"Shut up and hit" has been the long time motto of the Freeport football team, and that hasn't changed this season — coach Russ Cellan wore a shirt bearing the phrase at Wednesday's practice.
But the motto may have to be altered to "Shut up and throw" for 2010, as the play of new quarterback Isaiah Barnes may be the most important component to the team's success this season.
When the Red Devils won the program's third Long Island title last year, they did it with Kevin Allen (a Thorp Award finalist) behind center. Allen, the team's starting tailback in the beginning of the season, replaced the injured Paul Ketchens for the stretch run and playoffs. Allen maintained his strong running and did an admirable job passing the ball in the team's spread attack.
Barnes (pictured above taking a snap) is a more natural passer and much taller than Allen, but his inexperience is somewhat of a concern for Freeport, the No. 3 seed in Conference I.
"He's still got a lot of learning to do," said senior wide receiver Jeff Williams. "He's young, he's real young. I try to make it so that he understands it, and that we're on the same page at all times. He's got a lot more growing to do. We've all got to push him."
Added All County lineman Terrell Brown: "It's hard work, and protect the man behind you."
Cellan said Barnes' best attribute may be his intelligence.
"He's actually a very smart kid," Cellan said, adding that he's got plenty of beef protecting him up front. "He's getting there throwing the ball, he's a very good runner and he's a smart kid. He's inexperienced, but he could be very good. He's a work in progress [passing], but he understands the offense."
Barnes' inexperience may have led to Freeport, the two-time defending county champs, not getting the top seed (that belongs to Farmingdale). But Brown noted seeding really doesn't matter, citing the Red Devils' first of back-to-back county titles came as the No. 6 seed.
"We don't pay no mind to that," Brown said. "That means nothing to us. It's just something to give the fans and people who watch the sport an idea."
Added Williams: "We stress that it's all about results here."
Brown added there also won't be much of a drop-off from Allen to this year's starting tailback, Dan Olivier.
Freeport opens its season at home on Saturday, Sept. 11 against seventh-seeded Baldwin. Last season's team was cruising along until back-to-back losses to East Meadow and Farmingdale (and a near loss to Massapequa the following week) before "reality set in," according to Brown. From that point forward, Freeport outscored its opponents 169-58.
This year, he and Williams are laying down the gauntlet for their opponents, maintaining that a similar midseason letdown won't happen in 2010.
"If you can outwork us," Williams said, "you deserve to win."
Added Brown: "If there's a day we don't work hard, it's either a Sunday, or it's the end of the season."
Just shut up and hit — and throw.