The Garden City football team had all the makings of a championship contender last season.

The Trojans ran the gamut in the regular season, finishing 8-0. They coasted through the opening round of the playoffs, defeating Long Beach, 24-7. But then a conference semifinal matchup against Wantagh derailed their title hopes as the Warriors edged out a hard-fought game, 18-13.

“I think we all have a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouths, but it only made us work harder this offseason,” said senior lineman Chris Curcina.

In so many words, that seemed to be the consensus around preseason practice. Running back Chris Mixon said, “It really stung.” Lineman Erik Wortman said, “We used it as fuel to make as better.”

Defensive end Andrew DeSantis summed it up simply.

“We came up short last season, and that’s pretty much our motivation,” he said.

With a strong core of senior leaders – all of the aforementioned players are seniors, as is play-making wide receiver Jamie Atkinson – Garden City should be a force in Nassau Conference II again.

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The team’s real strengths are in the secondary and offensive line. Mixon said the team returns its entire starting secondary, a unit with good speed and instincts.

Curcina raved about the size of the offensive line, highlighted by Wortman, who stands 6-6 and weighs 240 pounds. They’ll open big holes for Mixon and Atkinson.

“They make us look great,” Wortman said. “To have that second switch, they can turn on the jets at any moment. We can turn the momentum at any time. One big play can spark us.”

Garden City’s season will be defined by how it responds to last year’s letdown. The Trojans are talented, and second-year head coach Dave Ettinger will put them in position to succeed.

“We want to try to go undefeated in the season and get a ride into the playoffs,” Mixon said. “We really hope to go all the way this year.”