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Andrew Cosci

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First Royal Division IV MVP break school records this season

The Port Jefferson Royals’ outgoing quarterback is officially royalty.

Jack Collins is the first Port Jefferson football player to be named MVP of Division IV. But if he had his way when he was young, the Royals senior wouldn’t even be a quarterback.

“I was a wide receiver,” he said, explaining how he played the position for almost two years before being told the middle school team was in need of a field general. “We had a little contest, and I ended up getting the job.”

Port Jefferson quarterback Jack Collins broke three school records this year and became the first Royals football player to be named the most valuable player in Division IV, an honor bestowed by the results of a vote by the division coaches. File photo by Bill Landon

Collins didn’t want to be a quarterback because being the center of attention seemed like too much for him. He said he was quiet and reserved by nature, qualities not normally associated with successful quarterbacks. But as the years passed he grew to love it, and others respected the way he played the position, too.

In his senior season, Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). Being the first Division IV MVP from the Royals squad, which is voted on by division coaches, also qualifies him for the Hansen Award, which goes to the most outstanding high school football player in Suffolk County, and the Boomer Award, which is awarded to the top quarterback in the county. The winners will be announced at a Section XI dinner Dec. 4 at the Hyatt Regency Long Island in Hauppauge.

“We knew Jack had all the capabilities to handle the physical part of the position,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “What stood out even more was his maturity mentally. We knew he could handle anything we threw at him, and his work ethic early on was just one of those un-coachable things.”

Collins was called up to the varsity team his sophomore year and played in a handful of games toward the end of the season before being named the starter as a junior. He said the honor was unexpected, but felt encouraged after being recognized.

“I worked hard in the offseason — put my heart and soul into it — and getting called up made me feel more comfortable and prepared to be the leader of a team,” he said. “I think my coach made the right decision. It was a good learning experience.”

Cosci said the coaches immediately began tailoring routines and strategies so that the offense revolved around Collins. The quarterback had worked with an outside coach to enhance his accuracy, power and consistency, but also learned about leadership. The changes were noticed immediately.

As a result of the MVP nod, Jack Collins is automatically in the running for the Hansen Award and the Boomer Award, which will be given out at the Section XI football dinner Dec. 4. File photo by Bill Landon

“Jack is like no other quarterback I’ve played with,” senior wide receiver Marquis Feldman said. “He knows everything that’s happening on the field before it happens. It’s honestly like playing with a college quarterback.”

The senior’s head coach went one step further in his praise of Collins.

“He watches tons of film, tries to understand things better and fully, he never rests on his laurels — he thinks about what he has to do to get better and he continues to get better because of that,” Cosci said. “As a true leader and a true great player does, he made everyone around him better.”

Marquis said he saw his teammate develop on the field firsthand.

“Everyone on my team gave 110 percent every snap of every game — we were relentless,” he said, adding that he only just moved to the district in August. “To see Jack get recognized for his efforts is phenomenal, because we all knew he was an MVP. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my quarterback and already a very close friend on and off the field.”

To Collins, success is not about him, but more a reflection on his coaches and teammates, he said.

“At first, I didn’t see the good in it as much as I was afraid of the bad,” he said of taking on the quarterback role. “My teammates made me see it’s not that bad. It’s awesome to see the other coaches respected what we were doing, but honestly, we’re all putting in the work together and our coaches are putting game plans out that work. I’m the one that gets a lot of the credit for it, but it was definitely a team effort.”

Collins’ successes have also served to shine a light on the program.

Jack Collins broke school records for touchdowns (18), completions (143) and yards in a season (2,261). File photo by Bill Landon

“You can always look at the bigger schools and shake your finger and say ‘We’re too small, we’re never going to win anything,’” Collins said. “But we’re proving everyone wrong. We played with the big boys and it was a really good time. I just really hope this helps the program grow.”

While the extra attention could add pressure for any high school student, Port Jefferson athletic director Danielle Turner said nothing ever seemed to phase Collins.

“I’ve watched Jack from afar for two years now — on the field, in the hallways — and for as great of a football player he is, he’s an even better person,” Turner said. “He doesn’t say much, but his work ethic and the way he carries himself speaks volumes as to the type of person Jack is.”

Another important aspect of being a varsity football player is having young kids on the sidelines at games, according to Collins. They reminded him of himself when he first watched the Royals, wishing to one day emulate what he saw.

