The news of Jeff Doroski’s hiring as head coach of the Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School football team on Monday afternoon was still fresh when he received a text from two former teammates and close friends, Steve Failla, the Center Moriches Red Devils coach, and one of his assistant coaches, Craig Rupprecht. Their teams will kick off the 2011 season in what promises to be an intriguing coaching matchup.
“They said, ‘Congratulations. We hope you go 7 and 1,’ ” said Doroski.
What are good friends for?
Like his two friends, who are former McGann-Mercy head coaches themselves, Doroski will get the chance to coach his alma mater. Doroski, who had been the team’s defensive coordinator, was informed on Monday afternoon that he was selected to take charge of the Monarchs.
“It’s an exciting time,” Doroski told The Riverhead News-Review. “I think at this point in time for me, this is the only place where I would want to be a football coach, and I can see myself being here for a long time as long as they would like to have me.”
Doroski, who had played as a running back for the Monarchs before graduating from the Riverhead Catholic school in 1992, succeeds Joe Read, who stepped down from the post in January. Read, who went 10-23 in his four years as coach, said he regretted that the team did not win more games during his tenure. Last season the Monarchs were hit hard by injuries and went 2-6 in Suffolk County Division IV.
Doroski’s ties to McGann-Mercy run deep. Both of his parents attended the school, as did his wife.
As a player, Doroski at one time held the Monarchs’ single-season and career rushing records. After college, he returned to the school and served as its athletic director for a period. As a varsity baseball coach, he guided the Monarchs to a state championship in 2003. It remains the only state title in any sport in the school’s 56-year history.
Although this is Doroski’s first position as a varsity head football coach, he has spent 15 years coaching football, working on the coaching staffs of successful programs at Longwood, Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River in addition to McGann-Mercy. He said he hopes to pluck the good things he has learned from those experiences and use them to benefit McGann-Mercy.
Doroski acknowledged that numbers is one of the biggest challenges he will face at the small school, which doesn’t have a feeder program and draws players from a large geographic area.
Low numbers have plagued the Monarchs in recent years. Read said he never had more than 18 true varsity players to work with, and his 2008 team had only 13.
McGann-Mercy’s athletic director, Paula Nickerson, said it was a “miracle” that the program managed to survive during those lean times.
“It’s a numbers game,” Doroski said. “When you’re out there on the field and you’re practicing with 18 guys, it’s tough. You don’t get a good look. It’s tough to get game speed, game ready.”
Also, because McGann-Mercy doesn’t have a junior high school team, it often deals with players with little or no prior football experience.
Doroski said there may be a remedy for that if a Police Athletic League team was formed under McGann-Mercy’s name.
“We have a vision for the future,” he said. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but I think you’re going to see a slow, steady growth of Mercy football in the years to come.”
Doroski said he hopes that with the junior high school expanding, that will yield more players for the future. He said he is also encouraged by the growth of a strength and conditioning program the school embraced last year.
“We’re going to be fundamentally sound, disciplined, and we’re going to play hard,” Doroski said. “When I was playing here, we always followed a motto, ‘We may look small, but we don’t play small.’ I think what we can do here is implement that same type of attitude and mentality. We may get off the bus with only 22 or 23 guys, you know, we may not look overwhelming, but we’re going to come out and we’re going to play hard. That will translate into wins in the near future.”
Doroski said his first order of business is to meet with the players. After that he has much more to do. A coaching staff must be assembled. The equipment room needs to be tidied up. And then, he must put a team together.
Referring to the school’s colors, Doroski indicated that McGann-Mercy was always close to his heart, regardless of where he coached. Upon seeing Doroski in Riverhead gear once, a McGann-Mercy coach told him, “You may wear blue and white, but you’ll always bleed green and gold.”