Connetquot quarterback Dylan McDermott is expecting a fun fall.
With an early start to offseason work, McDermott, who split time at quarterback last season, can’t wait to take the field with the offensive weapons he’s surrounded with.
“I think our receiving core is ridiculous this year,” McDermott said. “I think it’s amazing, so we’ll see come the season.”
With receivers like George Wichelns, Taylor Stepanek and GQ Grippo along with running back Tom Caputo, Connetquot’s offense could present matchup problems throughout the season for opponents. The Thunderbirds, ranked No. 4 entering the year, are coming off a 5-4 season, losing in the first round of the playoffs to Ward Melville, 14-0.
The offensive unit has worked throughout the offseason to improve their timing, as Connetquot scored seven points or fewer in three of their four losses last season.
“All it takes is that half second for a defensive back to run in there and if you don’t have your timing down, you have to be out here working,” senior wide receiver/safety Taylor Stepanek said. “Spend as much time even off the field with them.”
Along with the skill position players, Connetquot returns a pair of three-year linemen John Luffman and Trevor Cahill. Jordan Lopinski and Joe Croce are also expected to play key roles in the trenches.
“I think our defense will be strong this year,” said Wichelns, who will play wide receiver and safety. “We just have to move the ball on offense.”
Connetquot isn’t paying too much attention to its preseason ranking. After a one-win 2011, the Thunderbirds lost a combined three regular-season games from the 2012 to 2014 season. Three of Connetquot’s four losses last season came to teams seeded higher entering the season, with the exception of a loss to Floyd, the eventual county champions. The Thunderbirds hope to continue the winning tradition and take the successes even further.
“It’s awesome because we’re known for being in the Big 4 and finishing very high in the league,” Stepanek said. “So hopefully we can make our big plays this year, make it far in the playoffs and just take home that championship.”
Mike Hansen believes his team has the potential to do just that, and he’s been impressed with the maturity of his quarterback as the offensive leader.
“I’ve really seen a big change in him,” Hansen said. “He’s taken on a leadership role. He really has submerged himself into the offense. He’s got all the tools to be really successful and really good.”
Connetquot will be challenged early, with three of its first four games against Ward Melville, Floyd and Lindenhurst. But the team’s goals are simple.
“LIC,” McDermott said. “Win it.”