Just call him Mike Elusive.
Syosset wide receiver Mike Elardo has mastered the art of getting open on his pass routes and getting free of would-be tacklers.
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“Coaching against him, I marvel at what he can do,” said Bobby Fehrenbach of MacArthur, who is the wide receivers coach for the Long Island team preparing to play the New York City all-stars in Tuesday’s 21st Empire Challenge at 7 p.m. at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“He’s so instinctive with a quick change of direction. He knows how to get out of trouble,” Fehrenbach said. “He knows where he’s going before the ball gets there. He’s a step ahead. Coaching against him was a nightmare.”
Now it’s the New York City coaching staff that must dream up a way to stop Elardo, a two-time Newsday first-team All-Long Island selection who caught 154 passes for 2,941 yards and 28 touchdowns in his career. And not just Elardo, either. Wide receiver might be the Long Island team’s deepest position, a group that also includes Infinite Tucker (Huntington) and Jelani Green (Newfield).
“Being with these guys, learning things from each and every player, honestly, it’s second to none,” Elardo said after Saturday’s practice at Hofstra. “We’re having a lot of fun.”
So is Fehrenbach. “We have a ton of playmakers at wide receiver,” he said. “Some excel at underneath routes and some guys can hit the home run.”
Elardo is more of a possession-type receiver — he had 52 receptions last season — but with his quickness and cutting ability, he easily can turn a short gain into a big one. “I do what I have to do to focus on the DB,” he said, adding that his fancy footwork came from “working hard every day and taking practice seriously. It came with time and with my development, and with understanding the speed of the game.”
Elardo is a genuinely humble player with little swagger. “A special kid,” Fehrenbach called him
He flashed many a dazzling move on the lacrosse field as well for this year’s Nassau Class A champion Braves, where that elusiveness made him a demon on clears from his midfield spot. He hopes to play football at the next level as a receiver but still is uncommitted.
Because he can be a potential game-breaker, Long Island also plans to feature Elardo as a kick returner. “He’s so elusive in open space,’’ Fehrenbach said. “We’ll try to get the ball in his hands as much as we can.”
But mainly, Elardo hopes to find holes in the New York City defense and benefit from the Empire Challenge rules that prohibit blitzing. “That just gives us more time to run plays and develop our passing game,” Elardo said. “It’s going to be great. I can’t wait.”