By Tom Pedulla–
Another rebuilding year?
That is the last thing Sleepy Hollow wants to hear, even if it is reeling from a series of losing seasons, must adjust to new coach Jerry Flora and is widely viewed as one of the worst teams in Section 1.
“I know there have been rumblings that this is a rebuilding year and we’re trying to establish some things. But I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said senior quarterback Aren Arduino. “We are here to win. We are here to win now. And we’re working as hard as we can to win as many games as we possibly can. We want to be playoff contenders. We want to be in contention to win something for the first time in a long time.”
At the least, Flora’s arrival and his considerable experience at the college level is injecting great enthusiasm into a program that had seemingly lost its way.
“The players really love him and he truly is changing the culture,” said Michael Scaglione, a senior slot receiver and safety. “Starting in summer workouts, he demands the best of us and he works us and we are very happy to work for him. A lot of effort is being put into this season and, hopefully, the results will show.”
Much depends on how quickly the players can adjust to what Flora is implementing. Arduino will use a shotgun formation to operate the triple-option offense that Army and Navy run so successfully. The effectiveness of that run-oriented attack depends on each player’s ability to precisely execute his assignment. If that is done, the offense can control the ball for extended periods of time while wearing down defenses.
“We’re going to probably have no more than eight or nine plays,” Flora said. “There are a lot of plays I might not have in this year just so we can get the timing down.”
Arduino, Scaglione and Nick Delmonaco are providing leadership as senior captains. Delmonaco will anchor the offensive line at center. Damon Fedor, who started as a freshman, stands to benefit from that experience at right tackle. Alfredo Rodriguez will be at left tackle and bolster the defensive line.
Arduino will have Aidan McGuigan and Luke Many as capable downfield targets. Henry Kelly, Vincenzo Federici, Justin Soto and A.J. Morgan will all see time in the backfield.
New defensive coordinator Harvey Silberbush is expected to use a 4-2-5 alignment. Kevin Toribio looks to be a mainstay in the defensive secondary at safety.
“Guys are working hard. They’re getting better. We preach attention to detail, sense of urgency,” Flora said of the preseason. “When they get here, it’s non-stop until they go home. So, when they go home, they are as gassed as the coaches are.”
Zach Burnett will handle punting and kicking chores. Flora’s experience at the college level includes 10 years as a special teams’ coordinator, so he will emphasize that aspect.
“We’re going into games expecting to stop the run, control the ball with the option game and then maybe block a kick, return a kick, do something special to try to change the tide of the game,” Flora said.
Can that immediately turn into a winning formula?
“I don’t look at it as a rebuild,” Scaglione said. “Everyone is tuned in and focused in.”
It remains to be seen how it all plays out, but Sleepy Hollow has a winning attitude again.