Bullish on Smithtown East in Division II
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Just because Johnny Manziel lost out on the Cleveland Browns starting quarterback job doesn’t mean there won’t be a "Johnny Football" making spectacular plays through the air and with his legs this fall.
The dual-threat ability of Smithtown East’s John Daniggelis, along with the rest of his supporting cast, could make the Bulls one of the more exciting offenses in Suffolk County this season.
The Bulls, seeded third in Suffolk Division II, have used their skill and experience to slowly but surely move up each year in the preseason rankings. After flying slightly under the radar with 5-3 records each of the last two season, a No. 3 seed is the highest in program history, according to coach Pete Melore.
“The real key in the last two years was we never lost to anybody seeded lower than us and upset two teams seeded higher than us,” Melore said. “We’re happy that we’ve increased the strength of schedule and still won five games. This year we’re the three seed – can we go 5-3 again or go 6-2? – or is it we’ll be 2-6 and we can’t play the tough schedule? That’s the question mark.”
There’s no question mark at the most important position on the field. Entering his third year as the starting quarterback, Daniggelis, who threw 15 touchdowns and ran for eight more last year, has made a leap not just physically but also mentally.
“When I was a sophomore my mind was blown by this offense,” Daniggelis said. “I was going home every night and reading the playbook and I had every play written on my wrist band. Now I really have everything in my head that I need to run the offense correctly and I can help out the younger kids if they have any questions.”
That’s no small accomplishment considering Melore has added to the playbook each season.
“It’s not an easy offense,” Melore said. “It’s complicated and it’s a ton on the quarterback. He’s not just throwing and running – he’s making a lot of reads and a lot of calls and signals. It helps to have a quarterback for two years and we’ve had John for three.”
The Bulls are loaded at the other skill positions as well with receivers such as Brian Willetts, Jesse Whiting and Tom Skoff. Returning at tailback is Nick Cutrone.
"We have some really good athletes and a great quarterback, but I think it’s the fact that they’re so comfortable in the system now,” Melore said. “They’re talking the language and doing all the little things which allows us to do twice as much with the offense as we could when John was a sophomore.”
Add to that a strong core of returning offensive linemen and you have the recipe for an explosive offense.
“Everything is a lot easier now,” center Troy Ogden said. “When we first started, we were trying to get used to everything but now we work so well together that we can perform well.”