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The challenge of returning just one starter at Massapequa

Members of the Massapequa football team run drills

Members of the Massapequa football team run drills during practice on Aug. 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Ari Kramer

Not every senior can handle the pressure of being the only returning starter on a Nassau Conference I football team, but Matt St. Jeanos gets a little help from his friends.

“They’re good workers,” said St. Jeanos, who started every game during Massapequa’s run to the county semifinals last year. “Everyone shows up every day. They ask me questions. They want to learn.”

St. Jeanos is the elder statesman of a lineman corps that includes Connor Payne, James McGarrity, Chris Sollenne and James Roefs. They’ll be tasked with opening holes for running back Anthony Buckshaw and protecting sophomore quarterbacks Garrett Gibbons and Kenny Galvin, who have been duking it out for the starting job in their first varsity preseason.

“[Gibbons and Galvin] are both good runners and throwers,” coach Kevin Shippo said. “They’re young. They’re inexperienced. We brought them up at the end of last year with all the injuries, so they got some experience then through practice. But they’ve been going back and forth. It’s going to be a tough decision.”

Though St. Jeanos is the lone returning starter, Chris Wasson played regularly last year and had a few spot starts. “He’s the closest thing we have to a second returning starter,” Shippos said.

Wasson is a three-sport athlete. He played shortstop for Massapequa’s baseball team, which reached the county final, and guard for the basketball team, which lost in the semifinals.

As a senior starter at wide receiver and defensive back, he has transitioned into a leadership role. His winning experience and newly implemented vocal leadership could help the inexperienced Chiefs, who drew the No. 7 seed in the preseason rankings.

“Chris at first was a lead-by-example kid and then he decided, ‘You know what, I’m going to speak up,’ and it’s worked,” Shippos said. “The kids are responding to him.”

That goes for the inexperienced seniors as well as newcomers such as Alec Surrow and Owen Glascoe, who led the Chiefs’ JV program to a 6-1-1 season last year. They’re all exploring new territory together.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” said Shippos, who had at least three returning starters in each of his first five seasons at Massapequa. “You earn your paycheck when you’ve got one returning starter. You’ve got to coach. We’re looking forward to it. It’s fun.”

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