South Side QB Owen West rushes for a touchdown against...

South Side QB Owen West rushes for a touchdown against Elmont in the quarterfinals on Nov. 5, 2022. Credit: Howard Simmons

Someone always seems to be open when Owen West stands in the pocket.

South Side’s offense is experienced, healthy and reloaded for this fall. The Cyclones bring back nine three-year starters in their return to Nassau Conference III.

“This is the best start to a season we’ve had,” coach Phil Onesto said. “We pretty much had the entire offense installed before the first day, and it also helps that we have nine guys who have started since their sophomore year.”

Among those returning starters are West, the quarterback, running back Jack Lozito and wide receiver Michael Melkonian. West said there are over 20 seniors on the team, most of whom have played together since they were in fourth grade.

“I feel comfortable running, I feel comfortable passing and I feel the biggest part of my growth has been my confidence in my other players,” West said. “Whether it’s four routes or two routes, it seems like someone’s always open. We have so much depth this year.”

That depth proved itself last season when Lozito suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 5, and Melkonian suffered a season-ending quad injury in a Week 8 loss to Elmont.

The Cyclones later beat Elmont in the quarterfinals before losing to the eventual Conference II champion Garden City. But bouncing back and beating Elmont in the playoffs inspired a new confidence for South Side.

“When I was injured last year, I was devastated. This year, there’s just a different mentality between everyone, that we’re here, it’s our last year and we all want to win,” Melkonian said. “I think we’re the best team in this conference, and I think we should win every game.”

West, Lozito and Melkonian combined for over 3,000 yards from scrimmage last season. They’ll be protected by three-year starting linemen Bobby Galindo, James Beatty and Billy Gryboski, among others, this fall.

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