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Somers' Inexperience Not an Issue

Posted Thursday, September 09, 2010 by Robert Lombardo

On offense: A senior-heavy Somers squad ran roughshod through Class A Central last season, only allowing six points in six games, including five-straight shutouts. But the Tuskers fell to Poughkeepsie, 14-10, in the sectional quarterfinals.

At almost every starting position was a senior last season. Stars like Matt Deiana, Colin Tullgren, Erik Pfiffner and more, all took the cap and gown route. And on top of that, the only returning starter, senior Victor Prato, will miss at least the first three games with a knee injury.

But the players taking over weren't exactly bench warmers last season. Somers Head Coach Tony DeMatteo has a tendency to rotate many players to keep everyone fresh, so many returners saw big minutes last season.

While the 2010 version of the Tuskers may lack some experience, DeMatteo feels this squad is his "most committed team" in his 11 seasons at Somers.

"I've always had five or six guys that would work out," he said. "Now we have almost 25 guys working hard. I think we made great strides in preseason."

One of those players that has shown improvement is senior quarterback Anthony Lombardo, who recently committed to Binghamton for lacrosse. Lombardo, a captain, saw time under center last year as a backup.

Lombardo has the size (6-2, 210 pounds) and speed to give opposing defenses fits with his running ability. He's got a strong arm, too.

"He's at a point where I have to go back eight years to find a better quarterback (from Somers)," said DeMatteo, who added that Lombardo has worked hard for this season and is respected by his teammates. "I really think he's going to have a heck of a year.

"He's learned the offense and now understands it."

The Tuskers, normally a run-first team, will pass about one-third of the time and that number could change based on how many passes they complete, DeMatteo said.

Senior Matt Maloney will back Lombardo up at quarterback.

Senior D.J. Giuntini (5-9, 185 pounds), who scored four touchdowns last season, will start at fullback. He rushed 16 times for 135 yards in his junior year.

"He's kind of like a slasher at fullback," DeMatteo said. "He's very smart, he reads the schemes well. He's doing a nice job."

Four other fullbacks in the mix are John Cegielski, Jason Dibenedetto, Craig Bernardi and sophomore Joey Lombardo, Anthony's brother.

The halfback spot will be by committee between senior captain Robert Mendoza, senior Rob Tomasulo, senior Matt Debellis, junior C.J. Silva and sophomore Stefano Bicknese.

"Right now the No. 1 back (out of the five) is probably Mendoza, but they're all fairly comparable that I can use all of them," DeMatteo said. "Mendoza is just a tough dude. He runs hard and loves football. He's going to be a real good player."

At wide receiver will be senior Rob Cegielski, senior Kieran Donohue and junior Kevin Murray, who all have decent speed and size.

Senior Thomas Campbell (6-4, 215 pounds) will start at tight end and be backed up by Jordan DeVito. Campbell has been "the biggest surprise," DeMatteo said.

"He's developed into an outstanding player," he added.

The offensive line will be anchored by senior Michael Cleary (captain) at center. The 6-0, 260 pound Cleary has been "making all the calls and calling of the (defensive) fronts." Colby Tragni, another captain, will be at one guard position, while the other guard spot is between David Arturi and Connor Warren. The left tackle is junior Joe Hanley, while the right tackle spot is between Chris Groton and Joseph Tevere, until Prato returns.

On defense: Somers took a hit when senior Jack Ahearn, who DeMatteo said was their best defensive back, broke his ankle at the Red-and-White scrimmage on Aug. 31. He will miss the entire season.

Taking over Ahearn's spot at wide corner will be Murray or Silva. Mendoza and Debellis will see time at strong safety, while the free safety is between Donohue and Tomasulo. The closed half will be Rob Cegielski ("probably our best cover guy") and Bicknese.

The strength of the Tuskers defense will lie in the middle five, the three down-linemen and the inside linebackers in DeMatteo's 3-4 defense.

Tragni, who transferred from Iona Prep as a junior, will line up at noseguard. He is very quick, tough and super smart," DeMatteo said. Junior Michael Pierz will back him up.

The two defensive tackle spots will be between Cleary, Groton and Hanley - and Prato when he returns. Junior Nick Aquilino may also see some time on the d-line.

Giuntini, DeVito and Arturi will lead the linebackers with Joe Lombardo most likely earning the fourth spot.

On special teams: DeMatteo is very confident in junior field goal kicker Thomas Barcia, who DeMatteo said could end up being better than Colin Tullgren, who holds the school record with a 48 yard field goal. "He's kicking great," DeMatteo said of Barcia, who will also kick off.

The punting is between Silva and Giuntini. Silva and Murray will return punts, while kickoffs will be returned by that same duo along with senior newcomer Chris Rios.

Strengths: The positive attitude of the team. Somers' season goal is "to be perfect," DeMatteo said.

"The seniors know that I don't rebuild, I try to reload," DeMatteo said. "We're going for it this year. I don't care who I'm coaching as long as they give me what I want, I'm happy. The guys that are playing are the guys that deserve it. First preference goes to the seniors because that's what I believe in, so they know that, and they're practicing hard for me."

Weakness: The secondary must play better, and the Tuskers must learn and execute their blocking assignments, DeMatteo said.

Team vitals

Class A North

How they finished last year: 8-1, lost to Poughkeepsie in Class A quarterfinal, 14-10, but defeated Ossining, 27-14, in a bowl game

Head Coach: Tony DeMatteo (11th year)


Sept. 11 vs. Hendrick Hudson - 4 p.m.*

Sept. 16 vs. Walter Panas - 6 p.m. *

Sept. 24 at Brewster - 7 p.m.*

Oct. 1 vs. Poughkeepsie - 7 p.m.*

Oct. 9 at John Jay - 7 p.m.*

Oct. 15 at Lakeland - 7 p.m.*

*League game

Key returnees: Anthony Lombardo, senior (QB/LB); D.J Giuntini, senior (FB/LB); Robert Mendoza, senior (RB/SS); Michael Cleary, senior (C/DT); Victor Prato, senior (OT/DT); Colby Tragni, senior (G/NG); Kieran Donohue, senior (WR/CB); Jordan DeVito, senior (LB/TE); David Arturi, junior (LB/TE); Kevin Murray, junior (WR/S); Rob Tomasulo, senior (HB/S); Matt Debellis, senior (RB/LB); Thomas Campbell, senior (TE/DE); Rob Cegielski, senior (WR/CB)

Key newcomers: C.J. Silva, junior (HB/CB); Stefano Bicknese, sophomore (RB/DB); Joey Lombardo, sophomore (LB/FB)

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