Paul Imperiale, Anthony LaRosa and East Meadow’s senior class have rarely finished a football season with a sour taste in their mouths.
In seventh and eighth grade, they did not lose. As sophomores, their JV team went 8-0.
Then Farmingdale waltzed past them and into the Nassau County championship at Hofstra last year, sending the Jets into the off-season with a 7-3 record.
“I get the chills talking about it,” said LaRosa, East Meadow’s returning quarterback. “It’s the worst feeling. There’s just such a motivation to get back there and keep working and get a county championship and fight for a Long Island championship with the boys you’ve been doing it with for your whole life.”
East Meadow is a Nassau Conference I favorite to make it back to Hofstra. The Jets are seeded second in the preseason, behind Farmingdale.
“They’re the team that we’re going after,” said LaRosa, who rushed for 490 yards and 11 TDs and threw for 362 yards and six scores last year. “They took it away from us last year, and we’re not going to let it happen again.”
LaRosa and Imperiale, a 6-4 target at tight end, form the core of East Meadow’s returning offense, along with backfield mates Joe Matchekosky (711 rushing yards, 5 TDs) and Justin Reyes (217 yards, 3 TDs) and OG Kyle Barker. In all, the Jets have eight offensive starters from last year’s team.
“We’ve got some quality kids back on offense,” coach Vinny Mascia said. “We lost some good kids, but we’ve got some good kids back. That should be our strength.”
Defensively, the Jets are strongest at linebacker, with Imperiale (60 tackles) and Barker (46 tackles, three sacks) leading the pack.
But all three linemen in East Meadow’s 3-4 defense need to be replaced, and there are also holes to fill in the secondary.
“We’ve got about half the defense where we’ve got to fit new guys in there, so we have a lot of question marks,” Mascia said. “If they get answered -- which they could, it happens all the time -- we’re in great shape. If they don’t get answered, we’re in a little bit of trouble.”
If they do get answered, the Jets could reverse their fate of a year ago.
“The feeling was terrible,” Imperiale said. “I can’t imagine walking off the Hofstra field this year with a loss, especially because it’s our senior year. We’re fired up, and we can’t wait to get back at the Dalers.”