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Great Neck North squad has no place to go but up

Joe Gad of Great Neck North heads back

Joe Gad of Great Neck North heads back to the line of scrimmage during football practice at Great Neck North High School on Monday, Aug. 22, 2016. Photo Credit: James Escher

There wasn’t much to cheer about at Great Neck North last season, but the atmosphere around preseason football camp suggests that change might be on the horizon.

The Blazers’ lone win last fall came against crosstown rival Great Neck South, which finished 0-8. There were few bright spots outside of Joe Gad, a receiver and safety, and Jared Kaiman, the team’s starting quarterback.

Both players return to a team with higher aspirations. Ask anyone around camp, and they’ll say that the goal is to reach .500.

“This is the year for us,” Gad said. “This is really the year for us. All the pieces are here, and if everyone plays to their potential, we should have a good season.

Gad is a 5-9, 160-pound ballhawk who snagged six interceptions and returned one for a touchdown last season at safety. As a receiver, he runs crisp routes and attacks the ball in the air.

Kaiman will lean heavily on Gad’s ball skills. The senior quarterback throws a good ball with above average touch and arm strength. He also commands the offense as a vocal leader.

“We’ve been good,” he said. “We’ve been focusing on strictly mechanics and building from the bottom up and implementing just the basics. I think we have a very good shot at .500.”

Coach Kevin Graham is excited for the season. Kaiman and Gad headline a strong group of skill players that also includes speedy Aaron Lopez and reliable Nir Alishahian, two wide receivers with big play potential.

Newcomer Ariel Navi should also be a pleasant surprise either in the slot or on the outside.

Graham thinks this group can “shock the conference,” but expectations are realistic. Winning three or four games would certainly define 2016 as a success.

“There’s a change in culture,” Gad said of preseason camp. “A lot more people are invested in this program. We see good things in the future. I’m excited about the season.”

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