Manhasset football’s Cargiulo literally never takes a play off in quest for success

Manhasset football’s Cargiulo literally never takes a play off in quest for success
Manhasset QB Matt Cargiulo (2) will be a big key to the team's success this season

The Chipotle bowl is his relief, his salvation, and his reward.

Manhasset senior Matt Cargiulo is exhausted every Saturday evening during football season. There are somewhere between 60-80 plays in a typical high school game, and Cargiulo is on the field for all of them.

If he’s not quarterbacking the Indians’ triple-option offense, getting hit on nearly every play, he’s manning the secondary on defense as a strong safety, making tackles and trying to break up opponents’ passes.

Very little time to rest, or think, or plan when you’re the 6-foot-3, 200 pound Cargiulo.

So when it’s all over, he goes home and finds some small comfort in the Mexican fast-food chain.

“I’ll get a bowl with brown rice, some chicken, some cheese and some queso,” he said this week. “And I’ll eat it, take a shower, and then just lay in bed for hours. Not really wanting to move.”

This is what happens when you’re one of the best athletes on a small-sized football roster: The coaches need you on the field all the time.

And make no mistake, Cargiulo isn’t complaining. While lacrosse is the sport he most excels in (he’s headed to UMass next fall on scholarship, and Cargiulo was a key member of Manhasset’s state championship squad last spring), he’s become an outstanding football player as well, and said he loves the sport

Last season he passed for 780 yards and six scores, and rushed for 1,090 yards and 12 touchdowns as the Indians struggled to a 2-6 record.

When Manhasset was on defense, Cargiulo also made 74 tackles, including 22 for a loss, with five interceptions.

But this year Manhasset has started strongly, winning two of its first three games after a 21-7 win over Floral Park on Sept. 24.

Manhasset coach Jay Iaquinta, who just won his 200th game on Sept. 16, wishes he didn’t have to play his QB so often.

“It’d be better if he could be over here with us (while the defense is on field) and we could go over things like most QB’s get to do,” Iaquinta said. “He’d be even more awesome. But he’s just too good on defense and we don’t have enough other kids.”

Cargiulo says that while, sure, it’s exhausting being on the field for every play, his conditioning in the offseason, including playing lacrosse, has helped.

“I did a lot of running, a lot of strength work to get bigger, and worked hard on becoming a better quarterback,” Cargiulo said. “Honestly, my passion for football is greater than for lacrosse, maybe because football is newer to me.”

Indeed, while Cargiulo, like most Manhasset kids, started playing lacrosse fresh out of the crib, he only put on a football helmet in seventh grade, and switched to being a signal-caller in ninth grade.

This past summer he was invited to be a part of the Long Island Quarterback Challenge, a showcase event, and got to train with Oceanside legend and former longtime NFL quarterback Jay Fiedler as well for several weeks.

“Matt is a tremendous athlete, who is raw in throwing the football but a big, physical kid who learns quickly,” Fiedler said in a phone interview. “Having to play both ways is a challenge, but he’s a terrific kid who definitely improved in each session we did.”

“Getting to work with (Jay), who has been at the highest level, was an incredible experience,” Cargiulo said. “His tips and knowledge and everything he knows, helped me a lot.”

Cargiulo, who also returns kickoffs and punts for Manhasset as well (no truth to the rumor he sells hot dogs and hamburgers at the concession stand, and plays trumpet in the band at halftime), said he expects a playoff berth and other big things for Manhasset this season.

And as long as Chipotle stays open on weekends, he’ll be good to go.

“I love going to battle with my teammates, and even though we’re a young team I think we’re going in the right direction,” Cargiulo said. “We still have a lot to learn but we’ve been in both games this year and are learning how to win. I’m excited about the season.”


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