After having the most prolific passing season in school history in 2015, Kings Park’s Paul Cooper has only one thing in his sights this season: making a deep playoff run.
“I just want to do what I have to do to get the team ‘Ws,’” said Cooper, who set the school single-season records for yardage (1,581), completions (136) and completion percentage (63.5) as a junior. He also threw 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions, while adding 832 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. “We’re looking forward to a great season with a great group of guys.”
Led by Cooper’s passing, the Kingsmen went 6-2 in the regular season and earned the No. 3 seed in Suffolk III, before getting upset by No. 6 Westhampton, 31-26, in the first round of the playoffs.
“We’re worried about redemption first,” said Cooper, who is also the school’s all-time leader in passing yardage. “We have some challenges ahead of us, but we’re right there.”
“He had a great year last year, and came back this year and worked twice as hard,” Kingsmen coach Mark O’Brien said. “He’s a dynamic athlete, and it’s his fourth year in the offense [2016 will be his third as a starter], so he knows every read that he’s supposed to make.”
This familiarity with Kings Park’s spread offense could help Cooper and company build on last year’s 28.5 points per game scoring average, as he is one of six offensive players entering his third-year as a starter. This group also includes sure-handed receivers Matt Estherson and Matt Cebulski, running back Matt Meyers and first-team All-Division linemen Matt Guercio and Danny Byrne.
“We have some good skill kids, and this is the only offense any of them have ever ran, so they understand it really well, and that makes a big difference” O’Brien said.
“Our chemistry on offense is amazing,” said tight end Jac Cutillo, who will be another go-to target. “We’ve grown together, since youth league. That’s what happens in a small town. You play together for a while.”
On defense, the Kingsmen will look to build off a strong finish to 2015. After allowing a combined 76 points in its first two games, Kings Park only allowed 62 points in its final five regular-season contests (12.4 points per game). Guercio and Byrne anchor the defensive line, while Estherson is the leader in the secondary.
“Last year was good, but we want to be even better,” Guercio said. “We feel like we can be great this year.”