Word began to spread Wednesday evening among parents and players of the Bishop McGann-Mercy football program that popular varsity coach Jeff Doroski has been fired, the News-Review has learned. (more…)
The McGann-Mercy football team’s final game of the regular season tonight at Southampton was abruptly canceled this morning, according to Mercy athletic director John Lonardo and head coach Jeff Doroski.
It was Southampton’s decision to forfeit the game, which will go down as Mercy’s first win of the season.
Lonardo said he received a call last night from Southampton’s athletic director about the possibility of a forfeit. This morning, Mr. Lonardo said he received a call confirming that the game will not be played.
“As far as I know there are no plans to play game at a future date,” he said.
Southampton High School Principal Brian Zahn told The Southampton Press that “there was an incident reported to us that we are investigating and following up on. Because of the nature of our investigation we felt it best that we just forfeit that game.”
The news came as a shock to the Monarchs, who prepared all week to face the 1-6 Mariners and were excited over the prospects of ending the season with a win.
“I feel bad for all the kids involved,” Doroski said. “The seniors miss out on an opportunity to play their last high school football game.”
Word began to spread among the players this morning via text messages and phone calls, Doroski said. The team plans to meet at 3 p.m. today for a final meeting and to collect equipment. Doroski said they might take the players out for a night of bowling and pizza.
“It’s an unfortunate situation,” he said. “I don’t know exactly what’s going on over there.”
After a thrilling run to the Division IV semifinals last year in the playoffs, the Monarchs couldn’t catch a break this year as a difficult schedule and injuries paved the way to an 0-7 start. As practice began this week, Doroski told the players that nothing else matters from this point as they prepared to try to win their final game.
“For the seniors that would be something they remember,” Doroski said.
Instead, they’ll be packing their bags.
Anyone looking for an explanation to the result of the Mount Sinai football team’s 38-0 pounding of Bishop McGann-Mercy on Saturday need not look far.
“They’re very good,” McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski said. “We’re struggling. And we’re not very good.”
Call it the imperfect storm.
Mount Sinai (4-1) lived up to its second-place standing in Suffolk County Division IV, and McGann-Mercy’s misery continues. The Monarchs fell to 0-5. They sit in 14th place — last place.
Adding injuries to insult, the Monarchs saw two of their starters go down. Wide receiver/defensive back Ian Rogers is out for the rest of the season after having suffered his second concussion. Defensive back Paul Annunziata suffered a severe ankle sprain. He will not be available for the team’s next game on Saturday against East Hampton/Bridgehampton, but will perhaps ready to return the following week against Babylon, said Doroski.
The Monarchs are a battered, bruised group, struggling through a season that has taken a toll, both physically and mentally.
“It’s been tough,” Doroski said. “It’s obviously not where we wanted to be or where we expected to be. We knew we were going to have a tough schedule this year. We knew what we were in for.”
In addition to running for 69 yards on 17 carries, Reggie Archer made 6 tackles for McGann-Mercy. Pat Marelli made 7 tackles, and Andrew Glasgow had 5. All in all, though, it was a rough afternoon in Riverhead for the Monarchs.
Asked if any good came out of the game for his team, Doroski laughed and then answered, “It’s over.” He added, “I think it’s an eye-opener for some of the younger guys for what is required to play at this level.”
If any of his players were under any illusion, Doroski wasn’t. He knew what the Monarchs were up against this year, with a demanding schedule that includes four of the division’s tougher teams: Babylon, Mount Sinai, Shoreham-Wading River and Elwood/John Glenn.
“I’ve been around this division long enough to know that when you’re facing those top four teams, you have to be physically prepared,” Doroski said.
The Monarchs are heading into their final home game on Saturday. Doroski’s message to his players is to keep plugging away.
“We still have to come out and work hard to get better,” he said. “There’s a lot of room for improvement. Some of the younger guys are going to be here for another year or two years. Our kids do work hard. I just think we’re a little bit overmatched this year.”
In the wake of a disappointing loss Saturday, McGann-Mercy coach Jeff Doroski issued his players a challenge. As the Monarchs fell to 0-3 — the prospects of a return playoff appearance fading farther away — Doroski knows it would be easy for the commitment level to begin slipping.
“It’s real easy this time of the year to say ‘Hey coach, I got to go to extra help, I’m not going to be at practice,’ or ‘Hey coach, my mom needs help at home,’ ” Doroski said. “Those are the things that start to creep in when your season isn’t going well.”
Doroski’s challenge to his players: “Don’t be that guy.”
The Monarchs lost 28-20 to Wyandanch Saturday on homecoming, a tough defeat for a team that reached the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs last year. The Warriors, winless in their first two games, were the lowest-seeded team in the division coming into this year.
