Mepham football coach Anthony Cracco saw it early on. When linebacker Matt Hegi was heading up the Pirates’ defense, he engineered everything. As Cracco put it “he was an extension of our coaching staff — he knew every person’s assignment on every play.”
Hegi’s intellect — in the classroom rather than on the football field — earned him the Jay Fiedler Award as Nassau County’s top football scholar-athlete as part of the Golden 11 selected by the National Football Foundation and the Nassau County football coaches.
“I’m feeling pretty honored because this isn’t something anyone expects,” said Hegi, who has a weighted 98 average and scored an aggregate 1480 on the SAT. “You work hard in the classroom and hard on the field. To get this is pretty cool.”
Hegi shined most on defense, but he also played running back, rushed for four touchdowns, caught four touchdowns and threw an option pass for a score. At linebacker, he recorded 91 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss and had five sacks.
In addition, Hegi works with fifth-graders in a program to teach them leadership skills. He wants to pursue a degree in engineering — likely mechanical engineering — because, as he said, “I like understanding how everything works.”
Hegi is joined on the Golden 11 by Newsday All-Long Island first-team RB/LB Hugh Kelleher of MacArthur, who rushed for 21 touchdowns and recorded 83 tackles, and All-Long Island first-team RB/LB Kevin Wilson of Farmingdale, who ran for 24 touchdowns and caught two more scores.
Also recognized for their academic achievements were Newsday All- Long Island second team WR/DB Nick LiCalzi of South Side, who scored 14 touchdowns and had 75 tackles, and second-team RB/LB Jacob Bruno of Cold Spring Harbor, who had 11.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss.
Joining them in the academic elite were two-way linemen Andrew Amato of Wantagh, Andrew Franco of North Shore, Dan Meaney of Massapequa, Chris Stokum of Clarke and Billy Kephart of Garden City, RB/FS Brandon Love of East Meadow and RB/LB Thomas Sofield of Long Beach.