When Locust Valley made a run to the Long Island Championship game, going undefeated until that game, it did so with an entirely senior starting group.
And now that those seniors are gone, it’s easy to project the stock to slip for the No. 2 ranked Falcons (11-1) in Nassau Conference IV. But don’t tell that to coach Chris Wagner or the players who gained a lot of experience during blowouts and saw what success looked like from up close.
“It’s more of a reload rather than a rebuild,” first-year coach Chris Wagner said.
Quarterback Francesco Anile said he watched how then-quarterback Tom Talenti handled going undefeated in the regular season and took control of games. Now it’s his turn.
“I think we should do the same if not better than what we did last year,” Anile said. “We have a lot of talent. We just need to make sure we’re working not just as hard but harder than we’ve ever worked before.”
That work was on display at a recent 7 a.m. practice as players trudged through grass still wet with dew. It’s the beginning of the long process it takes to repeat as conference champions.
“It starts here,” running back Ramell Phillips said. “Last year, they stayed working hard, stayed in the weight room, stayed with it. We have to follow that so we can achieve what they achieved last year.”
Tight end and defensive lineman Keenan Herlich said he’s been impressed by the work of the underclassmen, which could be an asset for sustained success.
“Our offense is looking really well,” Herlich said. “We have a balanced attack. It’s not just passing, it’s not just running. I think we have a lot of good running backs in the backfield that could do damage.”
If there’s ever a moment when the players feel like they could let up at practice, their coaches are there reminding them that this isn’t last year’s team and they’ll have to work just as hard if not harder to replicate or exceed those results, Phillips said.
“Now everyone wants our head,” Phillips said. “That’s what everyone’s thinking, so we’re trying to work hard and not let that happen.”