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Season Preview: Somers is built for the long haul

Posted Friday, September 05, 2014 by Carolyn Fazzinga

LINCOLNDALE – As Somers players swept the turf in celebration, sharing hugs and more than a little emboldened by disproving their doubters, everything that made the team a champion was evident. Just about anywhere anyone stopped their eyes stood someone who'd made a key, even decisive play in the Tuskers' upset of Rye.

In an era of specialization and concussion fears that has left most programs in a roster crunch, Somers' depth and balance are unique. Dressing and playing dozens of players has always been important in Tony DeMatteo's long coaching career. Now, it separates his two-time defending Section 1 champs from the competition.

It's no small wonder why Somers seems poised for a three-peat.

"Very honestly, Rye was way better than us last year," said DeMatteo, whose team beat Rye 20-7 in last season's Class A final after losing their regular-season meeting. "But at the end of the year, when we played them again, we were still on the upswing and they were beat up. They weren't right. And I attribute that to that I played more guys."

Of course, teams need the numbers to adopt that strategy, and most simply don't have the depth. For example, Rye entered its Somers rematch unbeaten, but played without its top running back and linebacker and saw its offensive and defensive lines ravaged by injuries and suspensions after the grind of a long season. Finally, in their 10th game, the Garnets were a shell of themselves.

Somers, on the other hand, spent the majority of last season with a less-than-fit Matt Morgante, who was hobbled with a chipped bone in his ankle. Rather than fret, the Tuskers overcame reduced production from their most talented player, and their improvement gathered speed right on through the white tape.

"Last year we had a lot of depth. When we had a couple injuries, we were able to overcome it because we had guys who could step up," Morgante said. "I think it's the same this year. We have a lot of guys, and that's a testament to the success of the program."

Including a now-healthy Morgante and fellow game-breaking backs Tim Fazzinga and Joe Spor, Somers returns the majority of its starters. The program boasts 118 players total, including a varsity roster of 52 that would turn most Class AA giants green with envy.

"It helps having a lot of guys who can play," Fazzinga said. "We all rep in, so once you come off the field and take a break, you're fresh. Our fresh guys are going against tired guys, and that really helps a lot."

True to his philosophy, DeMatteo told his players at one practice last week that he intends for approximately 40 of the 52 to see regular playing time. Even the unbeaten 2012 team saw quarterbacks John Decker and Tim Cousin split playing time.

The two-quarterback system has been a DeMatteo staple — just like leaning on every last player on the sideline.

"The philosophy has never changed," he said. "At Roosevelt (in 1996), I won a state championship with 18 kids, but all 18 kids played. The only two who didn't play were girls, and they both got on the field at the Carrier Dome."

Somers hopes its season ends similarly — in Syracuse, a team built 52 players strong.

Twitter: @lohudinsider


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