by Tom Pedulla
Coach Jim Moran is not afraid to set the bar high.
“Our expectations are the same every year, to get better with each game, to win every league game we play and the championship at the end,” said Moran, in his seventh season.
His willingness to think big was rewarded last year when the Eagles soared to the Class C title and competed in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.
The success of a run-heavy offense may depend on halfback Jordan Lyerly, a senior. “We think this could be a breakout year for him,” Moran said.
Quarterback Patrick Straub, a returning starter, represents another key player. Moran is optimistic he will deliver. “He should take the next step for us,” he said.
A young and inexperienced offensive line will need to come together quickly. Tackle Ryan Fessler is the lone returning starter. Tackle Thomas Palicz, guards Kosta Georgioudakis and Yaseen Hamideh and center Michael Mcgoey complete the unit.
Moran acknowledged that the offensive line is a concern. “We think they’re going to be great,” he said, “but they’re inexperienced and a bit unproven.”
Inside linebacker Jack Capuano, the leading tackler last year, returns to anchor the defense.
The Hornets ran the table with a 7-0 record last season in winning the Metropolitan Independent Football League. They are focused on repeating.
With all five starters returning, the offensive line could be the engine that drives this team. Tackle Michael Hoffman, from Irvington, heads the group as a senior co-captain. Guards Jason Mark and Conor McMahon and tackle Sam Goldberg flank center Dillon Schaevitz. The unit makes up in technique what it lacks in size.
Senior Javon Coleman has the tools to be a fine quarterback. When he drops back to pass, he possesses a strong arm. He also represents a significant running threat. “He is one of the best athletes on the field,” said second-year coach Simon Berk.
William Waterhouse, a senior running back, averaged more than 100 yards per game last year. More big things are expected. He is complemented by fellow running back Chad Lasseter, also a senior.
“We have some really talented kids and they’ve been doing the work and are really committed to the program,” said Berk. “There is a lot to be excited about.”
Hoffman emphasized the need to bring the same intensity every game. “If we put in the work and don’t take anything for granted because of what happened last year, we definitely have the opportunity to go undefeated again,” he said.
Second-year coach Steve Yurek set two goals for the Bulldogs, namely compiling a winning record and reaching the Class B playoffs. He is confident both are attainable.
“If we do what we’re supposed to do,” he said, “we should be able to get into the playoffs.”
Quarterback Liam Toolan will start for the third consecutive season. He should benefit greatly from another year in the same system.
“He knows the offense better than I do,” Yurek said. “We look for a big step from sophomore year to junior year.” Toolan can make all the throws and impacts in the ground game as well.
Joey Clewell is an explosive wide receiver. Tight-end Nick Lambiase, a newcomer, did well during the offseason. Senior Tim Mezaros returns as the leading rusher in a balanced attack.
Senior John Martin anchors an offensive line that includes Ari Greenberg, Jonathon Bloomfield and Ryan Kelly. Right tackle Justin Kim, a freshman, offers considerable potential.
Irvington finished 5-4 last season. Yurek also succeeded in bolstering the roster. That bodes well.