Head football coach George Kasimatis didn’t hesitate to name the man that could set the tone of the 2015 season for the Sewanhaka Indians next month: quarterback Elijah Tracey.
“He’s the guy this year,” the coach said, indicating Tracey, like last year, will play both sides of the ball.
Tracey, 17, is a three-sport athlete, excelling as a starter in football, basketball and lacrosse. His two years as the starting quarterback for Sewanhaka will aid his leadership in the huddle in 2015.
“The kids all look up to [Tracey],” Kasimatis said. “He’s a natural-born leader.”
Tracey preaches focus and patience to his teammates, two key factors when planning for its eight-game schedule on the gridiron.
“I think we just have to stay focused,” Tracey said. “The young guys are hungry and willing to learn.”
Tracey is the signal-caller on offense and tolls the secondary on defense, playing arguably the two most difficult positions in football. But he relishes the opportunities that both spots present.
“I have to grow in my patience and my footwork,” Tracey said. “I enjoy the challenge of playing both sides.”
The running game anchored by Brenton Mighty in 2014 will need to find another ball-carrier after the standout running back graduated. He now attends St. Thomas Aquinas.
“He was a great back,” Kasimatis said. “He’s a tough act to follow, but we have a bunch of guys who are very skilled out of the backfield.”
Kasimatis anticipates a committee-run backfield of junior Shaheim Taylor-White, senior Kevin Fuseyamore, junior Rich Beaubrun and Alex Cherry.
Taylor-White shined last year in games against Great Neck South and Elmont Memorial High School.
“I’m looking forward to the new players we have on offense,” Tracey said. “We also have [Shaheim] returning this year and I expect big things from him.”
Kasimatis is replacing a large chunk of the starting lineup in 2015, with last year’s playoff squad consisting mostly of seniors. Anchors on the offensive line, such as Danny Gianotti, Adrian Gonzalez and Louis Segarra III, and the defensive line, such as Justin Alexandre, Peter LaTorre and Peter Militano are gone, many of which have started multiple years for Sewanhaka.
Roster turnover is nothing new to the Indians, who endured similar obstacles en route to a first round 2014 playoff matchup with the Wantagh Warriors.
“We haven’t put pads on yet, so we’ll see where we’re at with [the running game] when we get to that point,” Kasimatis said.
Trevor Regnier, a senior wide receiver and safety, could play a key role in moving the sticks for the Indians offense and stifling the passing and lateral run game for the defense. His size (6-foot-2, 175 pounds) has Kasimatis chomping at the bit.
“[Regnier] has good range as a safety and use his lacrosse skills really well in tracking the ball,” Kasimatis said. “He has great hands, which you need when you play on both sides.”
But with summer winding down and practices picking up, Sewanhaka needs to use this time to prepare for a tough Conference II schedule.
“We have to mesh and find our niche, what we’re good at,” Kasimatis said. “We come in, practice and ask the kids ‘did you get better today?’ As long as you progress every day and play your best on game day, that’s all we can ask, win or lose.”
The Indians open the 2015 season at the Jericho Jayhawks on Sept. 12 before heading to face the local rival Elmont Spartans, who beat the Indians last October in Sewanhaka’s final home game. The Indians open their home schedule in 2015 against the perennial powerhouse Garden City Spartans on Sept. 26 and head on the road to Westbury one week later.
The Indians are keeping a watchful eye on the opening game against Jericho, who introduced a new head coach in Cameron Hom.
“It’s not like I can look at last year’s film,” Kasimatis said. “When a new coach comes in they change things so we’ll coach our kids in multiple sets.”
MacArthur and Manhasset high schools travel to the Indians Oct. 10 and 17, which precede the purple and gold’s final two battles against the two-time defending Long Island Class II champion Carey Seahawks in Franklin Square and Wantagh at home.
Wantagh handed Sewanhaka a playoff loss in November 2014. “Wantagh’s a good team,” Kasimatis said. “Right now, my concern is the next practice.”