Who better to have on both sides of the ball than James Kretkowski?
Not only was the Oceanside left tackle and defensive end a beast at 6-6, 290 pounds this season, but the senior showcased a sizable, outgoing beard that would make anyone run the other way.
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"When he hits people, they're going for a ride. He plays right through to the whistle," Sailors coach Rob Blount said. "He's physical and very comfortable in what he's doing. He makes it look easy."
Because of his tenacious play on the field and dedication inside the classroom, Kretkowski was the worthy recipient of the Martone Award Wednesday night at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
The 39th Martone Award is presented by the Nassau County Football Coaches Association to the county's most outstanding interior lineman.
This year's other finalists were James O'Hagan of Seaford, and Max Schneider of Oceanside.
"If you want to be a good lineman, you have to put the work in during the offseason, especially that position, because you're taking on a lot of big people in Conference I," Freeport coach Russ Cellan said.
Kretkowski, O'Hagan, Schneider were definitely three of those big people.
"He embodies what the Martone award is about," Blount said of Kretkowski, who will play at the University of Delaware next season. "What sets him apart is his hard work ethic and effort. He was pretty much the backbone of what we were trying to do."
Perfect case in point was during Oceanside's 35-21 win over Baldwin in the Nassau I quarterfinals. In that game, Blount said the Sailors were only up seven when it ran behind Kretkowski on 10 consecutive plays to open the second half.
It was at that point Blount knew the game was over. "That's when we needed him most," Blount said. "Great players do that and he's one of them. That's what sets him apart from all the other good football players."
Don't forget the beard. "That was the trademark thing for him," Blount said. "He played the whole season with that. Not only did it motivate him, but it motivated the players that played against him. It kept him fired up."
Blount also credited Schneider, a senior left guard and defensive tackle that will play at Tufts next season, who played well alongside Kretkowski.
"His stats don't show the type of outstanding player he is," Blount said.