The road doesn’t get any easier for Mercy. Games against two of the perennial powers of the division are next: John Glenn Saturday and Mount Sinai Oct. 12. Both games are at home.
“We’ll keep coming to work and trying to get better every day,” Doroski said. “I told the guys, you got the better half of the season left and it doesn’t get any easier. We’re going to see what kind of character our kids are made up of in the next couple weeks.”
Whereas last year things always seemed to break the Monarchs’ way, things have taken a turn for the worse this year. Penalties and turnovers have piled up and the Monarchs haven’t found another threat offensively in addition to running back Reggie Archer. He scored all three touchdowns for Mercy against the Warriors and tallied 123 yards on 22 carries.
Doroski said quarterback KJ Santacroce did a good job throwing the ball, but the receiving corps hasn’t been able to come up with big plays. Junior Andrew Glasgow was a bright spot with four receptions for 42 yards, Doroski said. Glasgow also had six tackles and a sack on defense.
Mercy went ahead 20-14 early in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Monarchs tried an onside kick to catch the Warriors by surprise. The Warriors pounced on it and converted the short field into a touchdown to tie the game. On Mercy’s next possession, the Monarchs fumbled, giving the ball back to Wyandanch around the 30-yard line. The Warriors punched it in to take the lead and the score remained that way over the final quarter.
Doroski said a bright spot on defense was Patrick Rossi, who led the team with eight tackles and a sack.
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.”
Jackie Spinella seemed a little uncomfortable by all the attention. Asked if she felt like a trailblazer, she laughed. “I don’t know, I guess,” she said.
The truth is, it’s much simpler to Spinella than breaking a gender barrier. The Riverhead girl just wants to try playing football. Nothing more, nothing less.
Spinella, an incoming senior at Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School, said she enjoys watching the sport as a spectator on television or in the stands. Now, however, see is seeing football from a perspective that few girls ever do: as a player.
Spinella is trying out for the McGann-Mercy football team as an offensive lineman. She is the first girl in the school’s history to come out for football, according to coach Jeff Doroski, who played for the Monarchs himself in the 1990s.
“I kind of wanted to get the experience, so why not?” she said. “I don’t see a reason why a girl can’t” play football.
Spinella, who has a background in basketball, softball, and track and field, first approached Doroski this past winter about coming out for the team. Doroski said he asked her if she was sure, she said she was, and he told her she would need clearance from her parents, the athletic director, Section XI, the school doctor and undergo physical tests. Players heard talk in the spring that Spinella was going to come out for the team. When they saw her in the weight room, working out with them, they knew it was more than talk.
By the first preseason practice, Spinella was alongside the other players, ready to sweat through two-a-day practices and prove her courage, not only of the physical kind. She also had to have the courage to be the only girl in training camp, a one-girl team within a team. On top of that, her previous football experience was nil.
That can be scary for anyone.
“I’m nervous every day,” Spinella chuckled one morning last week after participating in the team’s sixth practice in four days. “Every day I try and tell myself: ‘Just pull yourself together and work at it. You can do it, you can make it.’ ”
Doroski said that knowing the type of person that Spinella is, he knew from the start that this wasn’t a gimmick or a publicity stunt. His players soon discovered that as well, watching her do every drill they did.
“She’s hitting as hard as us,” said Colin Ratsey, a senior lineman. He added: “She’ll get knocked down. She’s just like any other guy. She gets right back up, no problems. She’s got to prove herself out on the field, and she did, definitely, so far.”
Doroski has continually offered his encouragement. He said Spinella does not receive special treatment and is viewed as just another one of the players.
“She’s been very committed, and she stepped up to the challenge,” he said. “She hasn’t asked out of any drill. She hasn’t asked out of any conditioning. She’s done everything the guys have done.”
“I think our guys have just accepted her as being a part of the team,” he continued. “… She’s earned the respect by what she’s done.”
Pat Rossi, a senior who plays middle linebacker and guard, said his teammates have been supportive of Spinella.
“We encourage her, but at the same time, we don’t give her any special treatment,” he said. “She’s out there, she’s with us, she’s doing all the same things we’re doing. She’s one of us.”
Little boys are taught at a young age not to hit a girl. That is an inclination the boys on the team have had to overcome during drills. Rossi said players may have been reticent about hitting Spinella too hard in the first days of practice, but after a while they tend to forget that she is a girl. Football is a fast-moving game, with helmets, pads and uniform numbers flashing by in an instant, with little or no time to determine who is hitting who.
Last Thursday morning the linemen went through one-on-one contact drills. “I got knocked down a few times,” Spinella said. “It’s going to happen a lot.”
Spinella, who is the school’s Student Organization president, has naturally drawn curiosity from friends, who ask her what practice is like. She tells them it’s hard.
