If there’s one critique no football team ever wants to hear, it’s that it’s not physical.
In no other sport does a team take greater pride in hard-nosed, physical play than football. As the McGann-Mercy Monarchs labored through an 0-8 season two years ago, followed by a respectable 3-5 campaign last year, a consistent problem was the team’s inability to match up physically against the competition.
This year, in coach Jeff Doroski’s second season, the Monarchs can put that in the past.
“We’ve held our own,” Doroski said after the Monarchs played a pair of scrimmages leading up to Friday’s season opener at Center Moriches. “At times we were more physical than a couple teams we saw. I don’t question that with our guys anymore. We can come out and play a physical game.”
The Monarchs hope that leads to more success as they look to take the next step this season and compete for one of the eight playoff spots in Division IV. The Monarchs won’t be running away with any games, but Doroski said if they can execute, limit penalties and turnovers, they can be in position to win games.
“We’re excited about the start of the season,” he said. “It’s been a long summer. We feel like we’ve taken advantage of opportunities over the past two weeks to get better and we’ve improved on some things that saw we were lacking on in scrimmages.”
The Monarchs return about nine players who saw significant time on the field last year. Most will play both sides of the ball.
The Monarchs will open the season with two players vying for the starting quarterback job. Doroski played it coy as to who would start Friday night. The Monarchs have junior Asaiah Wilson, who’s in his first year on the football team at Mercy after transferring midyear from Longwood. Michael Frosina is also in the mix. Both will see action in other spots, depending on who starts at quarterback. Wilson has the versatility to contribute in a lot of ways, including on special teams where he’ll handle the punting and kickoff duties.
A strength for the Monarchs this year should be their offensive line. Four of the five starters from last year return. Seniors Ray Ellis, Jack Strnad and Chris Motlenski are back along with junior Pat Marelli. Sophomore Andrew Glasgow is the newcomer to the group. He’ll start at linebacker on defense as well.
“It’s the second year for these guys and they know the system on the offensive side of the ball,” Doroski said. “They’ve taken big strides for us and they’re initiating the physical play at the line of scrimmage.”
Marelli will play linebacker on defense. Ellis and Motlenski will play on the defensive line and Strnad can play defensive end or tackle. Motlenski is a captain, along with tight end/defensive end Brian Murray.
The Monarchs are more athletic on defense this year, Doroski said.
“Going in right now, the defense is stronger than our offense,” he said.
The Monarchs will primarily be a run-first team on offense. Whereas last year they relied heavily on Patrick Stepnoski, who was injured midway through the season, they have multiple backs who will share carries this season. Each has a different running style, giving the team a nice complement in the backfield.
Sophomore Reggie Archer is a returning halfback who saw time last year on varsity in Stepnoski’s absence. Tom Kent, who was also injured last season, returns as well, along with senior Paolo Foscolo, who will get some carries as a fullback.
“Reggie is one of those guys who sees the field very well, he finds holes, finds creases and does a good job reading blocks,” Doroski said.
Kent has good speed in the open field, the kind of runner who likes to run north to south. Foscolo is a good short-yardage runner who can pick up a few tough yards in the trenches.
On special teams the Monarchs have a freshman soccer player who will attempt extra points in Nico Bossey.
“Coming off an 0-8 year, we wanted to be more competitive and we did that,” Doroski said. “This year we want to try to put ourselves in position to get to the playoffs.”