WEST NYACK – Anyone who came to Clarkstown South on Saturday eager to watch the Vikings’ senior-laden backfield better have arrived early. With their annual clash with rival Clarkstown North just six days away, South’s starters had a short but effective season debut before sitting out most of their scrimmage session against Fox Lane, Pearl River and Nyack.
The Vikings hold high hopes that they can play deep into October and November and didn’t want them dashed in August.
“We wanted to compete, but, more importantly, we wanted to stay healthy,” South senior running back/safety Kyle Samuels said.
Samuels is the centerpiece of a quartet of returning players in the backfield. He and fellow seniors Ryan Thomas and Sam Mistretta will flank quarterback Matt Jung, who has returned healthy from a broken collarbone that forced him to miss the end of last season.
Jung’s absence included a loss to rival Clarkstown North, which happens to be the Vikings’ opponent when they open the regular season Friday night.
“We weren’t trying to hide anyone,” coach Mike Scarpelli said. “But 16 teams essentially make the playoffs. We didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Scarpelli’s backfield lost its best body guards in all-section linemen Jake Spreckman and Vinny Maraia, but the coach raved about the work of new assistant Scott Saunders, who resigned as the head coach at Byram Hills last winter and joined Scarpelli’s staff.
“The offensive line is where we needed the most work, but coach Saunders has us miles ahead,” said Scarpelli, whose team will attempt to win back the Supervisor’s Cup at North at 7 Friday night.
More expected from healthy More: Jung’s return from a collarbone that was broken in three places was significant, but few players, if any, in Section 1 faced a more challenging road to recovery than Fox Lane’s Tanner More. The senior running back returned Saturday and looked sharp in his first game action since suffering a torn ACL, LCL and hamstring tendon in his left knee last September.
The coaching staff and More himself weren’t sure what to expect, but they were pleasantly surprised.
“No, I didn’t know because he had major surgery, but you can see physically how dedicated he is in the weight room,” Fox Lane coach Bill Broggy said. “Whatever they wanted him to do, he probably did that and 100 percent more.”
More rushed 22 times for 219 yards and four touchdowns during a season-opening win against Suffern last year. He received regular carries alongside senior Nick Lancia the next two games before falling to the knee injury on Sept. 25 against White Plains.
Back after 11 months, More said his confidence was bolstered by the play of teammates around him. He praised the work of fellow back Andrew Brown, a sophomore, and senior newcomer Justin Nelson.
“I believe I’ll do the same or better than last year,” More said. “My offensive line is amazing and everybody here is working so hard.”
Challenges await Pearl River: After winning seven games last year, Pearl River will face increased competition in Class A this season. That will include games against annual contenders Somers, Yorktown and John Jay.
“We will be the smallest team every week in numbers and in size, but we don’t care,” coach Mike Oliva said. “We don’t back down from anybody. A lot of people probably think last year was a fluke, but these guys want to prove it wasn’t.”
The Pirates are experienced at the skill positions, led by big junior fullback Jonathan Farley and two-way standouts Kevin Scrima, James McKiernan and Troy Travaglino. Their progress at the line of scrimmage could determine their readiness to compete against some of the section’s best.
“I think last year was a big confidence boost for us. We can keep working off that, but we can’t dwell on the past,” Farley said. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
Nyack still learning: With just 26 players on the varsity and only two returning starters, Nyack remains a work in progress two weeks into Dominick DeMatteo’s tenure as head coach. The former Arlington coach left Saturday’s scrimmage pleased with a defensive effort led by Christian DiSimone, Gee Merdorzil and Ray Boutin, but the Indians are anything but a finished product.
“Every rep matters, whether it’s a live scrimmage, a practice or a walkthrough at a team meeting,” DeMatteo said. “We are literally learning every single second of every single day because it’s all so new. The good thing is the kids are putting that effort in. They’re trying. We just have such a long way to go.”