“I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy, because I think it’s really hard,” she said. She added: “It’s a different experience. I never dealt with something like this before. It’s really different.”
Doroski said Spinella has done a “great job” on the field. “This would be tough for anybody,” he said. “To come in and do what she has done up to this point, I give her a lot of credit.
“My thing to her is I said: ‘Stick with it. It’s hard. This is really the toughest part of football. You got to get through these next two weeks. You made it this far, you might as well keep it going.’ ”
The mental part of the game is no breeze, either, especially for a newcomer who has to learn a new language with football terms like inside zones, boots and waggles. Even so, Doroski said Spinella is ahead of some other players in her understanding of schemes and Xs and Os.
When the prospect was raised of her being in uniform for the team’s season opener on Sept. 12 at Shoreham-Wading River, Spinella’s eyes lit up.
“Being there, just like in itself, I think that [would be] awesome,” she said. “Even if I’m not playing, I think supporting the team is awesome in itself.”
If things continue the way they have been going, it sounds as if there is a good chance that Spinella will be wearing a helmet and pads that day.
“She’s going to wear a uniform,” Doroski said. “She’ll be part of our program. You know, obviously, I’m not going to put her on the field just to put her on the field. I’m not going to use it as a gimmick. She’s going to have to earn the right to go out there and play just like the rest of our guys, and if we have opportunities, and she earns the right, and we can get her in some situations, sure, I’m going to do that.”
When the school year starts, it seems likely that Spinella will become the talk of the school, the girl who plays football. With that may come a mini-celebrity status, but it is not something she is looking for.
“I don’t really think it’s that big of a deal,” she said. “I think maybe it will be something for a week or two and then it will die down, hopefully.”
One doesn’t have to think too hard to imagine what football coach Jeff Doroski must have been thinking when he saw the hulking figure of Colin Ratsey walking through the hallways of Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School several years ago. And one need not imagine what Doroski’s response was when he learned that Ratsey was a golfer, of all things.
Doroski recalled: “I was like, ‘Golf? What are you doing? Golf?’ ”
Then Doroski went on to convince Ratsey that he has the rest of his life to play golf, but only a few more years to play football for McGann-Mercy. He got his recruit.
Years later, that recruiting pitch seems more important than ever now that Ratsey assumes valuable places on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Monarchs. At 6-feet-4, 273 pounds, the senior is the biggest player on the team, and big things are being asked of him this year.
He is also a big piece of the puzzle. It is considered vital that Ratsey, who aside from senior Pat Marelli, is the team’s only returning lineman, does well this year.
“Has to,” said Doroski.
McGann-Mercy lost some good linemen from last year’s playoff team in Ray Ellis, Chris Motlenski and Jack Strnad. That means a new line with a revamped role for Ratsey.
“Everybody knows he can do it, but he has to show it now,” said Marelli.
Ratsey started all but one game last year for the Monarchs, playing guard and defensive tackle. It’s up in the air where exactly he will play on the lines this year. Marelli will play center and middle linebacker. “With the zone blocking scheme, it’s pretty much the same no matter where you are in those five positions up front,” said Doroski.
And it sounds as if it doesn’t make much of a difference to Ratsey, either. “Wherever they need me, I’ll block, and wherever they need me on defense, you know, I’ll get through the line and do the best I can,” he said. “Hopefully I’ll have a great season.”
That is what the Monarchs are counting on. It goes without saying that backs and receivers get most of the attention and acclaim, but linemen may have more to do with wins and losses than anyone else on the field.
“We’re excited about what he’s capable of doing for us this year,” Doroski said. “He’s got good feet. He can move around pretty good. He’s not one of those slow, lumbering big guys. He can move around pretty good for a big guy. This has the potential to be a very good year for him, and if it is, it’s going to make us that much better.”
So far, outside linebacker/fullback Luis Cintron likes what he has seen from Ratsey. “He’s looking great,” said Cintron.
Ratsey, who lives in Greenport, has attended Catholic schools his whole life. He had played four years for the Peconic Panthers youth football program and is familiar with the current players on the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island team. “I know the whole team,” he said. “They always smack talk, but I’m not worried about it.”
Ratsey has twice played against the Porters. The thought has undoubtedly crossed his mind that under different circumstances he could very well be on the other side of the line wearing different colors. This year the teams aren’t scheduled to play each other, but Ratsey looks forward to meeting his hometown buddies in a scrimmage.
Ironically, a former McGann-Mercy linemen, senior Owen Finnigan, has joined the Porters this summer.
Thanks to that fateful hallway meeting with Doroski, Ratsey’s athletic course changed as he embraced football.
“Right away I loved it,” he said. “Now it’s my passion.”
Golf will have to wait.