Sachem East lineman Danny Carroll doesn’t want to talk much about entering his fourth full season on varsity. The senior for the Flaming Arrows’ football team, who also played two varsity games as an eighth grader, is more focused on the team’s outcome.
“We haven’t been successful, record wise, the past couple of years,” Carroll said. “People are looking at us like ‘Oh, it’s going to be another one of those years’ but with our guys this year, I don’t think it’s going to be. There’s a fire burning. We want revenge.”
Sachem East enters this year returning starting talent after a 3-5 record in the 2016 season. The preseason No. 7 ranked team in Suffolk Division I team isn’t satisfied with its previous performance or seed.
“The seven seed honestly disappointed us a little bit and made us angry,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Tyler Butkevich said. “We thought we deserved a lot better than that and I feel like we’re going to have a chip on our shoulder going into the season.”
While the Sachem East players are using their No. 7 ranking as motivation, senior quarterback Justin Stelmach recalls last season Floyd winning the Suffolk Division I county title, despite a preseason No. 5 seeding.
“I remember WIlliam Floyd was ranked fourth or fifth last year and they weren’t expected to win anything,” Stelmach said. “They were the county champs, so we’re expecting to do the same thing.”
The Flaming Arrows hope to show off their improvement early in the season, led by the chemistry between Butkevich and Stelmach, entering his third season and second full year as the starting quarterback. The two have been training and working on their timing together since the spring.
“Defenses out on the field know he’s the star receiver,” Stelmach said, “and me and him are still completing passes so it’s definitely getting really good.”
And Stelmach hopes to prove he’s ready for an even larger role at quarterback. Stelmach said Sachem East utilized a lot of wildcat formations with then-senior Brendan Ryan, and Stelmach has worked this offseason to improve his arm and legs to remain at the center of the offense.
“He can make every throw on the field, that’s without question,” coach Mark Wojciechowski said. “Now he’s got to put his physical ability with the mental aspect of the game, which he’s been working on, and if those two come together, then I think he’s going to have a very successful year.”
Wojciechowski also said he expects big production out of Chris Park, a running back and defensive back, and Matt Kmiotek, an offensive and defensive lineman. He also called Butkevich the team’s most “dynamic” player.
“I think we have the pieces individually, but it’s really important that we come together as a team,” Wojciechowski said. “And I think the summer has done that so far, so it’s been good.”
And with Carroll leading the way, generating running lanes, providing protection and creating havoc in the backfield, Sachem East has reason for high hopes. The Flaming Arrows rally around their captain with about as much varsity football experience as any other player on Long Island.
“He’s definitely one of the best leaders I’ve ever seen on the football field,” Butkevich said. “He leads the team like nobody else. Everybody respects him, everybody listens to him and it’s definitely great to have a guy like that on the field.”