They've heard the whispers, all of them ending with a question mark: "Who's going to catch Jack Coan's passes this year?"
But Nick Casazza has an answer. "Everyone is doubting us and I like that," the senior tailback/flanker said. "That will motivate us to do better. There's a chip on our shoulders."
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Casazza is one of six players who are expected to share the pass-receiving chores for defending Suffolk III champion Sayville, which is led by nationally recruited junior quarterback Coan, who threw for a Long Island record 40 touchdowns and 3,431 yards last season when the Golden Flashes won 11 straight games before losing a heartbreaker to Lawrence in the Long Island Championship game.
Most of those yards, touchdowns and receptions were accumulated by the graduated quartet of running back Matt Selts and receivers Kevin Murphy, Chris Rupp and Ryan Kelly. But Sayville coach Rob Hoss believes he'll have power in numbers this fall from his inexperienced but talented group.
"They have the potential to be as good as any group of receivers we've had," Hoss said of Casazza and juniors Jake Kolar, Mike Dionisio, Ashton Bradley, Jack Marshall and Jason Intermesoli. "There's a lot of parity there, but they all bring a special talent. One is faster; one has one better hands; one runs better routes; one has more knowledge. We haven't started hitting yet so it's tough to figure it out. It's kind of a puzzle but eventually the pieces will fit."
That's because the biggest piece of the puzzle, the 6-3, 185-pound Coan, returns. He has worked closely with all of the new receivers since last spring. "He's so good," Casazza said, "that we know if we get open, he'll get us the ball. We have the easy job."
When Coan displayed his passing skills in private sessions at Sayville High School last May for major college coaches from schools like Miami, Maryland and Michigan, it was this youthful group that ran the precise routes and caught the accurate passes. "There was a little pressure, but we loved it," Casazza said.
Added Kolar, "That was a cool experience. It kept everybody focused and it was exciting to see all those college coaches."
Now it's exciting for Kolar and Company to get their chance to catch Coan's passes in real games. "It's a big responsibility but we're ready. We know what we can do," Kolar said. "No one has seen us yet, but we'll surprise everyone."