The battle for No. 1 goes beyond vying with those in opposing jerseys.
Northport wide receivers Pat O’Brien and Frankie Stola have had friendly competitions with each other and other wideouts throughout the offseason as to who will be the “No. 1” receiver. O’Brien doesn’t intend to lose. The senior started at defensive back as a junior but will be a first-time starter on the offensive side.
“If the other receiver does a certain route, do that route better,” he said. “If he catches it, say, catch it and run farther. Just try to be better.”
Just how much does that competition help?
“It helps a lot,” O’Brien said. “Only one person can be that No. 1. There’s 1A and 2. One and two and you want to be No. 1 so you just have to push yourself to get there.”
Kip Lukralle, entering his 31st season as the Northport head coach, heads a team coming off a Suffolk Division I semifinal loss to eventual Long Island Champion Longwood. Northport enters this year ranked No. 6 in the division.
Senior Ryan Elliott, a running back and three-year starter at safety, said the team “started the offseason with a chip on our shoulder to try to finish what the seniors last year started.”
Stola has been impressed early in summer workouts with junior quarterback Ryan Walsh, who will be starting for the first time on varsity. Stola said he and O’Brien have been working with Walsh as much as they can to build chemistry and confidence looking to improve on a good 2015 season.
“We work out with him as much as we can,” Stola said. “He’s ready but we work him as often as we can to make sure we work on the chemistry and stuff, that’s really important.”
Northport returns three offensive lineman in Johnny Milanesi, Sam Gozelski and Dylan Keller-Adelman. Their size and leadership will be key in creating the openings for the running game and putting pressure on opposing offenses.
“We’re just trying to do our best as a team,” Stola said. “We have that experience, we have guys coming back for us so that’s not going to be a problem. We just got to play our game and do our best and we know we can do it.”