After guiding Valley Stream North’s JV football program for more than a decade, Mike Paolillo took over the head coaching reigns at the varsity level and has the Spartans off to a 2-2 start with two games remaining in the condensed season.
“It was a smooth transition because most of the kids knew my coaching style and philosophies,” said Paolillo, who began coaching football at North as a varsity assistant in 1998 and led the JV to a 5-3 mark in 2019. “Two things I wanted us to improve was tackling and blocking,” he added. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job.”
The Spartans made Paolillo’s varsity head coaching debut a memorable one March 13 when they defeated Baldwin, a Conference I school, in a non-conference game, 24-14. Both teams had their conference openers cancelled due to Covid-19 related issues.
“It was an overall team effort and we played very well defensively,” Paolillo said. “We scored late to win it.”
North trailed the Bruins 14-12 with time winding down when junior quarterback Brian Farrell, also making his varsity debut, connected with junior receiver Ethan Ramnarain for an 8-yard touchdown with 58 seconds remaining to put it in front. Junior Ryan John put the icing on the cake with a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Spartans, who played their Conference III opener a week later and were blanked by defending county champion Plainedge, trailed Baldwin 8-6 at halftime but took a 12-8 lead early in the fourth quarter on a 6-yard touchdown run by Farrell.
“He has strong command in the huddle and can run and throw,” Paolillo said of Farrell, who through four games has five passing touchdowns. “He has the tools to be successful,” he said. “He just needs to show a little more composure under pressure and that’ll come with experience.”
Farrell hooked up with junior Andrew Lusterino on a 15-yard scoring strike in last Saturday’s 34-7 defeat at Floral Park. The Spartans trailed by only seven points at halftime but couldn’t get much going in the second half and allowed 27 unanswered. “We hung tough until the end of the third quarter,” Paolillo noted.
North defeated Glen Cove in Week 3, 33-16, behind rushing and receiving touchdowns from senior Karl Josil. He also caught a 2-point conversion pass from Farrell. Sophomore tailback Josh Lopez added a touchdown run, while senior Peter Mura (two sacks) and junior Vaughn Candelario (two fumble recoveries) led the defensive effort.
Lopez serves as the lead rusher in an offense featuring fullbacks Noah Etame and Michael Capolino. Etame, a senior, is also a standout linebacker. Capolino is also part of the group along with Lopez and Mura.
Mura and fellow senior Chima Aruke comprise the left side of an offensive line centered by junior Jack DelCarpine. Aruke is also key on the defensive front along with senior Denzel Blake.
The Spartans are home to close out the season. Manhasset visits this Saturday and Hewlett comes to town April 17.