BOB LIEPA PHOTO
Pat Stepnoski is back in uniform after missing the final three and a half games last season with a lacerated kidney.
Talk about toughness, Pat Stepnoski has it. Any doubts? Check out what happened to Stepnoski last year.
In Bishop McGann-Mercy’s fifth football game of the season, Stepnoski was trying to catch the game’s opening kickoff against Wyandanch when the ball bounced off his shoulder pads and ricocheted in front of him. Stepnoski’s instinct was to recover the ball, and while extending himself to reach for it, he was speared in the side by a Wyandanch helmet.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the fumble any more,” he said.
Although Stepnoski didn’t jump right up after the play — somewhat unusual for him — he remained in the game. But McGann-Mercy Coach Joe Read sensed that something was wrong with Stepnoski and took him out of the game at halftime. It was later learned that Stepnoski had sustained a lacerated kidney on the game’s opening play.
The injury cost Stepnoski the remainder of an 0-8 season for the Monarchs. He was kept in a hospital for two nights for observation, and missed a week of school. Surgery was not required, but eight weeks of rest were. “It was no fun,” he said.
But that is all in the past. A healthy Stepnoski is back and ready to go for his junior season, which will begin Sept. 11 when the Monarchs kick off their season in Southampton.
Stepnoski, who lives in Southold, played quarterback last season. This year he is playing running back and wide receiver on offense and middle linebacker on defense. Read said that having Stepnoski back on the field is “like a bonus.”
Stepnoski’s toughness is seen in the way he plays. He never stepped out of bounds to avoid a hit while running with the ball, according to Read.
“His kind of toughness shines in football,” the coach said. Read said Stepnoski is “a great athlete that we can do a lot of things with. You have to pay attention to him on the field.”
Opposing teams undoubtedly will.
How does Stepnoski explain his football toughness?
“I got that Polish blood,” he cracked.
The physicality of football is one of the sport’s attractions to Stepnoski. “I like contact,” he said. “I like hitting people. I like the crowds you get, playing under the lights. It’s all fun.”
Read said that if Stepnoski has any mental scars from his injury last season, they are not showing. The coach said Stepnoski is a competitor and possibly the strongest player on the team.
“He’s got a ton of potential,” Read said. “I don’t think he’s going to be a secret, but I don’t think [opponents are] ready for how good he could be.”
Stepnoski said, “I’m just looking forward to a good season.”