Matt Kosowski and Mike Bowen admired the leadership of last year's senior class at Mineola. They saw how dedication could carry a football team to an appearance in a county championship game.
Even though they are the only two returning Mustangs who received consistent playing time on last year's team, they said they hope the leadership skills they learned from James Gerstner, John Clancy, Ryan Eccher and others could guide this group of newcomers and inexperienced letterwinners back to the Nassau Conference IV playoffs.
"Last year, since everyone wanted it, we worked our butts off and were able to go that far," said Bowen, a senior center. "If we can do that again this year, we can possibly make the playoffs and see what happens from there."
Dan Guido, entering his 29th year as Mineola's head coach, is not thinking that far ahead. The roster turnover has forced him to use training camp to figure out how his personnel will fall into place and which offensive and defensive schemes they will employ.
"We don't know what we're going to do because we don't know what we have," Guido said Monday, the first day of camp.
Only Kosowski, at quarterback, and Bowen are set in stone. And Kosowski will be under center for the first time at the varsity level.
"It's definitely going to be different," Kosowski said. "I ran [the offense] a little bit on JV, but I'm happy that they want to give me a good leadership role. I want to take on the challenge."
Kosowski, who also plays linebacker, was a running back last year.
"He's an animal when he runs the ball," Guido said. "He doesn't have the quickest first step, but once he gets going, he doesn't get caught. He had some long runs for us."
The Mustangs went 8-3 last year, falling to Roosevelt 41-14 in the Nassau IV final. Their two regular-season losses were by one score or less -- 24-21 at Locust Valley and 27-21 at Seaford.
"Especially last year, anybody in the league was beatable," Kosowski said. "When we would come out flat, like against Seaford, we lost. We've got to make sure we're there to play every game."
This year will have a slightly different feel as the Mustangs are the No. 12 seed in Nassau Conference IV. "We're coming in more as an underdog," Kosowski said. But Kosowski and Bowen are looking forward to the challenge.
"It feels really good to have another shot at it, with new guys, a new team," Bowen said. "We get to start all over."