It’s a simple concept, but one Connetquot football nearly took for granted last season in the biggest moment.
Leading Ward Melville, 28-7, at halftime in the first round of the Suffolk Division I playoffs, Connetquot found itself trailing with less than a minute remaining. The Thunderbirds then scored and blocked a last-second field goal to win, 41-40. Connetquot lost to No. 1 Lindenhurst in the next round.
Connetquot was eliminated from the 2013 and 2014 postseason in two one-point games. The Thunderbirds have had their opportunities, but just haven’t been able to … finish.
“Never think you have it in the bag, just finish,” said three-year starting lineman Luciano DeRenzo. “That’s actually a big thing for us this year. Finish.”
DeRenzo feels the Thunderbirds aren’t getting the respect they may deserve -- despite a No. 4 seed -- because of a younger squad. He doesn’t necessarily have a problem with this though.
“We’re young, so other teams really don’t know what to expect,” he said. “So I think we are going to come in strong and people are underestimating us. I think we’re a question mark for others teams so I think us coming in like this might be a good thing for us.”
Connetquot still has its share of senior talent. Anthony Del Negro, a wide receiver and linebacker who led the team with 98 tackles last season and is entering his fourth season on varsity. Andrew Wright and Connor Dennehy are talented receivers and defensive backs, with Jerimiah Bozzo contributing at tight end and defensive end, and Chris Bernard and Brandon Hurley at both running back and linebacker.
Connetquot also features junior Trevor Cahill on the line, who coach Mike Hansen called a Division I recruit.
Del Negro said the players push one another and Hansen is impressed with the work he’s seen out of the players competing for positions opened by graduated seniors.
“I’m optimistic about them,” Hansen said. “They are good football players. They can get the job done.”
Hurley and Bernard take over the backfield for Jack Richardson, who had a strong season for the Thunderbirds last year. But with all the things Hurley learned from Richardson about running the ball, he learned more in other aspects.
“One of the biggest things is his positive attitude,” Hurley said. “Every day last year he was always positive, get us off a good foot, pick everyone up.”
Bozzo isn’t selling Connetquot shy. Regardless of playoff disappointments, he has only one goal.
“As of right now, the only thing on our mind is the LIC. Long Island Championship,” he said. “That’s all we need. That’s all we want right now.”
And it will all come down to that one word on the back of Connetquot’s T-shirts and how they break each drill and practice: Finish.
“Finish,” Del Negro said. “Finish through the line every single drill, finish every single game, no matter what, until the last second. That’s it.”