St. Anthony's running back Jordan Gowins, center, poses for a...

St. Anthony's running back Jordan Gowins, center, poses for a portrait with quarterbacks Trent Crossan of Sachem North, left, and Sam Ilario of West Islip during the annual Newsday high school football season preview photo shoot at company headquarters. (Aug. 23, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Their injuries were painful; not being able to play hurt even more.

But three of Long Island's best offensive players -- running back Jordan Gowins of St. Anthony's, Trent Crossan of Sachem North and Sam Ilario of West Islip -- are ready to roll and hopeful the season brings championships for their schools and attention from colleges for themselves.

"I have to see what comes in after this season. I don't have as much game film as other guys," said Crossan, who missed most of his sophomore season with a torn ACL and then after making a full recovery from that, tore his hamstring -- which he'd originally injured in the summer of 2012 -- and missed most of last season. Despite impressive speed and power, he is only 5-9 and 185, so to earn a college scholarship, Crossan knows he must demonstrate he has elusiveness in space.

If the Flaming Arrows, who have tremendous backfield depth, put in some wrinkles to showcase Crossan's perimeter skills, perhaps he'll be able to join his brother Dalton at New Hampshire, one of several schools expressing interest.

That would please his coach, Dave Falco, who admitted that after Crossan got hurt in the third quarter of a Week 3 game at Patchogue-Medford when North was ahead 21-0, "You second-guess yourself on the decision to keep him in the game."

The week before, Crossan put on a breathtaking performance, scoring eight touchdowns in an overtime victory over Bay Shore. "With his hamstring at only 40 percent," Falco said. "Then when he tried to come back against Sachem East [in Week 4], his calf gave out from trying to compensate for the weak hamstring. It was disheartening."

It was downright heartbreaking for Ilario, a versatile quarterback who had a torn ankle tendon during a first-round game when his unbeaten, top-seeded team was upset by West Babylon. "I was running up the sideline and I got hit down below the ankle and then another kid hit me up top and I just remember rolling it," said Ilario, an outstanding baseball player who gave up the sport last spring to continue his rehab. "There was a lot of pain. I was numb. I just wanted to get back in the game. I remember they carried me to the sidelines and it was really swollen. It was scary looking at it. I got back out there and tried to do the best I could, but unfortunately it didn't work out."

West Islip coach Steve Mileti remembered that day very well. "Sammy and I had a moment after that game," he said. "We were walking back to the locker room and looking at each other and saying, 'We'll be back.' The lessons in the losses are sometimes bigger than in the victories."

Ilario has come back bigger (215 pounds) and faster (4.5 in the 40) and feels so good about football that he now considers that his first option for college over baseball. "My heart is with football right now," said Ilario, who will play some safety and has drawn interest from colleges as an all-purpose back. "Injuries happen but this injury made me stronger and made me realize this is the game I love."

There was never any doubt about that for Gowins, a running back like his brother Eddie, who starred at Bellport and Stony Brook University. "I want to follow in my brother's footsteps and accomplish even more than he did."

At 5-11, 205, Gowins is desirable as a college prospect because he has power and exceptional speed. He said he is fully recovered, gained weight and did not lose any quickness. But he has a lot to prove.

"He can be one of the best players we've ever had here," St. Anthony's coach Rich Reichert said. "He's got all the physical tools, but we've got to get him mentally tough so that he practices hard and blocks for the other guys when he's not getting the ball. If he does that stuff, he'll be off the charts."

Gowins recalled getting hurt in Week 4 against Chaminade when his ankle got caught in the turf as he tried to make a spin move after taking a pitch. "They called it a heavy sprain and that's hard to come back from," Gowins said. "I tried, but I didn't come back strong and I messed up with a fumble in the championship game . I blew it for my teammates."

He said he is using last year "as motivation. In the offseason, I trained hard, working on my cutting and my speed. I'm stronger, too. I'm back and better than I was before."

Crossan and Ilario are saying the same thing.


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