Oceanside wide receiver Jake Lazzaro hated playing football in the eighth grade. As an undersized running back, he was sick of getting hit and decided that, maybe, football wasn’t right for him.
Then, he looked at his ninth grade class schedule, where as a student in Oceanside coach’s Rob Blount’s history class, Lazzaro was convinced to play as a sophomore. The program was instantly changed.
Lazzaro morphed into the top receiver in the county, a moniker that became official Wednesday night. The senior won the Pizzarelli / New York Jets Outstanding Receiver Award at the Nassau County High School Football Coaches Association Gridiron Banquet at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.
Lazzaro caught 72 passes for 1,037 yards and 11 touchdowns. Carey’s Nick Giacalone and Lawrence’s Jordan Alexander were finalists for the award.
“[Lazzaro] has a great ability to vertically stretch the field,” Blount said. “He’s got nice long legs and is able to go get the ball. He runs all the routes right.”
Lazzaro, who works with youth baseball and football programs in the Oceanside area, also won the Kessenich Award, which highlights three-sport athletes who excel academically and within the community. Lazzaro is also a baseball and basketball player and will play baseball at St. John’s next year. Seaford’s Ryan Butler, Island Trees’ Ryan Costanza, Massapequa’s Garrett Gibbons and Angelo Petrakis, North Shore’s Lucca Marra, and Valley Stream North’s Joe Munson were finalists for the Kessenich. Munson won the Jay Fiedler Top Scholar Athlete Award.
Freeport linebacker Gerard Smikle won the Piner Award as Nassau's top linebacker. Smikle who, because of Freeport’s dominance, only played more than three quarters once this season, made 73 tackles (28 solo), had two sacks, 12 tackles for loss, and recovered four fumbles, including one for a touchdown.
Smikle said that his ability to make reads quickly helped him morph into one of the leaders of the Freeport defense, especially when it comes to stopping the run.
“I’m able to get off of blocks and fill gaps quickly, so the running back can’t get space to get into the open field and make a play,” Smikle said.
Wantagh’s Will DeMatteo and MacArthur’s Hugh Kelleher were finalists for the Piner Award.