Entering his 20th season as head coach, Mike Spina has experienced his share of success coaching the Floral Park Memorial High School Knights. Last season, however, was one of the most rewarding.
“The guys had this certain toughness where they just didn’t want to lose,” said Spina. “They played emotionally all season,” he added. They upset No. 3 ranked Lynbrook 21-17 in the playoffs. Ultimately, the Knights had their Cinderella season cut in the Nassau County semifinals against No. 2 Plainedge.
That group graduated some crucial players including QB Connor Vidasolo and MLB Conor Horan. The latter was a finalist for the best linebacker award. He will be replaced by his sophomore brother Cole, whom Spina was extremely excited about.
“He’s going to be a beast,” said Spina as he was gleaming. “He’s a big-part of this defense. We brought him up as a freshman and he played three games but broke his ankle in the third game,” he added. All healed up, Horan will look to anchor a strong defense where he will be joined by Robert Sjoberg, Isiah Corbett, Frank Finochio and Anthony Jimenez.
“We’re tough to run against,” said Spina. “This is the most athletic team I’ve had.” The Knights run a “50” defense, which is designed to stop the run. In this formation, there are five down lineman and it creates trouble for the opposition’s running game.
The offense will not be lousy by any standards. Filling in for Vidasolo will be junior Josh Corbett, who will be leading the Knights’ power spread offense. In the backfield will be senior and three-year starter Josh Sanders.
“His improvement has been tremendous. He’s worked hard all summer for this,” said Spina. This group will be protected by the Knights’ strong and experienced offensive line. The
offensive line of Corbett, Finochio, Jimenez and Bardales give Spina ample reason for optimism. He noted that as long as they stay healthy, it will be the strength of the team.
The biggest cause for concern is the wide receiving corp. Spina is hoping that All-Conference Brian Barry makes the leap to being a No. 1 receiver. Last season, he caught three touchdown passes and rushed for two more. He is also counting on Chris Tuckett will be dependable in the passing game.
The Knights opened their season on Sept. 13 at Great Neck North. They enter the season as the No. 6 seed in the difficult Conference III, or “black and blue conference” as it is referred to due to the physical nature.
Spina noted that he generally prides himself on knowing all of the competition, but there are 14 schools in the conference for the first time and it creates some “unknown factors”.
Still, Floral Park is primed for a strong season. They are in good hands under the guidance of Spina who has had three of his recent graduates move on to play collegiate football—including Timon Parris, starting offensive lineman for Stony Brook.
Come out to support the Knights as they look to build on last year’s 6-4 season. They will play their home opener on Saturday, Sept. 27 against Glen Cove.