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A year later, Wantagh still fueled by loss in county final

Wantagh's Jimmy Joyce fields a punt during a

Wantagh's Jimmy Joyce fields a punt during a Nassau Conference II semifinal against Garden City at Hofstra University on Friday, Nov. 13, 2015. He caught a pass for a touchdown in Wantagh's 18-13 win. Credit: James Escher

Wantagh linebacker Sean Colbert may be asked to do a lot of things this year, but perhaps the thing he won’t have to do will make the most difference.

Colbert played with a torn labrum in his right shoulder throughout most of last season, one that required surgery immediately after the Warriors lost to MacArthur in last season’s Nassau Conference II final.

“I was missing plays to pop in my shoulder because it was dislocating,” Colbert said. “At Hofstra last year, it was coming out between plays. It was hard.”

But now, Colbert is fully healthy and ready to play pain-free — something he knows will make a tremendous difference.

“That’ll definitely have an impact,” he said. “Last year, it took away from practice because we didn’t want to get me to get hurt. I won’t be missing any reps or downs this year.”

“He was a warrior every game,” coach Keith Sachs said. “He played through pain the whole year. If he’s pain free, he’s like our quarterback on defense. He’s really going to help us a lot if he’s not worrying about what shoulder he’s hitting with and all that. He’ll be a dominant player.”

And Sachs thinks it’ll be the defense that carries Wantagh as they move down to Conference III. Wantagh graduated nine of 11 starters on offense from last year’s team.

“We have a lot of talent,” Sachs said. “What’s going to determine how well we do on offense will be how quickly we learn the system. We’re going to get better every game, but it’s going to be a lot of inexperience at first...Most people think of us as an offensive team, I think our defense is our strength and our offense is going to go at a slow pace and figure out what we’re good at.”

The playoff loss to MacArthur still burns in the belly of those who lived it.

“You still have freshman in college writing in the group chat, ‘Can’t believe we lost.’ It’s an everyday occurrence,” wide receiver and safety Jimmy Joyce said. “You see someone from MacArthur and think ‘How did we lose that game? We were up 14-0 and didn’t score the rest of the game.’ It fuels the fire. That’s what we’re running on this year. We don’t want to be runners up.”

Those in the know don’t believe they will be, with the Warriors being selected as the No. 1 seed in the conference. While seeding is viewed by some as ceremonial and circumstantial, Wantagh wears the title with pride.

“I think we’re the strongest team in the county,” defensive lineman and tight end Joe Valenti said.

“We know we are going to be playing the best teams all year,” Colbert said. “So we know we have to go out there and compete every single day.”


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