For a few weeks in September, the makings of a glorious season were right there for the Port Washington football team.
Three consecutive wins had them reigning as surprise kings of the local gridiron scene. Led by quarterback John McCarthy, fleet playmakers like Harry Behan and Anthony Iuorio, and hard-hitting defenders like Bryson Bodner, the Vikings were undefeated and looking to make noise in Conference I.
Then the roof metaphorically caved in. And the injuries that started to pile up were anything but metaphorical. Busted ribs, injured knees, broken feet. You name it, a player or two on the Vikings suffered it.
And before you could say “Is there a doctor in the house?” a 3-0 start ended up in a 3-6 finish, with a first-round playoff loss.
But talk to the Port Washington head coach and returning players, and the glorious feeling of winning is still with them.
“I think about the Freeport game, and I’d never been more scared in my entire life,” Behan said. “But then we went in there, and won, and kept winning for a few weeks, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world. We know we can get that back.”
Whether it comes back or not may depend on how quickly Behan, now a 6-foot-3 junior, adjusts to being the full-time starting QB. The strong-armed thrower is also effective as a runner, and head coach Kevin Cloghessy said he believes Behan is ready to lead.
“He’s a big, athletic kid who likes to hit and is very physical running the ball himself,” said Cloghessy. “He’s the kind of guy the other kids look to as a leader, and he’s got a heck of an arm, too.”
Helping Behan on offense is a group of fleet playmakers, including senior wide receiver/slot player Anthony Iuorio (four touchdowns last season), and Jake Siciliano.
“Not many people know how good he is, but they’re going to,” Iurio said of Siciliano. “We feel like last year, we had a great chance to win a lot of those games down the stretch, if we had just been healthy enough. So the big key for me and a lot of other guys this year is staying healthy.”
Along the offensive and defensive lines Port Washington will be led by senior Bryson Bodner, described by teammates as an “animal” and “a monster” at defensive tackle and offensive guard. Bodner broke his foot midway through last season and had to miss the final four games.
“He came flying through the air one game last year and hit a guy and sent him five yards back,” Behan said, laughing. “Bryson tackles you hard.”
The 5-foot-10 defensive lineman will be helped on defense by senior middle linebacker Andrew Neuwirth, and junior linebacker Haiden Nadboy, who had three sacks last season.
Bodner said it was hard to keep spirits up last season once the good vibes from the 3-0 start faded.
“We had a lot of injuries, yeah, but our feelings in the locker room weren’t the best,” Bodner said. “We’d be in there at halftime trying to keep each other up, but it wasn’t easy.”
Neuwirth said he feels this year’s team, through offseason workouts, is a tighter-knit group, and that the fast start last year gave young players a feeling of what winning is like.
“We saw what guys like Anthony and Harry and the other players can do last year, how explosive they can be,” Neuwirth said. “It’s something where if we can stay healthy, I think we can have a great season.”
“My goal is to see Hofstra for the first time,” Iuorio said, referring to the site of the county championship games. “That’s got to be our goal, and we believe we can accomplish a lot this season.”
For Cloghessy, the strong junior class this year gives him more depth than he’s had, and expects that to pay off at the end.
“It feels like a long season and all the experience they got last year, with all the injuries, should start to pay off this year,” he said. “Our kids deserve a lot of credit for fighting through everything last year, and I’m excited to see where we can go now.”
Port Washington 2023 schedule:
9/8: at Massapequa, 6:30 p.m.
9/14: at East Meadow, 4:30 p.m.
9/23: vs. Hempstead, 2 p.m.
9/30: vs. Farmingdale, 2 p.m.
10/6: at Plainview, 6:30 p.m.
10/13: vs. Hicksville, 6 p.m.
10/21: at Baldwin, 2 p.m.
10/27: vs. Westbury, 6 p.m.