Mention Bellmore JFK’s No. 11 seed in Nassau II in front of the players, and a fire immediately ignites in their eyes.

It’s not that the 11 seed is a touchy subject. It’s quite the opposite, actually. The Cougars use the preseason ranking to motivate them for a season that has the makings of a statement year. And they don’t mind talking about it.

“I’ve been around Kennedy football my whole life, and we’ve always been the underdogs in everything we’ve done,” said Dom Brocco, a senior running back. “Unfortunately, we got the seed we got. We’re using it as motivation.”

A key to the possible turnaround after a 4-4 season is quarterback Alec Deane, a senior who contributed as the backup last season. He went 2-0 as a spot starter, and now it’s his turn to try and change the culture of Bellmore JFK football.

His teammates seem to have the utmost confidence in his play. Brocco called him the “backbone of our team.” Coach Tom Durnin said Deane is “always prepared at all times.” Senior linebacker Jack Jones said, “I trust that guy with my life.”

All Deane wants to do is play well and win some games. It helps to have the backing of the guys around him.

“I knew I had the talent, the heart, to will my team to victory,” he said. “I have a group of guys who trust me. They’re going to show me the right things to do. They’re going to make plays.”

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If Deane builds off his brief time on the field last season — he completed 15 of 23 passes, with three touchdowns — the Cougars could be in good shape. Jones, a smart, aggressive linebacker, leads a talented defense, giving Durnin two solid units.

“I know we deserve it,” Jones said, meaning a higher seed. “I don’t think any other team in the county worked as hard as us this summer.”

The Cougars have certain games circled on the schedule, including matchups against Manhasset and Calhoun. Both schools gave Bellmore problems last season because of their size up front, and the Bellmore players are anxious to take another shot at them. Calhoun defeated Bellmore, 41-14, which lost to Manhasset, 30-28.

But while wins are ultimately the final measure of a season, Brocco is simply hoping to make some waves in Nassau. “We’re really looking to change the face of Kennedy football,” he said.