Same formation, different form.
That’s an overriding story line at Sayville, where the defending Class III Long Island champion and 2011 Rutgers Trophy winner must replace the most prolific quarterback in L.I. history in coach Rob Hoss’s vaunted spread offense.
Zach Sirico, who rushed for 1.043 yards and 15 touchdowns last season (including 224 yards and a record six touchdowns in the LIC), replaces Steven Ferreira, who rewrote the Long Island record book and now stands alone at the top in yards passing (6,411) and touchdown passes (73).
“Those are big shoes,” Sirico, a senior, said at Thursday’s season-opening practice session. “But I’m up for the challenge. We might be better than last year. We have a lot of options on offense. We definitely want to defend our title. The bar is set high at Sayville, but I think we can reach it.”
If the Golden Flashes are to return to the LIC, the methodology will be a little different. As Sirico so aptly noted, “Instead of passing to set up the run, we’ll run to set up the pass.”
Sirico, who capably replaced Ferreira last season for most of two games after Ferreira broke his nose, scored on a 60-yard run on the first play of his first game as a starting quarterback in a rout of Kings Park in the Division III quarterfinals. He rushed for 153 yards in that game and completed one pass for a 20-yard touchdown.
The offensive distribution won’t be that one-sided this season because Sirico said he learned a lot about the passing game from watching Ferreira. “He was the best quarterback I could have learned from. He wasn’t the biggest, fastest or strongest guy but he could hit a dime,” Sirico said of Ferreira’s uncanny accuracy, particular in the short-passing game. “I’ve worked on my passing. I think I can make most of the throws.”
In fact, Hoss said Sirico actually throws a better deep ball than Ferreira did. “His ability to throw downfield is a major strength,” Hoss said. “He gives us more athleticism at the quarterback position. We’re going to find out if he has the ability to read coverages when we have to throw.”
There should be some favorable matchups downfield for Sirico to exploit because in addition to himself as a running threat, the Golden Flashes also feature one of the best all-around players on Long Island in John Haggart (1,285 yards rushing, 14 touchdowns). That’s what Sirico meant about using the running game to set up the passing game.
“Actually the spread we run is more suited to Zach’s style than it was for Steven,” Hoss said. “We modified the zone reads for Steven to eliminate the option to run.”
With Sirico taking the shotgun snaps, that definitely won’t be the case in 2012.