It’s that last twist of the Rubik’s Cube. Or the sound of that final ‘click’ when the one remaining Lego piece slides into place. Or the pen stroke that fills the last box of the Sudoku puzzle.
These are the things that Dante Torres relishes.
To the coaches and players on the St. Anthony’s football team, the 6-3½ senior is their star quarterback, a knowledgeable leader and a good friend. To the teams that line up against the Friars, Torres is a force that must be contained, the strong and accurate arm behind a high-scoring offense. However, when Torres looks in the mirror, he sees a problem-solver staring back.
“I love being challenged and competing and the feeling of completing something I’ve taken on,” Torres said. “The Rubik’s Cube, the Lego kits, the puzzles? They focus your mind and that’s why I like them . . . I really enjoy the feeling of accomplishment when you set your mind to doing something and finish the job.”
Torres and his Friars teammates this fall have set their mind on winning the Catholic High School Football League AAA championship. Last season, that goal eluded them after they mastered the heartbreaking loss. Two blown leads led to a pair of CHSFL regular-season losses by a combined five points. A double-overtime loss to Iona Prep in the semifinals ended their season. They are seeded No. 3 for this season, behind top-seeded Iona and Archbishop Stepinac.
Torres, who this summer gave a verbal commitment to play at Fordham next season, recently considered the offensive unit around him and said “it’s a great group of players – all the pieces for a championship are there and, together, we must put it together.”
He has targets aplenty. Junior Korey Duff Jr. and Rutgers-bound Ian Strong are capable of big plays with their speed and athleticism. Timmy Longo is a precision route-runner. Nick Matos is a physical pass-catcher. Carson Ciancuielli, at 6-foot and 260 pounds, and Christian Oliva, at 6-2 and 280, headline a strong group of linemen. Featured back Frank Ruta is the considerable ground threat that will open the passing game.
“This is a smart group that’s come to terms with the heart-breaking losses from a year ago,” Strong said. “We aren’t going to make the same mistakes twice.”
Added Longo: “We will be stronger in the second half this season. We’re going to be about finishing.”
Torres is, of course, the key that would unlock all St. Anthony’s potential and allow the Friars to finish the puzzle. In 10 games last season, he threw for 2,296 yards and 21 touchdowns with nine interceptions and rushed for 245 yards and five more scores. This will be his second full season behind center and experience has become a big part of his game. Strong said of Torres, “He’s smart and you can see it in his pre-snap reads and how he uses all his options — it separates him from other top quarterbacks.”
“Dante has developed physically to become stronger and faster and have more arm-strength to throw down the field, but there’s a lot more in his [progression],” St. Anthony’s coach Joe Minucci said. “His grasp of what we’re doing is complete and [sophisticated]. And with that, there has come greater self-confidence and greater leadership.”
Torres might have joined a line of championship quarterbacks for coach Rob Shaver at Plainedge that includes Dan Villari in 2018 and ’19 and Travis Shaver in 2021. But an option to instead enroll at St. Anthony’s was appealing on several levels for Torres and his parents, Jose Torres and Jennifer Farina.
“St. Anthony’s has some of the best players from all across Long Island and there’s great competition and coaching there,” Jose Torres said. “No knock on Plainedge, but how could you not want that for your son?”
Ciancuielli sees Torres as the right fit for St. Anthony’s and the right guy in this moment to propel the Friars to a first championship since 2013.
“There’s pressure on us after the way last season ended, but Dante knows how to handle it, thrives on it,” he said. “He is good when the spotlight is on him. He stays positive even when the last play didn’t go right because he trusts his team . . . [and] he is the right kind of competitive.”
Torres has gotten a lot of things right on the football field. Just not the ending. He hasn’t gotten the feeling of accomplishment that comes with winning a title.
After playing on the freshman team in 2019, he was called up to a JV team that lost the title game. He lost a shot when the coronavirus pandemic claimed the 2020 season. And then there was last year and, as he said, “the tough memory of losing a game you know you should have won.”
“The pieces are there and need to [be put] in place,” Torres said. “It won’t be just me, it will be this great team around me that has to do it. I know we can put it all together.”