Steve Casali received no interest from Division I football teams after his sophomore season. A great junior year drew attention from several Division I programs, and the Sachem East senior has committed to Massachusetts.

Casali, a running back / linebacker, rushed for 1,488 yards and scored 19 TDs as a junior. On defense, he had 80 tackles, three interceptions, forced two fumbles and scored two TDs. Casali missed half of his sophomore season with a broken right hand as Sachem East went 0-8.

"I was pretty much a nobody going into the season," Casali said. "This junior season helped me a lot."

It didn't take long for Casali to pick UMass. He visited the campus twice and was enthralled with playing home games at the Patriots' Gillette Stadium. The Minutemen are stepping up from the former Division I-AA into the Mid-American Conference in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"I felt like I was at home," said the 6-2, 220-pound Casali, who expects to play linebacker at UMass. "I felt comfortable. The stadium is awesome. They were one of the first schools to show interest, and I respect that."

Casali was instrumental as Sachem East improved to 6-4 and earned its first playoff win in program history. His 2-yard TD with 1:41 left broke a tie in a 21-14 win over West Islip. He had 181 yards on 39 carries, including three TDs.

"He was our best player," coach Mark Wojciechowski said. "He became a great leader. He has an unbelievable work ethic. He is tireless in the weight room. He lives and breathes it."

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