There is no talk of last year at North Shore High School football practice.
No looks back at the incredible season the Vikings had, as a 19-game winning streak that carried over from 2021 led North Shore all the way to a second consecutive Long Island Championship game in Conference IV.
Not much in the way of reminiscing is allowed now that this program is re-loading, not re-building, every year, and the goal remains the same: Get to the LIC and win it, something it did in 2021, but fell to Bayport-Blue Point there last year.
“We lost a lot of players who were great for us the last few years, but we live in the present and have total faith in the guys who are coming up to play big roles,” said head coach Dan Agovino. “The foundation, the tone that’s been set, that has all been here for years, and it’s just now a different group of guys to carry it forward.”
The biggest hurdle for the 2023 Vikings will be replacing the monster offensive trio of quarterback Peter Liotta, wideout Nick Livoti and running back Nick La Rosa, who accounted for a vast majority of the offense last season.
This year Garret Gates, a senior, steps into the quarterback spot. Gates was a starting linebacker last season but has experience playing QB at the JV level and is going to New Jersey Institute of Technology on a baseball scholarship next year.
“He’s got a great arm, a lefty, and he’s a really strong runner,” Agovino said.
“I think the experience I have playing in big games the last few years will definitely help,” Gates said. “I like to run and throw, and I like to hit people out there.”
Gates’ offensive weapons will include senior wide receiver James Toner, a returning starter who brings great size at 6-foot-2, and new running backs Jack Damphouse, a junior who Agostino calls “the strongest kid on the team,” and Matthew D’Aversa, a leader on the North Shore lacrosse team.
Up front on the lines the Vikings return two starters who helped pave the way for their outstanding ground game in 2022; senior Justin Rosen is a 6-foot-3, 235-pound center who’s moving to guard this season, and he’ll be flanked by senior tackle Isaac Bratter, also a returning starter.
“Our mentality is we can’t ever let the level drop, so getting to LIC is our level and that’s where we want to stay,” Rosen said. “On the line, just push people back, do what we have to do, and dominate every week.”
Defensively the Vikings will have Bratter and Rosen anchoring the D-line, and behind them tackling machine senior Athanasios Alafogiannis is ready to bring down anyone that comes near him.
“He’s got a motor that’s always going 100 miles per hour, and when he gets going downhill he’s really effective,” Agovino said.
Alafogiannis said that he’s been very impressed by what he’s seen from the offense so far in practice.
“Gates has looked really strong, reading the field and making it tough on us defenders,” Alafogiannis said. “We fully expect guys to just step in, embrace the competition, and keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
The Vikings expect tough league competition from Malverne and Seaford, but also expect to come out on top and work toward a playoff run and another LIC showing.
“We know we’re one of the top teams, and we’re comfortable knowing teams are gunning for us,” Gates said. “We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder from not winning LIC, but that’s good, we have even more motivation to win football games.”
2023 North Shore football Schedule:
9/9/23: vs. Cold Spring Harbor, 2 p.m.
9/14/23: at Seaford, 6 p.m.
9/23/23: at Valley Stream South, 2 p.m.
9/30/23: vs. East Rockaway, 2 p.m.
10/7/23: vs. Malverne, 3 p.m.
10/13/23: at West Hempstead, 6 p.m.
10/21/23: at Locust Valley, 2 p.m.
10/28/23: vs. Island Trees, 2 p.m.