With more teams moving to a spread offense, you may think seeing that Longwood football scored at least 34 points in its final six games last year – including five of at least 42 points – that it has mastered the art of slinging the ball around.
But you’d be mistaken.
Longwood’s powerhouse offense comes from a strong offensive line and power-I run attack, much of it centering around running back Latrell Horton, who started at fullback last season.
“We’re not a spread team so we’re not throwing the ball much,” said coach Jeff Cipp. “We just line up and it all starts in the weight room. We work really hard, we’re really strong. … When you have a tailback that’s 235 [pounds], we’re just going to run the ball like we have the last two years. We’re not going to do anything different.”
And why would they?
Coming off a 47-28 win over Farmingdale in the Class I Long Island Championship, including an LIC record 555 rushing yards, plus a string of undefeated junior varsity seasons in Suffolk I and the No. 1 preseason ranking, it is a daunting task for any team to overtake the Lions this season.
“I have a lot of excitement,” said Horton, a returning all-Long Island selection. “I know we have a big target on our backs so I’m not going to stop pushing and working.”
Seniors Nick Castrova, Tyler Herrmann and James Civil lead Longwood’s big offensive line. Maleik Bonner will share the carries with Horton in the backfield as another dangerous playmaker with Jalen Hunter and Daquan Owens holding down the edges and providing pass-catching options at tight end.
Hunter said the competition in camp helps fuel the Lions.
“It helps everyone work harder because if I’m in a position you want to be in, you’re going to want to come for my position and I’m going to try to hold my position,” Hunter said, “so everybody’s always grinding and working hard.”
Bonner tries not to get caught up in last season’s success. As the preseason No. 1 seed, he knows every team has Longwood circled on its calendar.
“It’s a new season,” Bonner said. “It’s a fresh start. We got to go out and get what we deserve, like if we didn’t win the LIC. It’s ours for the taking.
“I feel like if we stay in the moment, we can’t grasp what’s in our future. Of course we’re all pumped up that we won, but we can’t stay in it.”
The Lions certainly want a Long Island Championship repeat. But they understand just because they won last year, that doesn’t guarantee another opportunity at the title.
“We’re not even worried about last year,” Horton said. “We’re trying to win one this year, back-to-back. Last year is the past. We won last year but we’re focused on right now.”