As the final countdown toward opening day ticks closer, Bishop McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski is still trying to get a feel for what this year’s team identity will look like.
After their most successful season in two decades last year, the Monarchs return several key players while also mixing in some new faces. No longer the underdog, it’ll be a different vibe for Mercy this year.
“This is a different group,” Doroski said. “They’re a little quieter. I don’t have those ‘rah-rah,’ energy-type guys.”
In preparation for Thursday afternoon’s Division IV season opener at Shoreham-Wading River, the Monarchs competed in a five-way scrimmage last week in East Hampton and a game scrimmage against Bayport-Blue Point. Results were understandably mixed. Turnovers and penalties piled up, but the players came out and competed physically, Doroski said.
Offensively the Monarchs return 1,000-yard rusher Reggie Archer, a junior who will be featured prominently once again in the running game. Doroski said Archer has bulked up some from last year after putting in a lot of work in the offseason.
“I always give him a hard time because I think he looks slow, but he separates himself in practices and scrimmages and he has a little breakaway speed,” Doroski said.
Senior Paul Annunziata returns in the backfield and will receive some carries along with Archer. Doroski said Annunziata is a good change-of-pace runner who has looked strong in scrimmages.
Senior Luis Cintron will start at fullback and will try to clear some of the paths for the other backs.
At quarterback the Monarchs are handing the ball to a sophomore in KJ Santacroce. Asaiah Wilson, who started as a junior last year, transferred out of Mercy, opening the door for Santacroce.
Doroski said Santacroce gives the offense a different feel from last year, when Wilson was more of a threat with his legs.
“He throws the ball real well and I think that will add something to our offense that we didn’t have last year on a consistent basis, which was short passing game and our play-action stuff,” Doroski said.
Santacroce is listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, and Doroski said he looks “more like a junior or senior.” As a freshman last year Santacroce led the junior varsity team to a 4-4 record.
“He’s going to come up [to varsity] and slide right in,” Doroski said.
At receiver the Monarchs feature junior Leo Ellis, sophomore Marco Sciarra, who’s listed at 6-1, junior Ian Rogers and senior Jimmy Haynal.
Doroski said Ellis has the best hands as a receiver that the team has had in a few years. Sciarra came up as a freshman last year and has good speed, Doroski said.
Haynal, who played soccer last year, will likely miss the first week as he recovers from a concussion, Doroski said.
On the offensive line the Monarchs return seniors Pat Marelli and Colin Ratsey. Senior Patrick Rossi, who played linebacker last year, will move up to the tackle position. Juniors Andrew Glasgow and Kenny Berman will round out the line.
Nearly every starter on offense will be asked to play on defense as well.
“We still play ironman football,” Doroski said.
Marelli, last year’s leading tackler with 76, will anchor the defense at inside linebacker. Archer, a defensive back last year, will move to an outside linebacker. Cintron will also play an outside linebacker and Rossi will be an inside linebacker.
Ratsey and Glasgow will start at defensive end.
In the secondary the Monarchs have a number of different players who can slide in depending on the matchups, Doroski said.
As the No. 6 seed in Division IV this year, the Monarchs will face a challenging schedule that includes games against Shoreham, Mount Sinai and Babylon.
“We’re excited, the kids are excited, the coaching staff is excited,” Doroski said. “We want to continue to move forward with our program. This year presents a challenge just because of the success we had last year and where we got seeded.”