Long Beach fell a little short of reaching the Nassau Conference II playoffs last season, splitting its six games thanks in large part to a stingy defense. The Marines allowed a total of six points in their three wins, including a pair of shutouts, and lost one-possession games to Valley Stream Central and South Side.
“In terms of record, the season didn’t go too great, but I thought we definitely played well and achieved a lot,” Long Beach head coach Scott Martin said. “We have a decent amount of kids coming back and when you’re seeded eighth like we are, you get four games against higher seeds and four against lower seeds. We have to take care of business against the teams below us and try to steal one of the others.”
The Marines face a stiff challenge out of the gate at second-seeded MacArthur and close the opening half of the schedule at home against five-time defending county champion Garden City. “We’re looking forward to getting back to a normal preseason and a full regular season,” Martin said.
Senior captains Matt Grossman, Chris Buonocore and Owen Stark will be counted on to lead the playoff push. The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Grossman is a returning starter at center and defensive tackle who Martin described as a “big, strong vocal leader who does a lot of the dirty work.” The coach added Grossman will play as many snaps on both sides of the ball as possible.
Buonocore is a wide receiver/safety with a combination of size and speed. He’ll lead the secondary along with senior Christian Tarzia. “Buonocore is a strong tackler who has a nose for the ball,” Martin said. “He wants to be involved in every contact play and understands our defensive coverages and offensive scheme.”
Stark, who missed the second half of last season due to injury, is an explosive linebacker who’s going to be worked into the offense as a running back. “We expect Owen to make a ton of tackles and pressure the quarterback like he did last season,” Martin said. “We were just about to mix him into the offense when he got hurt. He has a chance to be our leading rusher.”
Junior Jack Miller is a fullback type who can grind out tough yards and catch passes. He’s also a linebacker. “We haven’t used a fullback in about eight years but Jack fits the mold,” Martin said.
Also in line for carries is junior Jeff Conway, who did some damage from the quarterback position out of the Wildcat formation last season. He scored the only touchdown of the game against Elmont in Long Beach’s 7-0 victory in Week 3 and scored twice the following week to lead a win over Kennedy. “Jeff is one of our top offensive players,” Martin said. “He runs hard and brings a competitive fire.”
Conway and fellow juniors Hayden Sofield and Jack Shields comprise the options at quarterback. Sofield led the team in passing attempts with 30, Martin said, and makes smart decisions. Shields, who is 6-foot, 225, was the JV starter. “It’s a good problem to have,” Martin said. “It’s possible we rotate all three and see who emerges.”
In addition to Grossman up front, the Marines have senior tackle Justin Garcia and senior guard Jonathan Schurin returning with experience. Junior Jack Skarren could play offensive tackle or move to tight end. Senior Jozeph Umana and junior Ronald Washington will start or get significant snaps.
Up from JV, Martin is excited about the potential of junior Chip Bueher and sophomore Luke Hartman. Both are capable of making an immediate impact on one of both sides of the ball, he said.