Three days after Oceanside lost in the first round of the 2016 playoffs, quarterback Tommy Heuer was in the gym working with his receivers. He knew the Sailors’ offense needed more than just a tuneup. It needed an overhaul, and Heuer was the master mechanic.
“We turned the keys over to him this year,” coach Rob Blount said. “You could see how much he had developed after a tough junior year (when Oceanside went 4-5). He had a better understanding of the game and of our offense, which is pretty complex. We let him call the plays and make decisions on his own. We knew he would be special.”
Heuer took the Sailors on a joyride through Nassau Conference I, teaming with his fellow gym rats Dylan Judd, Jake Lazzaro, Derek Cruz and Bernie Diaz for a record-setting season and driving Oceanside into the Long Island Championship game for the first time. The journey ended just short of the destination when Lindenhurst defeated Oceanside, 40-23, for the Class I title.
But Heuer’s finale was worthy of the showroom. It was one for the books. Heuer set LIC records for attempts (63) and completions (43) that produced 461 yards and two touchdowns. In an 11-1 season, he completed a remarkable 80.6 percent of his passes (257-for-319) for 3,122 yards and a Nassau record-tying 38 TDs, with just four interceptions.
Heuer left no doubt he was the right guy to become the first Oceanside player to win the Tom Thorp Memorial Award, presented annually since 1942 by Newsday to the most outstanding player in Nassau County. The other finalists were running backs Trevor Yeboah-Kodie of Garden City and Kevon Hall of Roosevelt.
The 76th Thorp trophy was presented to Heuer Wednesday night at the Nassau County Football Coaches Association Gridiron Banquet in Woodbury, where Heuer also received the Snyder Award, given by Nassau coaches to the county’s top quarterback. His brother, Tyler, won the Snyder Award in 2010.
“I think he’s a very special player. Any adjective you could come up with as an attribute for a quarterback, he possesses. Great leader, great touch, arm strength, sees the field, leads the team. He was the consummate quarterback.”
Those were not the words of Heuer’s coach or a teammate. They came from venerable Farmingdale coach Buddy Krumenacker, who saw more than enough of Heuer in regular-season and playoff defeats.
On Sept. 23, Heuer dazzled the Dalers by completing 18 of 27 for 365 yards and five touchdowns. In a playoff game Nov. 11, he was 18-for-22 for 192 yards and a TD and ran for 113 yards and two scores. For the season, he had six 300-yard passing games and spread the ball around. Cruz and Lazzaro shattered the previous mark of 10 receptions in an LIC game. Cruz caught 16 for 158 yards, Lazzaro had 14 for 180 and Judd added eight for 98. Cruz led Nassau with 85 receptions, and Lazzaro was first in receiving yards (1,067).
“I love those guys. I couldn’t ask for better receivers,” Heuer said. He developed an uncanny chemistry with them, making the most of their varied skills. That began in the gym last year and continued in 7-on-7 sessions last winter and summer.
“It’s never about him. He’s smart and he wanted to keep everyone happy,” Blount said. “He changed plays at the line. He read blitzes. He always knew when to get the ball out of his hand. That was the biggest compliment I received from coaches in the playoffs — how tough he was to get to because of his quick delivery. Even when he went downfield, he didn’t hesitate.”
Blount said the 6-1, 185-pound Heuer has attracted serious scholarship interest from several Division II colleges.
“He kept everyone cool and collected, even when we faced adversity in the LIC,” Blount said. “What improved most this year was his accuracy and that he threw more vertical balls down the field. He commanded respect and grew as a leader because he worked so hard. He knew everyone’s assignments, even the run-blocking schemes. Really, he was another coach on the field.”
The one in the driver’s seat.