As the leader of the Shoreham-Wading River defense this season, senior Mitch Identsohn plays what’s affectionately referred to as the “stud” linebacker. Such a title undoubtedly brings hefty expectations.
“He’s kind of the guy we move around and put at the point of attack,” said Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser. “We want to put our best player where [the opposing team] is going to go and put him in the middle of the action.”
As a two-way player for the Wildcats, Identsohn will have a crucial role on both sides of the field this season for a team looking to take the next step from playoff team to legit contender.
On offense, Identsohn plays tight end, where his primary role is the gritty work of run blocking. It’s the kind of unheralded role that often goes unnoticed in the box score, but that’s fine with Identsohn.
“In the games and especially in the [film] room when you make a key block that opens up a run, the coaches let you know,” Identsohn said. “When we’re in the film room, all the lineman get credit for what they do.”
Identsohn understands a team’s running game is only as good as its offensive line. And at Shoreham, the Wildcats have always been a run-first team. That won’t change this year with senior Tyler Anderson back after a 1,500-yard rushing season a year ago.
Identsohn first came up to varsity as a sophomore when he played as wingback/slot receiver on offense. At the start of his junior season he competed for the tight end position and won the starting job. A defensive end in 10th grade, Identsohn started playing linebacker last year and flourished. He finished the season with 54 total tackles, one off the team lead. He had one sack and an interception that he returned for a touchdown against McGann-Mercy.
Millheiser said Identsohn came up to the varsity as a 10th-grader “with a bunch of potential.” Now as a senior he’s the go-to player on defense and a team leader.
“One of the biggest things with Mitch is his toughness and durability,” Millheiser said. “His leadership not only in the season, but in the offseason. He’ll get kids in workouts and get other kids he knows that are good athletes involved and out for the team. He’s been valuable to the program in the season and out of season.”
Identsohn said as a senior he sees the game from a different perspective. “You’re in control and everyone looks up to you,” he said. “You’re supposed to lead the team and set and example for all the other juniors and sophomores on the team.”
Identsohn will be in charge of calling plays on the field and making sure his teammates are lined up in the right position. It’s a big change from his defensive end position he played two years ago, where his main focus was on stopping the run.
“I like it a lot more,” he said. “There’s pressure because people expect you to make those tackles and be at the spot to make the play. But I kind of enjoy having the pressure.”
Identsohn and Anderson are the two returning mainstays at linebacker. A few other newcomers are fighting for the other positions.
Millheiser said the linebackers will often rotate around the field based on certain plays, which makes communication critical.
“Sometimes things can be a little complex,” he said. “They do a good job talking to each other and making sure they’re lined up correctly.”
On offense last year, Identsohn wasn’t heavily featured in the passing game. He caught 4 passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.
With junior quarterback Danny Hughes having a year of experience under his belt, Identsohn could play a bigger role in the passing game this year. Teams will be focused on stopping the running game. And wide receiver Isreal Squires is a player on the outside who can command double teams.
That could leave the middle of the field open for a player like Identsohn, at 6-foot, 195-pounds, to be a big target for Hughes.
“We’re definitely going to try to find mismatches if we can,” Millheiser said. “With that kind of size and his athletic ability, you want to try to utilize that.”
Identsohn would welcome a bigger role in the passing game, but at the end of the day, he said, it’s all about the team scoring touchdowns.
“It’s not about who scores, as long as we get the touchdown,” he said.