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Mepham’s Mike & Mike plan for big football season

Mepham running back Mike Valentino, right, takes a

Mepham running back Mike Valentino, right, takes a handoff from quarterback Michael Proios during a Nassau Conference II football game against Long Beach at Long Beach Middle School on Oct.16, 2015. Credit: James Escher / James Escher

Everything seemed to slow down for Mike Proios. The home crowd at Mepham was loud, sure, but Proios couldn’t hear a thing.

“The first game, it was the home opener,” Proios recalled. “I came in for my first drive and I couldn’t hear anything. I was so focused. And it went well.”

That was last season, his first as a quarterback. He had never played the position before -- outside of your typical backyard game. But he made the shift from wide receiver out of necessity and led Mepham, the No. 4 preseason seed in Nassau II, to a 5-4 season.

Now in his second year under center, Proios appears poised to make strides. Head coach Anthony Cracco said Proios has had a strong offseason, which bodes well for Mepham’s up-tempo spread offense.

“We’re trying to play fast on both sides of the ball,” Cracco said. “We have a good group of skill players at the receiver spot and the running back spot. It’s probably the deepest we’ve been there in quite awhile.”

Jeremy Lissade and Matt Conry headline an explosive group of wide receivers. Cracco expects both to play on the same side, creating matchup nightmares for opposing secondaries. Conry will likely be the slot receiver.

“I know how they want to run the routes,” Proios said, acknowledging his past as a wide receiver. “I know where they want the ball. Having them on the same side gives me a lot of options.”

Perhaps the most reliable option for Mepham is senior Mike Valentino. He calls himself a running back by position but admittedly says he’s a “utility guy.”

Valentino can catch out of the backfield and line up as a slot receiver. Proios, a junior, also said that Valentino is one of his best pass blockers. And Cracco called him one of the conference’s best players.

Whatever Mepham needs, Valentino can provide it.

And while Proios holds the keys to the offense, the Pirates will only go as far as Valentino takes them.

“The goal always is to win an LIC,” he said. “That’s always what we’re striving for. I think we have a chance this year.”

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