Some wore white Flaming Arrows T-shirts. Others wore black. A few wore sleeveless muscle shirts. When wind sprints were run at the end of practice, several players went shirtless. All the Sachem North players had one thing in common when Long Island football practice officially began on Monday morning: “We know we have a target on our backs,” said running back/linebacker Jesse Scanna (photo above).
That’s because for the first time since the large Sachem school district split in 2005, a Flaming Arrows team is seeded No. 1 in Division I. “Our kids and coaches deserve this. There are high expectations, sure, but as Rex Ryan says, ‘Where else do you want to be?’” North coach Dave Falco said. “After the split, expectations were low, and some people said it [getting back to the top of Suffolk football] couldn’t be done.”
The ascension to the top of the coaches’ preseason rankings was a product of last season’s 8-0 regular-season, that included an opening-day victory over perennial power Floyd. The Flaming Arrows added two playoff victories to set a school record for wins in a season before losing to the Colonials in the Suffolk County championship game.
The bar is set even higher for 2010, partly because North features a terrific all-around offensive backfield, led by four-year starting tailback Jesse Scanna, of whom Falco said, “He’s also the best linebacker in the county.” The muscular bruiser is joined by his childhood friends, fullback/LB Michael Andreassi and veteran quarterback Angelo Armine. “We’re very close. We’ve played together since we were 5 years old,” Scanna said.
The addition of Shoreham-Wading River transfer Dalton Crosson, an elusive speedster, gives the Arrows the deepest backfield around.
Andreassi, also a key player for Long Island’s gold-medal winning Empire State Game scholastic boys lacrosse team, noted, “We fell off, sports-wise, after the split. But last year was successful and we want to do it again. We know everybody will bring their ‘A’ game against us. But being the No. 1 seed means we have to bring our best every time.”
Falco believes that will happen frequently this season. “High expectations are a good thing,” he said. “We’ve worked hard all summer. Five guys benched more than 300 pounds. Six guys squatted over 400. Six guys ran faster than 4.5 [in the 40]. This is the fastest, strongest team we’ve had here in a long time.”
It’s also the one wearing the biggest target.