Here’s Nancy Haggerty’s dispatch from Ramapo this morning:
The offensive line is usually not the first thing mentioned when people speak of championship teams. Well, not most people.
Ramapo, which went 5-4 last season, figures it can vastly improve on that in large part because of its offensive line.
“We have a serious line. A quiet storm is what we are,” said Chris Venant, a 5-foot-9, 205-pound senior guard and linebacker.
The difference between this year and last is clear to Venant, a four-year member of the varsity.
“We didn’t have a solid core last year. We had big size but didn’t have heart,” he said.
Coach Kevin Bullock doesn’t doubt his squad’s heart.
Bullock, who has been on the staff since 2008 and took over as interim head coach last year right before playoffs after head coach Duff Pannell was arrested and charged with assault for allegedly striking a helmetless player on the head with a helmet, has seen his squad’s commitment throughout the summer.
“Big kids worked out a lot in the off-season,” he said. “These kids took it upon themselves to improve. I’d find them practicing on their own on a hot summer day, when most people would want to stay at home.”
Bullock, who was appointed full-time head coach last spring, noted members of his team played seven-on-seven football against Spring Valley and Clarkstown North players Tuesdays during the summer.
He’s happy with quarterback Ahkim Santana’s growth and points to Santana, Venant, senior wide receiver Stanley Fortune, and offensive linemen Caleb Ferdilus, a senior, and Parris Heath, a junior, as key members of Ramapo’s offense.
“We’ll mix it up,” he said of the run-vs.-pass question.
Defensively, Bullock is looking for big things from senior corner Tyler Harvey and senior tackle/linebacker Jauron Herring.
He also pointed to senior Trevor Wills, who’ll play on both sides of the ball as a running back and linebacker, as a kid to watch. Wills was a backup last season until thrown into action due to injuries.
“He was a solid starter,” Bullock said. “He could be one of the running backs that surprises people for us and, at linebacker, he’s a solid tackler and quick.”
Bullock, who played defensive back and wide receiver for rival Spring Valley (class of 1986) and also went on to be the Tigers’ head coach, hopes his team gets off to a fast start this year but said one question would be how his team responds to injuries.
“We have a solid starting unit on both sides. The question is going to be depth,” Bullock said.
Ramapo is in the tough AA conference with the likes of New Rochelle, North Rockland, John Jay-East Fishkill, Scarsdale and Carmel, among others.
So, Bullock isn’t making any promises. But he does appear optimistic.
“Small steps,” he said of improving on last year’s 5-4 mark. “We want to make the playoffs and hopefully maybe host a game or wherever we’re at, win a game.”
Santana, who noted he has been contacted by the University of Maine and would like to play D-1 ball next year, is looking even higher.
“My goal is to win sections. A lot of guys share that,” said Santana, who added his personal goal was to “go for the gold” and become Section 1 MVP back.
Venant is also optimistic.
“There’s a huge bunch of potential. Everyone is coming to play,” he said, noting last year’s weight-room joking is now gone.
“My personal goal is to win sections and try to take it to the state,” said Venant.
Bullock isn’t saying that but he’s also not ruling anything out, remarking, “Anything can happen.”