Mike Garcia is about the same height and weight as last season -- 6-2, 265 pounds -- but there is no column on the Freeport roster that measures strength. If there was, Garcia's would be listed as "much improved."
Getting stronger was a point of emphasis for Garcia, a senior guard/defensive tackle for Freeport, the No. 6 seed in a balanced, competitive Nassau Conference I.
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"I followed a routine and worked hard in the weight room the whole offseason," Garcia said. "It was a process. But it has made a big difference. I can push the other linemen back now. And it really helps when I'm double-teamed."
Freeport coach Russ Cellan was so enthusiastic about Garcia's show of strength that when he saw a familiar reporter at a recent practice, he reached for his smartphone and said, "Let me show you something."
He pointed to his screen, where a Freeport player was doing bench presses. "That's his fourth set at 315 pounds. He did five and he didn't even sweat. He had plenty left," Cellan said. "We haven't had a lot of guys who can do that."
Cellan likes all of his players to hit the weights hard. "Strength helps prevent injuries." he said.
It can also make you a better player, which Cellan believes will be the case for Garcia. "He's a very good blocker in space and has very good feet for a big guy," Cellan said. "Right now, he's better on offense, but he's never been this strong. He'll be a handful on defense, too."
Even though Freeport is usually known for its big-play spread offense, the strength of the 2015 squad will be its massive line, which includes starters that weigh 255, 265, 265, 245 and 235 pounds respectively.
"This is as experienced and deep an offensive line as I can remember here," said Cellan, in his 30th season. "In the past we didn't have the depth, and we'd wear down."
He expects the Red Devils to stretch the field, but noted, "You'll still have to defend the things we do in the spread, but this year we have a real ability to run the ball between the tackles."
That will be a nice luxury for junior quarterback Rashad Tucker, a 5-8, 155 whippet who will run the offense. "We don't want him to get hurt," Garcia said with a grin. "There's a lot of pride in that for the offensive line. We know that as we go, the team goes."
A strong statement from the team's strongest player.