Football: Last year’s surprising team off to quick start in camp

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The Shoreham-Wading River offensive and defensive lines collide in practice Wednesday morning.

How quickly things changed in a year for the Shoreham-Wading River football team. From 0-8 in 2010 playing with a depleted roster to 6-2 last year and a trip to the postseason.

For Shoreham coach Matt Millheiser, his first year in 2010 was a long grind. The Wildcats simply didn’t have the manpower to compete against most teams in Division IV and the lopsided scores reflected that.

Last year the Wildcats were one of the biggest surprises in Suffolk County football and that success they hope will carry over into this season.

“We’re definitely progressing much faster than in the past,” Millheiser said. “The kids are more comfortable in the system.”

Through the first week of training camp, which began last Thursday, the Wildcats are already much farther ahead than where they were in the previous two seasons.

It started in the offseason, with a dedicated core putting in the necessary training, even as many players participated in other sports during the year.

“The kids are working hard to improve on what we did last year,” Millheiser said. “There’s also an understanding that we have a long way to go still.”

As the Wildcats prepare for the 2012 season — which kicks off Sept. 8 against Bayport-Blue Point — their goal is to close the gap between them and the perennial top teams of Division IV. John Glenn, Mount Sinai and Babylon are all seeded atop the division as has been the custom for so many seasons over the past decade.

Then it’s the Wildcats as the No. 4 seed, a higher spot than they’ve started the season at in a number of years. It’ll make for a more difficult schedule than last year and the Wildcats will be tested right from the start with games against the Phantoms and Mount Sinai Mustangs.

When the Wildcats faced the top competition last year, they were 0-3 against Babylon (playoff loss), Mount Sinai and Glenn by a combined score of 103-22.

Good news for Shoreham is the program’s depth has been steadily improving over the last few years. From a varsity roster of only about 19 kids in 2010, the Wildcats enter this season with 35. There are another 30 kids who are playing junior varsity.

“We can actually have a depth chart, with backups,” Millheiser said.

While Millheiser had a good sense of what the roster would look like coming into the season, there was one welcome addition that caught him by surprise.

Brennan Gorman, a junior who attended St. Anthony’s the previous two years, is back at Shoreham. Millheiser said he found out about a week and a half before training camp that Gorman, who’s older brother was a senior on the team last year, would be joining the Wildcats.

Gorman will play on the offensive and defensive lines.

“He’s a real good player and a big kid,” Millheiser said.

The Wildcats get their first game action Wednesday in a scrimmage at Smithtown West that will feature Kings Park, Babylon and Rocky Point. On Sept. 1 they’ll head to Center Moriches for a game scrimmage.

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