There’s no secret Sachem East football believes the keys to returning to the playoffs after a 2-6 season stems from leadership and continuity.
Junior Danny Carroll – entering his fourth season on varsity – had an interesting way of wording it.
“I think [being on the same page] is the main thing to winning because say if one guy doesn’t do something right on the play, it can all mess up,” the offensive and defensive lineman said. “But if everyone is doing the same thing together, even if someone makes a mistake, if they all make the same mistake, it could lead to something that could actually work.”
Sachem East hopes to minimize its mistakes and maximize its potential behind a senior class including running back and defensive back Brendan Ryan (300 rushing yards, 100 receiving yards and 54 tackles) despite his offensive production being limited by a broken wrist, along with Jake Kelleher, Ricky Marino, Avery Sterling and Nick Johannsen.
“To end my senior season with a bang would be great,” said Marino, a wide receiver and defensive back. “I don’t want to go 2-6 again. I want to make the playoffs, I want to make a run in the playoffs.”
The Flaming Arrows – the preseason No. 9 seed – have the luxury of a returning quarterback in junior Justin Stelmach, who passed for more than 600 yards with six total touchdowns. Stelmach said his confidence has increased dramatically after a full season as quarterback and gaining more respect from his teammates.
“It was a little rough because when I stepped up and tried to do things, people wouldn’t respect me,” Stelmach said about his sophomore year. But running the offense during 7-on-7 drills and a new crop of players this season, Stelmach thinks this season will return the Flaming Arrows to Suffolk I postseason play.
Head coach Mark Wojciechowski’s well-rounded offense will look to make the most of Stelmach at quarterback along with Ryan and Kelleher in the backfield. Wojciechowski expects the offensive and defensive line to control the line of scrimmage and the seniors to turn around a team just two years removed from playing for a Suffolk I championship.
“We think we have a very good chance at making the playoffs this year instead of last year,” Johannsen said, “and make some history.”