s what I’m trying to work on this year,” Osman said. “I want to get downhill faster and break away more.”
For Osman and his fellow seniors, 2013 will mark their final run toward a Long Island Championship.
“We want to make a statement in the league,” wide reciever/defensive back Austin Yezarski said. “It’s one more chance to do it. We want to leave an impact and make a mark on the program.”
But it’s not just the seniors who want a championship. Everyone does. That’s why the effort and focus at camp this week has been top-notch, according to junior running back/linebacker Jake Buonaiuto.
“You can’t just have kids out there that just want to play football,” Buonaiuto said. “You have to have kids that want to win. This group of guys wants nothing less than wins.”