Chris Motlanski’s bone-crunching hit during a drill near the end of Monday morning’s practice elicited quite a response. Jeff Doroski, thrilled at what he saw, yelled, hopped up and down, and banged Motlanski on the helmet in a congratulatory manner.
Every now and then, the player in Doroski comes out.
But it is as a coach — Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School’s new head coach — that Doroski is currently making his mark with the Monarchs.
Perhaps no one has seen McGann-Mercy football from as many angles as Doroski. A former player for the Monarchs, he has served three stints as an assistant coach for the team, most recently last year when he was the defensive coordinator. But Doroski has gained an extensive football education, working on coaching staffs at Shoreham-Wading River, Longwood and Riverhead as well. He was also the athletic director at McGann-Mercy for a couple of years.
It was all good preparation for this, what Doroski calls his dream job, coaching at his alma matter.
A dream job? Yes.
An easy job? Definitely not.
The Monarchs are picking up the pieces from a 2-6 season last year. They are seeded 12th among the 14 teams in Suffolk County Division IV, so they have their work cut out for them.
Nonetheless, Doroski brings a good deal of enthusiasm to his first head coaching job at the varsity level.
“I was telling the guys on the first day [of preseason practice], some people are called into their profession,” he said. “Some people are called into the priesthood. I was called to be the head football coach here. I’m kind of answering my calling right now.”
Hired in March to succeed Joe Read, who had stepped down in January after four years as McGann-Mercy’s head coach, Doroski got a real sense that the program was truly under his leadership when preseason training camp opened last Thursday and all eyes were on him.
Doroski played tailback and defensive back for the Monarchs from 1988 to 1992. He was an all-league player his junior and senior years. Following his senior year he was named the team’s offensive most valuable player and the recipient of the Boden Award, the highest athletic honor presented by the school. Doroski went on to play both baseball and football at Springfield College (Mass.).
It doesn’t appear as if Doroski’s enthusiasm for the game has waned since his playing days.
“He gets into it,” Pat Stepnoski, a senior running back and outside linebacker, said. “He even tackles kids sometimes.”
Doroski said: “I like to think of myself as a structured and organized coach. I bring some positive energy and enthusiasm with me out there every day, but I’m also not over the top.”
Although he is a new head coach, Doroski is hardly new to the school. That is seen as a plus.
“It helps,” Keith Schroeher, a senior who plays quarterback and safety, said. “He used to play here. He knows what we’re going through.”
Players say practices are organized and brimming with positivity. Anthony Heppner, a senior defensive end and right offensive tackle, had a connection to Doroski as a fifth-grade student of his at the Pulaski Street School. Heppner said he looks forward to going to practice. “It’s a great atmosphere,” he said. “The team’s attitude is positive. We believe that no matter what, nothing’s going to stop us.”
The Monarchs had a rough 2010 season, but they sound like they have closed the book on that chapter of their history.
“We’re not really thinking about the past,” Schroeher said. “We’re pushing toward the future, a new era.”
The Monarchs hope that future includes a tighter defense. Last year the Monarchs allowed opponents an average of 38.9 points per game, surrendering more than 51 points on three occasions and 46 or more points five times.
“We were in situations last year where we just didn’t come out and compete,” said Doroski, who will retain control of the defense. “When you don’t come out and compete, you put yourself in a bad position.”
The Monarchs will run a 4-4 defense and a multiple-set offense, with some looks Doroski borrowed from Riverhead and from Longwood. Adam Barrett, who had been Centereach’s offensive coordinator, takes over that post at McGann-Mercy. He joins a coaching staff that includes Ken Marelli, Phil Lombardi, Phil Reed, Keith Schroeher Sr. and Alex Doroski, the head coach’s father (“It’s one of those things where I think my mom doesn’t want him at the house all the time,” joked Jeff Doroski.)
Doroski said it is one of the best coaching staffs he has ever been a part of. That, along with work in the weight room by his players during the offseason and a well-regarded senior class, gives him optimism.
“There’s not a lot of people who think that we can be successful in the division,” Doroski said. “Then again, it’s not what everybody else thinks. It’s what we believe in what we can do.”
The Monarchs sound confident.
“We’re looking to win this year,” said Keith Schroeher, who is entering his third varsity season. “We’re not going to back down from anything.”
What is the biggest difference between being an assistant coach and the guy? For Doroski it might be the small, but important details, such as ordering equipment, lining the practice field, doing paperwork. The job involves a lot more than just walking the sideline on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons.
“That’s one of the things that I learned from [Riverhead Coach Leif] Shay,” Doroski said. “It’s more than what you see.”