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Cold Spring Harbor plans to surprise as a No. 11 seed

Cold Spring Harbor's Dylan Guarneri fights for extra

Cold Spring Harbor's Dylan Guarneri fights for extra yardage in a 34-31 win over East Rockaway on Oct. 11, 2014. Credit: Newsday / Patrick E. McCarthy

Whenever Cold Spring Harbor players need motivation to keep working during summer practice, they only need to remember last season’s turning point to keep things in perspective.

The Seahawks learned the hard way that nothing is guaranteed in football when Alex Kaley tore his ACL during the kickoff in the second game. A year filled with promise ended with a 2-6 record.

“We learned that we can’t take anything for granted,” junior Joey Libretti said. “We thought we were going to be one of the best teams in the conference and then injuries happened.”

Now with a good idea about how fleeting football success can be, Cold Spring Harbor heads into a new season with cautious optimism as the No. 11 seed.

Running back Dylan Guarneri leads the offense after 411 yards and three touchdowns on 95 carries last season. He said his teammates have become close through a week of practice and already have an unspoken connection on the field.

“People think we’re going to be quiet this year, we’re just going to roll over,” Guarneri said. “But we have a schedule of tough people and I don’t think they’re expecting us to be firing out as the returning team like we are.”

Those returners include wide receiver/defensive back Hunter Guarneri, who was injured for most of last season. His presence will open up a bigger possibility for passing and take pressure off the run.

“This year we’ve been working and I definitely feel like we have a nice connection,” Guarneri said of quarterback Jack Diaz.

Gavin McGowan, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound lineman, Libretti and Justin Antolin will be part of an offensive line that coach Jon Mendreski said the team hinges its success on this season.

“Our offensive line is definitely stronger than last year,” Diaz said. “You’ve got mostly all returners.”

There are three first-time players who the veterans expect to build on the roster’s biggest strength. They are seniors Matt DeGennaro and Cole Szanja and junior Connor Cassidy.

“The strength of the team is the athleticism we have,” Libretti said. “We have a bunch of returning athletes and then a bunch of kids who didn’t play last year came out this year and we think they’ll be studs for us.”

Antolin said he’s seen the three make big strides in development through only one one week.

“They have the talent going in, so now it’s turning that into football and I’m very optimistic about that,” Antolin said.

While a No. 11 seed could leave Cold Spring Harbor on the backburner for playoff consideration, these players had good feelings about where they’re going, whether other teams expected it or not.

“A lot of returners, a lot of experience and a lot of skill,” Dylan Guarneri said. “I think they’re not expecting that.”

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