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A new beginning for Garden City

Garden City's James Sullivan reacts after making a

Garden City's James Sullivan reacts after making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage during the second quarter of the Nassau County varsity football Conference II semifinals vs. Wantagh at Hofstra. (Nov. 15, 2013) Credit: James Escher

It’s become as much of a tradition at Garden City as winning Nassau County championships. The Trojans graduate a number of key players, find younger athletes to step up, fill in and keep the success rolling.

But this group of Garden City players enters the 2014 football season without a Nassau title to defend for the first time in their high school careers after falling to Carey in the title game last year.

“That game is definitely in the back of our mind,” Matt Borges said. “It motivates us to work harder after coming so close in the championship game after getting blown out in the regular season – we really felt like we had them on the ropes towards the end of the game.”

Borges, who will be a key in the defensive backfield, also is part of a three-player competition to replace two-time All-Long Island pick Brett Stewart at quarterback.

Head coach Tom Flatley declared the battle between Borges, Tim Schmelzinger and Leif Johnson virtually even through the first week of practice.

The biggest hole to fill besides quarterback will come on defens,l where Flatley said he must replace every member of his front seven, a unit that struggled at times in 2013.

“We didn’t get much of a pass rush last year and Carey hit three touchdown passes in the championship game,” Flatley said. “Those guys [in the secondary] are back but without a pass rush you can only be so good.”

Without pressure up front, it will mean an increase in pressure on a talented secondary to step up. Among the other returning players is senior James Sullivan, who Flatley said can play all over the field on defense.

“You can have a great defensive line but if you don’t have a good secondary, teams can throw the ball all day,” Sullivan said. “We just have to be really focused in the secondary and communicate well so we can prevent any huge breaks.”

The communication should be second nature with so many of the same players not only playing football together but also spending their springs on the lacrosse field as well.

“I’ve been playing with these kids my entire life,” Borges said. “It really contributes to our chemistry on the field.”

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