Final score, 21-18.
That score is embedded in the mind of every Mepham football player. They’ve seen it throughout their weight room from winter workouts until the tape weakened, whether it was posted on the surrounding walls or on the ceiling on top of a bench press.
That was the score of Mepham’s final game last fall, a 21-18 loss to MacArthur in the Nassau Conference II semifinals at Hofstra after allowing a touchdown and two-point conversion with 2:19 left in the fourth quarter.
Following the loss, the Mepham team printed out pictures of the scoreboard and taped it on nearly every square inch of the weight room. The players would see it on the ceiling when bench pressing as an additional motivator to keep pushing through their reps.
“We look at that scoreboard every single day when we step into that weight room,” said Dom Novello, a senior running back/linebacker. “We posted up pictures of that and that motivates us to strive for greater things.”
“It’s a huge motivation because we know we are capable of sitting up there and competing with the big dogs,” said Ryan Thier, a senior running back/linebacker. “We want to be known as one of those top teams and I think we’ve earned that respect and should have had that game last year.”
Mepham enters this season as the No. 2 seed in Nassau Conference II and is chasing its first county title in program history. Novello, who had 85 tackles and five touchdowns last season, could see some time at quarterback and will be a key fixture in making that possible. First-year head coach Matthew Moody said Novello is a part of possibly the most talented skill position group in program history. And he wants his players to enter the season with confidence.
“The kids see it,” Moody said, “and I keep telling them that I firmly believe that this team has all the makings to win the whole thing this year.”
Of course, there’s a dominant program standing in Mepham’s way of making that possible. Garden City, winners of the last six Nassau Conference II titles, returns another strong team but the Pirates believe they are ready for the challenge.
“It definitely lights a fire ... just to know that you have a team that’s up there with you,” Thier said. “It’s not just you are trying to compete with every team, you know that you have to go week-by-week but in the end, you know who you are playing.”