As high school football practices opened for teams all over Long Island on Monday, the rainy weather couldn’t dampen Bellport’s excitement for the upcoming season.
Players constantly shouted cheers of encouragement for their teammates as they went through conditioning drills in the mud.
Last year’s 13-0 victory over Lindenhurst in the Suffolk Division II championship game marked Bellport’s 11th county title in school history and first since 2010.
“A new season and new faces always brings lots of challenges but it’s always exciting to start fresh,” head coach Jamie Fabian said.
Justin Miles will take over as Bellport’s starting quarterback after catching 15 passes for 527 yards and four touchdowns as a wide receiver last year while serving as the backup QB.
“I’ve been working a lot in the offseason with my coaches and teammates to make sure we’re on the same page,” Miles said. “We come to the field and run plays so when the games come, we’re ready to go.”
He’ll be joined in the backfield by Donte Phillips, who scored 17 total touchdowns last season and recorded five interceptions as a defensive back, including three in the county title game.
“Playing both sides of the ball is not an easy job,” Phillips said. “The conditioning we’re doing today plays a big part in getting all of us ready to handle that workload.”
Bellport knows the rest of the division will be coming to take its crown.
“We’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Miles said. “We have to be ready to play every team like they’re the best on the Island.”
Floyd also has a target on its back despite falling to Whitman in the Suffolk Division I final last season. The Colonials had won the previous three titles and enter this season as the top seed in their division.
“We’ve been fortunate to be there a lot, but last year we did lose,” head coach Paul Longo said. “It’s definitely motivation to get us going.”
Floyd’s dangerous rushing attack returns its star running back Dylan Harris, along with Ryan Amato, a four-year starter on the offensive line and quarterback LaDuke Harris, who rushed for over 500 yards last season.
In addition to his quarterback responsibilities, Harris will play outside linebacker this year.
“Playing quarterback is natural for me, so I’m not worried about that part,” Harris said. “Defensively, it’s going to be a little bit of a change, but I think I’m ready for it.”
Staying healthy is one of Floyd’s priorities this preseason.
“Last year we had probably the best defensive line I’ve ever had, but we lost a couple of them and that hurt,” Longo said. “If we can stay healthy, I think we’ll compete with the best teams in the county.”