Football: Two-a-days a unique challenge for McGann-Mercy

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Reggie Archer rushes for McGann-Mercy in last year’s season finale against Greenport. Archer, now a sophomore, is one of four backs competing for playing time.

The concept of two-a-day practices during training camp has become commonplace among football teams in Suffolk County. Even teams in other sports sometimes begin their season with the grueling workload of morning and night practices to prepare for the upcoming season.

While the physical challenges of two practices are one thing, at McGann-Mercy, there’s also the geographical challenge.

Unlike most schools, athletes at Mercy live all across the county.

It makes it that much harder to get an entire team together twice a day during the summer.

When Jeff Doroski became head coach of the Monarchs last year at his alma mater, he implemented the two-a-day practice schedule, although without the same frequency as other teams.

He’s carried it over into training camp this season and the players have responded with a strong commitment.

“On those days we’re working two practices, they’re focused and working hard,” Doroski said.

The Monarchs spread out the two-a-days to Monday/Wednesday/Friday as they gear up for their first scrimmage of the season Wednesday at Hampton Bays.

There’s another challenge that comes with being a small school with a limited roster. With so many players asked to play on both sides of the ball, the wear and tear of long practices can be taxing.

It’s something the Monarchs pride themselves on.

“We always carry that iron-man football mentality,” said Doroski, who was a tailback and defensive back at Mercy from 1988 to 1992.

Because of the heavy workload many players have to carry, a big focus early in training camp has been on conditioning, Doroski said.

Having players start on both ends of the ball can also create for unique challenges in practice. The first-team offense can never truly line up against the first-team defense.

Doroski said they’ll line up the varsity offensive line against the junior varsity and do the same on defense.

“We do what we can to simulate game situations,” he said.

The numbers have been better for Mercy compared to the last few years, Doroski said. The Monarchs have 26 players on varsity and 29 on JV.

“It’s still tough to get that good look in practice,” Doroski said.

That’s why Wednesday will be a critical day for the players and for the coaches to make some evaluations. The Monarchs will get their first opportunity to hit another opponent, something they’re chomping at the bit to do, Doroski said.

The Monarchs will face Greenport, Southampton and East Hampton in the scrimmage at Hampton Bays.

“We got some guys fighting for positions,” Doroski said. “We’ll see if anyone steps up and wins a position outright. We got some good battles going.”

Running back has been one position where the Monarchs appear to have some depth. Last season they relied heavily on senior Patrick Stepnoski, and when he went down with an injury midway through the season, the offense stalled.

As a freshman Reggie Archer was asked to step in and fill some of the void at halfback last year. Now as a sophomore, he’s come back bigger and stronger and will be in the mix for carries.

“He did a lot of work in the weight room,” Doroski said. “He looks good out there.”

The Monarchs also have a few welcome additions to the team. Tom Kent, who played as a sophomore but missed last season with an injury, is back on the team. He’ll be in the mix for carries at running back and can also play outside linebacker.

Asaiah Wilson, who transferred midyear from Longwood, will be playing his first season with the Monarchs. Wilson arrived at Mercy last year in time to play on the basketball team.

The Monarchs finished 3-5 last season in Division IV, a one-game improvement from the previous year. With more than a week and a half to go until the regular season opener, their focus is on continuing to get better.

“We feel good about where we are compared to this year at the same time,” Doroski said. “There’s still a lot of room to get better.”

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