Shoreham-Wading River coach Matt Millheiser had seen glimpses of Danny Hughes last season when he started as the junior varsity quarterback. It was evident Hughes had some skill and would be a key contributor to the varsity at some point.
Still, Millheiser couldn’t know for sure just how much he might progress from ninth to 10th grade.
He got his answer at the beginning of training camp.
“He’s going to be the man leading the way,” Millheiser said.
Hughes came into training camp in competition with the incumbent quarterback, senior Kevin Kelley. It didn’t take long for Hughes to impress the coaches and earn the starting job as a sophomore, where he’ll take over a team that comes into the season with higher expectations compared to recent years.
Hughes played on the varsity lacrosse team in the spring that won a state championship. He’s grown a lot since last fall and is already around 6 feet.
“Last year I was talking down to him and now I’m looking up at him,” Millheiser said. “As a 10th-grader he’s got some poise. He doesn’t get rattled.”
While the Wildcats are still a run-oriented team, Millheiser said he’s comfortable letting Hughes throw the ball.
Junior Tyler Anderson will lead the rushing attack for Shoreham. As a sophomore last season Anderson played a big role in the ground game as the second option behind Dylan Bates. With Bates gone, Anderson, who has good size at about 6-foot-2, steps in to be the featured back.
“He’s going to have to be the workhorse now,” Millheiser said. “He’s going to be the guy they’re keying on.”
Anderson has good speed to go with his size, Millheiser said.
Senior Avery Friedman, who played mostly receiver and wingback last year, will slide back to his more comfortable position at running back this year as a second option behind Anderson.
Friedman is an explosive runner who can quickly accelerate with the ball.
“He likes to run downhill and we had him at the wing running reverses and counters and it didn’t really work out,” Millheiser said. “He asked if he could go back [to running back] this year and give it a try and it’s been a world of difference.”
Junior Dominic Pirraglia will play fullback and be the man responsible for opening up some of the holes in front of Anderson and Friedman.
“He might be the unsung hero,” Millheiser said.
The Wildcats have three new players on the offensive line and Millheiser said he’s liked the way the group has come together. Seniors Jason Ambrosini and Kyle Flemming are the returnees and they’ll line up alongside Brennan Gorman, Max Goldfarb and Brendan Fisher. Goldfarb, a junior up from JV last year, will play center. Ambrosini and Gorman will play tackle with Flemming and Fisher at guard.
Senior Scott Lavey returns at receiver alongside a newcomer to varsity, sophomore Isreal Squires, who was a standout sprinter on the track team in the spring.
Squires is poised to have a big role on both sides of the ball this season. Millheiser raved about Squire’s potential.
As a freshman last year Squires could have potentially made the varsity. But the Wildcats already had guys in his position and the coaches felt it was best for him to get a full season on JV.
“He came into this camp and there was no question he was going to be up here and he was going to make some things happen,” Millheiser said.
On offense the Wildcats will likely use him in a number of different spots to try to get him as many opportunities to make plays. He’ll also return kicks.
He showed off some of his athleticism in a scrimmage with a couple one-handed picks on defense, Millheiser said. Squires will anchor the secondary at free safety.
Defensively the Wildcats have seniors Kreed Mauser and Tom Cummings at defensive end. Mauser played on JV last year and Cummings played some linebacker last season on varsity.
Pirraglia will play linebacker alongside junior Mitch Identsohn, who can also play tight end on offense.
Senior Sean Logan returns at strong safety.
Junior Zack MacAuley returns for his third season as the kicker. Millheiser said MacAuley has gotten bigger and stronger. On kickoffs he can boot the ball consistently toward the end zone. Millheiser won’t hesitate to use him in short field goal situations as well.
“Last year we played a couple close games early in the year and we had a couple chip shot field goals, which didn’t seem like a big deal. But when you’re in the third quarter and you’re up nine, 10 or 11 instead of six or seven, it’s a little more comfortable.”
The Wildcats open the season Saturday at home against Bayport-Blue Point in what should be a good test.
“I’m definitely happy with the effort the kids gave me in camp in preparation for the season,” Millheiser said. “We’re much better than we’ve been in years past but I think the theme has been we need to continue to get better to play with those top teams.”