In seventh grade, Jack Coan began memorizing the Sayville varsity football playbook. In eighth grade, he won all six games he started for his JV team. And in ninth grade, he lived his dream of playing under the lights at Stony Brook.
The dream petered out during Saturday night's 26-18 loss to Huntington in the Suffolk III championship game, but for the freshman quarterback who helped lead No. 7 seed Sayville to the championship game, the road to Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium was as improbable as it was memorable.
"Quite frankly, we didn't have any returners," Sayville coach Rob Hoss said before the game. "I graduated both quarterbacks and we thought he was maybe a year away, not quite ready. He proved us wrong."
Coan went 10-for-22 for 143 yards and three touchdowns Saturday night but threw two interceptions, bringing his season total to nine. Still, he capped a season in which he threw for 21 touchdowns (completing 118 of 22 passes) and ran for two more.
Though a work in progress, a player who considered himself more of a lacrosse player two years ago is well on his way to following in the steps of those who came before him: Zack Sirico and record-breaking quarterback Steven Ferreira.
"There's pressure, but you just block the pressure out," he said at practice Thursday. "You just have to have the mind-set of do what you do . . . I look at Zack and Ferreira, and they were both stud athletes, and I just knew that Hoss would try to make me into one of those guys."
He certainly showed some of that mettle in the early going, opening the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Matt Hewson.
Despite missteps -- the game was decided when Huntington's Infinite Tucker made an interception in the end zone with a little less than two minutes left -- Coan gave Sayville a chance to tie it with two potential scoring passes on the Golden Flashes' last drive. Both were dropped.
"We just never gave up," Coan said. "We had the mindset that if we just put it together, we can definitely win this whole thing."
That just might be what 10th grade is for.