Last weekend’s CHSFL AA championship game was as much about pregame preparations as it was about in-game adjustments. Kellenberg passed that test with flying colors, beating Fordham Prep, 54-19, and the performance of quarterback Matt Sluka was worth all the colors in the rainbow.
Sluka, of Roslyn Heights, rushed for 227 yards, scored five rushing touchdowns, threw for another and was 6-for-8 on PAT kicks. All told, Sluka accounted for 42 points as Kellenberg captured its first league title since 1999. That performance, which capped the school’s first undefeated season, earned Sluka Newsday Athlete of the Week honors.
The victory began, as most do, inside the Kellenberg film room. poring over video of the Firebirds’ Oct. 6 victory over Fordham, committing to memory every single tendency that their opponents offered up.
“We went over each and every play, making sure everyone did their job and knowing the guys (on Fordham Prep that) we should run toward and the guys we should run away from,” said Sluka, a junior. “A great team like them doesn’t really want to change too much. We knew their defense and they knew our offense. It was just a matter of who could do better and we executed our plays better.”
Execution, however, is only part of the winning equation. A football team that doesn’t prepare during the week is usually one that loses on weekends.
“One of the things that football players don’t get a lot of credit for is the fact that they’re pretty smart kids,” Kellenberg coach Kevin Hanifan said. “When we watch film, it’s a very demanding academic rigor. It’s not sitting, joking around. It’s watching film, looking for little details that you can pick up on or exploit, or even pick up on ourselves.”
This absorption of material is something that Sluka does quite well, his coach said.
“He’s very honest with himself about evaluating his own performance,” Hanifan said. “Sometimes, to a fault. He can be a little too critical of himself…. He and this whole junior group was very focused and watching film as much as we do was definitely a factor in helping us prepare for a team or even pick on some of their weaknesses.”
Despite his extreme powers of self-reflection, there wasn’t much for Sluka to get upset about this season. He threw for eight touchdowns and rushed for 20, along with racking up 1,287 yards on the ground.
“His vision improved every week,” Hanifan said. “When he was running with the ball, or scrambling in a passing situation, he was always keeping his eyes in the right place.”
Whether it’s down the field or at a piece of film, those eyes be watching.