There are two schools of thought when it comes to football schedules, as to when it’s best to play a powerhouse.
Some coaches want to play them later in the season when your own squad has gotten into a rhythm and knows exactly where it’s supposed to be on every play, so as to be totally prepared for the major foe.
Other coaches would rather get the Goliath team immediately, so as to see exactly where they stand for the rest of the year.
Count Coach Colin Meier and his New Hyde Park football team into the latter category. The Gladiators are coming off a strong 5-4 season in 2022 and will start 2023 with the best team on Long Island staring across from the other sideline.
In moving up to Conference 2 this year, New Hyde Park “gets” to open up with Garden City, a program that has won a record seven consecutive Nassau County championships, and has captured 30 victories in a row.
So much for a warm-up game, eh?
“I’m excited to see them right away, absolutely,” said Gladiators star QB Aidan Garvey. “Maybe we can get up on them, surprise them a little bit, score some points. Of course, it’s a huge challenge playing them but we’ll see right away where we are.”
“It’s definitely a big way to start, playing those guys,” Maier said. “But I really like our team this year.”
The Gladiators went 5-4 and lost to Long Beach in the first round of the playoffs last season, but return several exciting playmakers on offense led by the electric Garvey.
The 5-foot-8, 185-pounder has a lethal combination of speed and power and rushed for 922 yards and 11 touchdowns last season from the backfield.
This year Garvey is switching to quarterback, a spot he played on JV and where he’ll have to be in charge of the whole offense.
Garvey, who said he put on 25 pounds since the end of last season, said he welcomes the change.
“It’s just a matter of making sure everybody is lined up right and knowing what everyone is supposed to be doing,” Garvey said. “I’m excited to be able to throw the ball and hopefully make good decisions on whether to run or pass.”
“The kid always makes the right move on the field, it’s incredible,” senior wide receiver Anthony Lasala said of Garvey. “He puts the ball exactly where you want it, and trying to tackle him is not fun at all. I’m excited to have him at QB.”
Helping Garvey on offense will be senior wideouts like Lasala and running back Nick Garafolo, both of whom Meier said should be much improved in 2023.
“Anthony has got great size (6-foot-3) for a wideout, and he’s really smart about getting open and finding spots in the defense,” Meier said. “And Nick, he got used to the speed of varsity last year and is really elusive; I think he’s going to be very effective for us this year.”
Powering the offensive line will be returning starters Koray Kilinc, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound tackler, and fellow senior Eric Shi, also 6-foot-3 and weighing around 235 pounds.
Both will be counted on to open holes for Garvey and Co., as well as give him time to pass.
“Koray is so strong, and good with hands and never stops moving his feet,” Lasala said. “He’s such a strong blocker because he hits you and he hits you hard. And Eric lays the boom on you and is just a big, big dude.”
Meier said the offense will run multiple sets this season (“whatever it takes to move the ball”) and hopes to get a new spark from senior running back Cody McLean, who has transferred back from Kellenberg.
On defense, the Gladiators will feature Kilinc on the defensive line, with linebackers like Shi and defensive backs like Lasala helping out. Newcomer Tito Ruiz is also expected to help at defensive back (“the guy is great, like he was built in a lab” Garvey said), along with newcomer Adam Marouf on the defensive line.
“We’ve got great kids who really work hard in the offseason and come in ready to work and learn,” Meier said. “We don’t have organized youth football here, so some of the kids are learning as we go. But they learn fast.”
New Hyde Park 2023 schedule:
9/2: at Garden City, 2 p.m.
9/9: vs. Sewanhaka, 2 p.m.
9/14: vs. Carey, 4:30 p.m.
9/23: at Roslyn, 2 p.m.
9/30: vs. Elmont, 2 p.m.
10/7: at Mepham, 2 p.m.
10/14: at Long Beach, 2 p.m.
10/28: vs. Jericho, 2 p.m.