Six years ago when he became co-head coach, Mike Lynch started to rebuild Hen Hud football from the ground up. His first move was to install a new offense, but it wouldn’t be enough to make that change on the varsity alone. So Lynch and the lower-level coaches integrated a new system on the modified and junior varsity, too.
“I played quarterback in high school and I played in a Wing-T offense. I hated it,” Lynch said. “I always wanted to go to the spread and play uptempo.”
After years of incremental gains, the Sailors have finally seen a significant impact on their results. They entered Friday’s Class A qualifier with Tappan Zee at 4-2. They have beat historically strong programs like Nyack, Somers and Rye in the last calendar year.
All of the players on this year’s team came up playing Lynch’s offense. In fact, the seniors were seventh graders on Hen Hud’s first modified team to run the spread.
“They’ve been in this offense for all six years,” Lynch said. “I think that’s part of the reason for our success today.”
Hen Hud began to gain confidence late last season when it beat Nyack in a playoff qualifier and topped Somers two weeks later in a consolation-round game. Late last year was when now-senior quarterback Nick Cunningham began to establish a rhythm, but he has since taken it to another level. Cunningham has already set 12 new records at Hen Hud and entered Friday having thrown for 1,607 yards and 25 touchdowns in just six games.
The play of Cunningham and his teammates paid its greatest dividends last week when the Sailors overcame a three-touchdown deficit to shock Rye 50-49. Cunningham threw last-minute touchdown and two-point conversion passes to cap a wild rally.
“We’ve always been on that precipice, asking can we win that big game, can we beat a great program like Rye?” said Lynch, who is in his first year as the full-time coach after splitting duties with Paul Natale in 2011. “This does give us the sense that we can do it. We can compete with the best.”
Hen Hud, the No. 7 seed in Class A, can potentially play at No. 2 Brewster next week in what would be a rematch of their 56-49 classic on Sept. 16. It was the highest-scoring game in Section 1 all season.
The rematch could present the Sailors with a rare opportunity. Outside of qualifying round games, they haven’t won a playoff game since they lost to Harrison in the 1999 Class B final.