There will be some new faces in the backfield for Eastport-South Manor but a deep receiving corps and added bulk on the offensive line should help ease the transition for them.
Receivers Brandon Stiles, Mark Pace and Sean Maguire will be the top targets for new quarterback Danny Dollard, who will play behind a line led by John Sapanaro.
“I’m really happy with how we’re looking so far, and hoping to do big things against some pretty good teams we’re playing this year,” Dollard said. “Three out of my four receivers have one year on varsity already. It’s making life a lot easier.”
Stiles is the leading returning receiver, after posting 411 receiving yards for a Sharks team that went 7-1 in the regular season last year. Eastport-South Manor earned the No. 4 seed in Suffolk III, before losing to No. 5 Miller Place in the first round of the postseason.
“He just seems to make all the catches,” coach Bill Ashton said of Stiles. “He’s a tough, tough kid. He runs hard, he runs good routes and he’s physical with the ball.”
“Sean Maguire, who was pretty much a shutdown corner for us last year, will be playing receiver more than he did last year,” Ashton added. Maguire also returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns, and will look to bring that playmaking ability to the offense. Mark Pace, who averaged over 10 yards per touch last season, also returns.
At running back, the Sharks will need to replace Nick Garone, whose 1,323 rushing yards were fifth most in Suffolk.
“It’s tough to replace Nicky Garone, but we have a lot of young running backs,” Ashton said. “We have three or four guys we’re looking at.”
This committee will have the benefit of playing with an offensive line that includes Sapanaro and a pair of big newcomers: 6-3, 295-pound Julian McIntosh (who moved from California), and Matt Goncalves, a 6-6, 285-pound sophomore.
“That was a thing we lacked last year,” Ashton said of the size on the line. “We went through games one through seven pretty decent last year. Then we got to two schools, Miller Place and Kings Park [in the last two games], who had 300 pounders on the line, and we got banged up.”
“The entire line has been playing well as a unit,” Sapanaro said. “We’re much bigger than last year and the chemistry on the line is already better than I expected.”