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MacArthur football sets its sights on a county title this season

Hugh Kelleher of MacArthur poses during Newsday's high

Hugh Kelleher of MacArthur poses during Newsday's high school football photo shoot on Aug. 21. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

The Generals have their marching orders.  

After MacArthur lost to Carey, 13-7, in the Nassau II semifinals last year, lineman Sean Tierney said the senior class left the returning players with a simple instruction: win a county championship in 2019. Since then, the team has done its best to live up to expectations, even before the first snap of the year.

There have been morning workouts all summer, preseason playbook reads and, most importantly, a collective chip on the team’s shoulders as it tries to capture its first title since 2015.

“There’s always a chip with us,” said Tierney, a senior and three-year starter. “Our mindset is to do our job. One game at a time and focus on each other.  We want to win, it’s that simple.”

MacArthur comes into the season as the No. 2 seed in the conference. Carey looks to be a contender again and Garden City holds the top seed as the three-time defending county and Long Island champs.

“The higher the seed you are, the better competition you’re going to play week in and week out,” coach Robert Fehrenbach said. “We never want to look past any opponent regardless of the seed. Seeds are just on paper.”

Any potential MacArthur championship run begins with, actually, running.

The Generals averaged 201 yards rushing per game last season, sparked by Hugh Kelleher. The All-Long Island selection racked up 1,221 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior, and MacArthur is hoping to get even better numbers from Kelleher this season with an experienced offensive line opening holes in front of him.

Juniors Greg Milau and Andrew Calderon join Tierney up front, and Fehrenbach said he expects tight end Dan Calderon to play a large role in the blocking game as well.

“[Hugh is] a humble kid and he knew what was expected out of him last year. I think the same thing this year too,” Fehrenbach said. “We’ve got three guys with experience under their belts [on the line] and the other two guys will fit right in. I think we’ll be good."

Tierney echoed the desire to get Kelleher the ball, calling him “an amazing running back.”

“I'd do anything for him,” Tierney added. “I just want to give him that hole, so he’ll go score some touchdowns.”

Still, MacArthur doesn’t want to be a one-dimensional offense. Kelleher said he’s embraced the responsibility, but he also hopes the Generals will expand their passing game this season. Senior Joe Manfredo, a starter on defense last year, and sophomore Jack Butler have split time at quarterback during camp.

If opposing defenses are forced to respect the possibility of a pass, Kelleher said, they won’t be able to stack the box and he’ll have more opportunities to notch one of the long-distance runs he’s become known for.

“As long as we keep working on the pass game, we can translate that into the run game,” said Kelleher, who also racked up 87 solo tackles at linebacker last year. “I want to get the ball less, but get more yards and then hopefully start beating everyone. I really just want the wins.”

Kelleher admitted those wins won’t come easy this season, but he’s confident in his team. The Generals have spent plenty of time preparing for the plan, now they just have execute it.

“If we can beat Garden City, if we can beat Carey then things will start rolling and we’ll start believing,” Kelleher said. “Especially Garden City these past few years, they’ve been pretty much unstoppable. So, coming into this year, hopefully we can do something about it.”

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