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Newsday Blog 8/19/08

Varsity - 2008 Season
Posted Wednesday, August 20, 2008 by Bob Herzog

BY BOB HERZOG

There’s a lot to be excited about at Sachem North this year. The Flaming Arrows are the No. 2 seed in Suffolk’s Division I and have a legitimate shot at dethroning Floyd, which has not lost a divisional game in five seasons. They are led by quarterback Craig Geoghan (above, left), tailback Anthony Quezada and tackle Cong Tian.

You can see the bounce in the players’ steps when they run their drills, even though it’s only the second day of practice. You can hear it in the way they yell between exercises and encourage each other. You can tell they believe they are on the verge of something special. And coach Dave Falco doesn’t discourage that kind of optimism. “We’ve been working hard all summer and we’ve got a lot of talented kids back,” Falco said on Tuesday.

But the Sachem North football family received a jolting reality check last month. Senior starting fullback/linebacker Phil Mastrogiacomo (above, right) was seriously injured on July 15 when a car driven by his best friend, Geoghan, plowed into a parked construction truck. Geoghan, blinded by the morning sun as he made a turn en route to the high school for a morning workout, was uninjured. But Mastrogiacomo suffered a shattered femur, torn deltoid, dislocated clavicle, snapped tendons and ligaments in his shoulder, blood in his brain from a concussion that delayed surgery for six days and most serious of all, a lacerated liver.

Yet guess who was on the sidelines Tuesday, the first day on the field for the Flaming Arrows after Monday’s weight-room and check-in session? Mastrogiacomo, right arm in a sling and using one crutch, the scars on his leg still visible from the surgery, maneuvered among teammates and coaches, sometimes gazing wistfully at the practice field, other times engaging teammates and coaches in animated conversation.

“Football and wrestling have been my life forever,” he said. “I can’t even think about my senior year without one of them.” Though Mastrogiacomo says he dreams of being back for what could be a key showdown at Floyd on Friday night, Oct. 17, realistically, said Falco, the liver injury will likely keep him from returning to the football field. Still, Mastrogiacomo plans to attend every practice, go to camp upstate with the team next week and be on the sidelines for every game “unless I have a doctor’s appointment.”

He said, “The hardest part was hearing I couldn’t do sports,” yet Mastrogiacomo’s spirit and sense of humor are intact. “That’s my joke,” he said, with a grin. “When the players complain in practice I say, ‘I shattered my femur, stop bitching.’

Falco closed an impressive and active morning session on Tuesday by telling his players, “Today is about fundamentals and how do we practice.”

It was about something else, too. It was about showing as much fight as a fallen teammate.

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