The names may have changed, but the goal is still the same: keep the winning tradition alive.
“I think each and every year we lose some goods players, but we also gain some,” outside linebacker and wide receiver Jesse AlfanoStJohn said. “Every player wants to step up, get a chance to show the coaches what they have to offer. Even if we lose a great player, the next guy that takes that spot is going to give it their all, 100 percent.”
With the loss of 17 seniors, the new crop of Westhampton Beach football players is looking to do just that.
“It is a young group, and there’s going to be adversity. How they react to that adversity is going to say a lot about them,” head coach Bryan Schaumloffel said. “These guys are really eager to make a name for themselves and continue to the success we’ve had over the years.”
That’s not to say there aren’t returning starters and there won’t be senior leaders. In fact, Schaumloffel stresses his philosophy that the entire upper class should be exemplary.
“Obviously a bigger leadership role means more exceptions on and off the field, and I’m excited to carry that with me all season,” said senior running back Jaden AlfanoStJohn, Jesse’s twin brother. “It’s definitely exciting.”
AlfanoStJohn was the leading rusher last year, covering 1200 yards and scoring 17 touchdowns. Also returning are three-year starting linebacker Shavar Coffey and three-year starting wide receiver and defensive end Aidan Cumisky.
“I’d consider Coffey and the AlfanoStJohn brothers elite players on the island, which is great to have,” senior center and defensive lineman Chris Daleo said. “And I think last year’s juniors that didn’t get as much because there were so many accomplished seniors — five All-County — learned a lot from the position they were in, and we are ready to break loose.”
Daleo is working hard with classmates Kevin Dillon and Alex Midgett to solidify the offensive line.
“The majority of that group is underclassmen. As a senior, I’ve taken a leadership role in the learning process,” Daleo said. “I think the hardest thing the new players have to get used to is the pace of play, and as a center, I’m able to help them with their assignments.”
But it’s what the players have trained for. Another tradition the Hurricanes have kept going is dedicating time to offseason strength and conditioning, and play practice. Daleo said workouts have continued all winter and through the summer, some even seeking private training to perfect technique. Depending on work schedules, Schaumloffel said some guys come out as early as 6 AM four days a week over the summer, and there’s always a huge turnout.
“We’re all conditioned, which allows us to play at a high tempo on offense,” Jesse AlfanoStJohn said.
“We are going to have a lot of talent and be very athletic this year,” his brother added.
The head coach will be looking to senior Matt Leotta on defense and offense, senior wide receiver Paul Boutin, and kicker Jackson Hulse, who Schaumloffel said “had a great season” in 2018. Hulse was also crowned a Suffolk County wrestling champion last winter. Schaumloffel said he hopes senior Jeff McBurnie will also play a big role, and that junior Aidan Cassara, who shared some time at running back last year, will be a big weapon.
“We’ve been working very good as a unit. Most of us have known each other and have played with each other since we were very young,” Jesse AlfanoStJohn said. “We have very good team chemistry.”
Daleo is already concentrating on Westhampton Beach’s first game of the season, a home opener against Harborfields September 13 at 6 PM.
“The immediate focus right now is week one, because in past years those games have been closer than they should have been,” the center said. “We want to break the cycle.”
But the boys are also looking ahead, eager to prove any doubters that year after year, and despite great loss, the Hurricanes can immediately fill empty shoes and get back to the Suffolk County title game.
“We’re looking for another great championship run,” Jaden AlfanoStJohn said. “We are eager to start the season and show everyone we can make it back again.”
His brother took it a step further.
“Our goal is to get there and win this time,” he said. Westhampton Beach fell 21-10 to rival Half Hollow Hills West in the Division III championship following a 10-0 undefeated run to get there.
There’s also a sentiment among the players there’s expectations and a standard to uphold with a program that boasts a 30-3 record over the last three years.
“I think there’s a sense of pressure, but also a sense of motivation to maintain that winning pedigree,” Daleo said. “Our team is ready to leave its own legacy on top of an already great history.”