By Tom Pedulla—
The Hudson Independent offers its annual preview of the local high school football season, which was postponed due to the pandemic but salvaged in a spring format:
Hopes are always high for the Eagles. The uncertainty about whether the season would be played and an abbreviated schedule will not alter that.
“Our mentality really hasn’t changed,” said second-year coach Joe Cox. “We want to prepare as best we can to win every football game we play. That’s definitely our attitude and those are our goals.”
The talent starts with senior quarterback Harry Dann, who played well last year and should only improve after his first full year calling signals. “Harry is a wonderful kid and a fantastic football player – humble, hard-working and a fantastic leader,” Cox said.
The same is true of the other two captains, James McGovern and Zach Soderquist. The hard-charging McGovern will be an integral part of the offense at running back with Soderquist playing a complementary role. Soderquist also will see time at tight end and as an inside linebacker. Look for senior Brendan Smith to have a bounce-back year after he missed much of last season with a shoulder injury.
Jose Regalado, an imposing 275-pound junior, will be a force on the offensive and defensive lines. “We love Jose. He plays the game with tremendous passion. He loves every second of it,” said Cox. “On top of that, he’s a very skilled two-way lineman. I think he’s got a big, bright future.”
Sophomore Isaac Aragon will play opposite Regalado at right tackle. Senior Kenny Korzeniowski has come a long way since the days he helped as a water boy. He and junior Dvanggie Montanpizhardo will man the guard positions. Sophomore Owen Fischer will be the center.
Expectations are high for Brian Dann, the quarterback’s younger brother, who will get snaps at fullback and inside linebacker. “He’s going to be a fantastic football player,” Cox said.
The coach is encouraged by the progress made by outside linebacker Jabari Marsland, a junior. He believes the secondary is in good hands. Jhonatan Almaras, A.J. Delvito and Brendon Holman all figure prominently there.
Cox praised his players for the way they continued to prepare even when the season was in doubt. “It would have been easy to bail and take the easy way out,” Cox said. “They hung in there, kept working and kept believing.”
Expect the Bulldogs to pound the ball on the ground, then pound it some more.
“We’ve kind of simplified the offense to build on our strengths, which is our offensive line and our power running game,” said Coach Steve Yurek.
Workhorse back Trevor Annicharico looks to build on last season, when he was the team’s leading rusher. A sturdy offensive line is anchored by senior Justin Kim, a starter throughout his Irvington career. Kim also is a force at middle linebacker. Senior Jake Stein provides another capable tackle. Ian Schwam, best known as a standout wrestler, will lend some of his considerable muscle at center and outside linebacker.
Josh Aronson steps in at quarterback. “Josh has worked hard to learn the offense and he’s done a really good job,” Yurek said. Wide receiver Adam Kurland and tight end Andrew Brereton provide good downfield targets.
Morgan Balkin, a sophomore, might be the Bulldogs’ secret weapon. He is skilled as a punter and kicker. “We’re going to, hopefully, in this shortened season use our special teams to our advantage,” Yurek said. “We’ve been working on that since Day One.”
Balkin’s punts can create an all-important advantage in field position. He’s nailed field goals from 45 yards out in practice. “He’s legit. He’s a kid who could go on to the next level and play. He’s very serious about it,” Yurek said.
Yurek looks for enthusiastic practices to lead to on-field success. “The kids are really excited about playing. They are very happy. They need this,” the coach said, adding, “We can play with anyone in our league.”
Quarterback Ben Good is, well, good. Make that very good. Good enough to be within striking distance of some of the school’s passing records.
“He’s definitely one of the best quarterbacks in the county, hands down,” said Coach Jorge Veintimilla. “He understands the game, his arm has gotten stronger, and his release is pretty quick.”
Dylen Nelson, Kevin Sullivan, Zach Rudder and Will Kelly are all potential targets for the senior passer while Talon Carsto is expected to take the majority of handoffs.
With so many weapons in the passing game, the coaching staff will try to avoid the temptation of airing it out on every down. “We’re looking to get a more balanced approach and we think that a more balanced approach will only help things,” Veintimilla said.
Two-way starter Joselito Quituisaca is the lone returning lineman. Michael Gates shows promise. He possesses the strength to play offensive tackle and the athleticism to be pressure quarterbacks and contain the ground game at defensive end. Nick Delmonaco will handle the all-important center position while roaming as a linebacker on defense.
Franklin Matos does an outstanding job of communicating with his teammates and is a standout at safety. Aren Arduino, a hard-working junior with a bright future, is prized for his versatility. He has the skill and intelligence to play virtually every position on offense and at least a few on defense.
Sleepy Hollow’s senior corps has been together for an extended period. Six members of the senior group started as sophomores. “This is the class I’ve been waiting for,” said Veintimilla.
If the program is going to right itself and start winning again, this season would appear to be pivotal.
“We just want to win one game at a time,” Veintimilla said. “I think a lot of kids realize no game is guaranteed, so they’re committed to playing one game at a time.”