MARLBORO – For half a decade, the Marlboro High School football team has had rivals in Section 9 playing the role of Captain Ahab — searching in earnest for some way to impale that elusive white whale.
The Iron Dukes, time and time again, have proven themselves the big fish in a small but expanding pond. That’s what five straight sectional Class B titles amounts to, with the talent divide between opponents perhaps narrowing.
Each season, this team is analyzed from the outside and thoroughly dissected in an attempt to find flaws, determine an exploitable weakness and, for opponents, to finally deliver the figurative harpoon.
Attempts in the last several years have proven futile, and coaches often have been left fishing for answers.
Meanwhile in Marlboro… They’re just fishing.
A few of the players, including Tristan Ceriello and Paul Evans, have been going fishing to unwind after summer practice. They’ll visit nearby ponds and spend the late evenings shooting the breeze, with nary a concern but the weight of the bass they’re attempting to snag.
“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was a little kid,” said Ceriello, a right guard. “After these long days of practice, it’s a good way to relax and get your mind off football for a little bit.”
And all that banter from the outside — about who the Iron Dukes have lost and if this could be the season the program finally falters — goes the way of the fishing rod; cast into water.
“We just worry about ourselves and handle our own jobs,” said Phil DeSantis, a quarterback. “We’ve got our own stuff to take care of, so we don’t get into what’s being said or what anybody else thinks.”
That’s the usual tact for teams, be they a defending champion whom everybody else is gunning for, or a mediocre squad attempting to ignore the naysayers. Really, it’s the only way to go. Being overly concerned about whispers from outside the locker room does no good and can only threaten to serve as a distraction.
It will be a similar scenario for Marlboro’s sectional championship basketball teams and its state champion softball and baseball teams in the coming months. Raised eyebrows and the “How can we beat them? Are they beatable this year? Is their time up yet?” inquiries will ever be present. Such is the case for a community school superintendent Michael Brooks tabbed, “Titletown, USA.”
Marlboro did graduate a slew of standouts, including several key defensive players and its all-everything tailback Rino Tamburri. So, if one does wonder if this team might not be as good as it was in the recent past, those questions wouldn’t be unfounded.
But the quick answer is: A team doesn’t win five consecutive titles without having been able to rebuild on the fly.
“There is a little added weight on our shoulders,” said sophomore Sam Mongelli, who replaces his brother Nick as the kicker. “We definitely do want to uphold the legacy that the guys before us started.”
And, as Marlboro coach Rich Ward noted, they do return a number of players on offense. DeSantis and Evans are both capable runners and passers, which creates options — and creative option plays — and they do return three starters to the offensive line. The Dukes also added three transfers, though the team wouldn’t divulge whom.
“We’ve still got a strong core here and a winning tradition in this community,” Evans said. “We got that through hard work and being focused. Nothing has changed there.”
Stephen Haynes: firstname.lastname@example.org, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
On the Web
Visit http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com to watch video from Marlboro’s Tuesday practice