The Hewlett Football team is gearing up for the 2011 season for a shot at the ultimate goals: a Nassau County and Long Island championship. Like during last season and in seasons past, the Conference III schedule has proven to be a challenge for the Bulldogs.
Hewlett finished the 2010 regular season with a 6-2 record, earning a playoff berth last November. The Bulldogs defeated Sewanhaka in the quarterfinals, but in the Nassau County semifinals. The conference pool, including Hewlett, will be chasing the Lynbrook Owls, the defending Long Island champions.
“We have a lot of athletic, skilled kids and are working hard in practice everyday,” said Hewlett head coach Jay Iaqunita. “One thing is that we have to stay healthy. We have to improve and out-work those other teams throughout the season.”
Hewlett will be headed by Iaquinta, along with a trio of assistant coaches in Chris Passuello, John Pallandino and David Yaker. Despite losing key players from last season due to graduation, such as All-State player and All-County player Alex Kahn, Hewlett will feature another highly talented roster.
Gabe Rodriguez will lead the team as a returning All-County linebacker and running back. Senior Sam Martorella, also an All-County player, will be featured as a running back and cornerback for the Bulldogs.
“Everyone has been giving a great team effort and the team is really together,” Rodriguez said. “We have worked hard in the off-season and are expecting to be very good this season.”
With a spot opening up at starting quarterback, senior Mark Rizzo stepped into the role after primarily playing wing back in 2010. Rizzo, who has committed to a lacrosse scholarship at the University of North Carolina, was the starting quarterback on Hewlett’s JV squad as a sophomore.
“We have been having up-tempo practices and everyone is hyped up for the season," he said. "We are coming back strong and trying to prove a point this year.”
Other key players that look to be an incremental part of Hewlett’s success this season are senior Jared Brent (OL/DE), senior Michael Gray (split end/LB), senior Matt Miller (DB/RB), senior Habner Sanchez (DE), junior Weldon Irvine (DE/split end), junior Luciano Morello (OL/DT), senior Joel Wilson (DT) and senior Ruben Diaz (DL).
“We are all excited for the season and everything has been going great," Martorella said. "We have a lot of skilled players back, so we are excited to see about this season.”
Hewlett will kick off its season on Sept. 10 with a home opener against Floral Park, a team who moved up from Conference IV. The team will then head on the road to play South Side (9/17), followed by Lawrence at home (9/24).
For the rest of the season, the Bulldogs will take on Sewanhaka (10/1) and Lynbrook (10/6) in challenging back-to-back road games. The team will also play Bethpage at home (10/15), Manhasset on the road (10/22) and lastly Plainedge at home (10/29).
Hewlett has its work cut out for the near future with tough competition to face, but as in years past, the team is always in the mix. The Bulldogs will look for 2011 to be the year to run all the way to Hofstra to the Nassau County championship and potentially beyond to the Long Island title.
“We need to show up every day for practice, work as hard as we can and show improvement,” Iaquinta said. “If we can get everybody committed to Hewlett Football and if we do those things, we will take care of business and end up being one of the top teams in the conference.”