Wednesday was only the fourth practice, but everyone involved with the Long Island team for the Empire Challenge football game already is raving about this crop of wide receivers.
“I’ve been playing with these guys all season, watching them at their schools,” Newfield’s Jelani Greene said. “I won the award for best receiver, but any one of these guys could have won that award, no doubt.”
Greene, who won the National Football Foundation Award as Suffolk’s top receiver, highlights an electric group featuring Syosset’s Mike Elardo, Garden City’s Brian Haeffner, Patchogue-Medford’s Nico Morabito, St. Anthony’s James Pryor, Huntington’s Infinite Tucker, MacArthur’s Jared Wolfe and Oceanside’s Aronis Espinal and James Paczkowski.
“I feel like we have a lot of talent,” said Morabito, who had 45 receptions for a Long Island-best 855 yards during the fall season. “I’ve never seen a bunch of kids come together on the first day. It was awesome. We all clicked.”
Game coordinator Pete Blieberg said it took all of six minutes for the wideouts to get used to quarterbacks Ryan Klemm (Newfield) and Mike Catanese (Carey), emphasizing their intelligence and willingness to learn the offense.
And it showed in their preparation for the New York City team, who they’ll play on Tuesday at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Klemm, Catanese and their receivers were in nearly perfect sync. Timing was impressive on curl routes, and both passers knew exactly where to throw the ball to their new targets.
“Everyone’s really stepping it up, and the chemistry’s really coming together,” said Elardo, the two-time Jets Receiver Award winner as Nassau’s top wide receiver.
Offensive coordinator Rob Hoss, the coach at Sayville, has plenty of weapons at his disposal — and it seems like he plans on using them all.
“Anytime you can stretch the field vertically, it gives you an opportunity to do some things,” Hoss said. “Also, if they’re worried about those kids beating them deep and the linebackers are starting to take some drops, it gives us the ability to hit underneath routes and do some option routes.”
The versatility this group provides will be key for coach Joe Piccininni of Newfield. He’s looking to make it five straight victories for the Long Island team.
Elardo thinks his position’s depth and overall talent could be the difference. “The City doesn’t know what’s coming,” he said. “We all have speed and other attributes that make us special.”
As for Greene, he thinks the New York City team will soon learn that his breakaway speed and consistent hands can be a nuisance.
“They’re not going to fear me,” he said with a smile, “but they’re going to be grateful I wasn’t in their league all year.”