“I wanted to be like them in every single way,” he said. “I hope when the kids look at me they think that and that I set a good example.”

It’s a mentality he has already instilled in all facets of the program, according to Cosci.

“Jack has been the cornerstone for us in taking the next step,” he said. “He’s definitely more of a lead by example, but when Jack opens his mouth everyone listens. He never really talks about himself, he’s grounded, and it’s refreshing. The first thing out of other coaches’ mouths was ‘What a quarterback you have.’”

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By Bill Landon

Jack Collins was the king of the Royals’ homecoming court.

Port Jefferson senior Jack Collins passes the ball during the homecoming football game Oct. 21. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior quarterback completed 23 of 30 passes for a whopping 356 yards and four touchdowns to lead Port Jefferson to a dominating 42-13 win over Southampton/Pierson Oct. 21, which ensured the Royals a playoff berth.

“The kids in the locker room cannot wait for this game,” Collins said. “At Port Jeff there have been times where we’ve lost big to these teams, but it’s different. This year our team’s a lot stronger, and these guys want to prove that. I, do too.”

To do so, senior running back Thomas Mark returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, and senior running Joey Evangelista capped it off with a 2-point conversion, also scoring on a 13-yard touchdown run of his own for a 14-0 Royals lead with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

“We came out here knowing what we needed to do,” Evangelista said.

Collins threw three of his four touchdowns before halftime, on passes of 28 yards, 4 yards and 40 yards. A 2-point conversion was tried following all three, but only successful on the second, with senior running back Hunter Ginas running it in after Mark’s touchdown.

“It’s a great win; it’s a great feeling after coming off a tough loss last week,” Mark said, referring to Port Jefferson’s 45-8 loss at Elwood-John Glenn “During practice week all of the guys were really focused —put in a lot of work, and hard work pays off.”

Port Jefferson senior Marquis Feldman pushes to break free of a tackle during the homecoming football game Oct. 21. Photo by Bill Landon

Collins threw a 36-yard pass to Marquis Feldman for the senior wide receiver’s second touchdown of the game to open scoring in the third. Collins capped it off by throwing to Mark in the end zone for a 2-point conversion.

“It was awesome to see the fans come out, they really support us,” Collins said. “We came ready to play. It was a fun, good time.”

Feldman finished with 123 yards on eight receptions behind junior Jonathan Bachman’s nine catches for 154 yards. He said knows the importance of the Royals’ final game of the season at home against Shoreham-Wading River, especially for moving forward.

“This game’s in the past now, and we’ll get ready for the next,” Feldman said following the win. “We’ll work as hard as we can and won’t let up.”

Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said with Shoreham-Wading River being a little banged up he’s hoping it greatens his team’s chances, especially knowing the dominant history the Wildcats have over the Royals, but said not to count his team out of the Oct. 28 matchup.

“They’re a very good football team,” the coach said of his soon-to-be opponent. “We have our work cut out for us, but we have a different team this year — a team that believes they can play with the big boys.”

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By Bill Landon

Port Jefferson’s youngest football players practiced alongside the Royals varsity squad Aug. 26 during a camp designed to teach the fundamentals of the game while stressing the do’s and don’ts of safety in the sport.

Royals head coach Andrew Cosci had players break into groups of running backs, receivers, quarterbacks and linemen during the camp for which the idea he said was long overdue.

“I think it’s extremely important to involve the younger players, especially with the way football is being looked at across the nation, along with the NFL, with the emphasis on safety,” he said, also adding the desire to get the younger kids enthusiastic about and interested in the program. “It shows that we’re all in this together. The game is a great game, it teaches a lot of life lessons and you want to share it with the little ones because that’s where a lot of the fear is. When the young kids come up, [they can] see how we teach the athletes the right way to play the game.”

“I think it’s extremely important to involve the younger players … with an emphasis on safety. The game is a great game, it teaches a lot of life lessons and you want to share it with the little ones.”

— Andrew Cosci

For senior wide receiver and strong safety Thomas Mark, practicing with the younger players has been special.

“It’s definitely really important because when I was a kid coming to all the games I looked up to those players,” Mark said of seeing previous varsity athletes. “So to be out here and to see these kids look up to us is really rewarding.”

Port Jeff sixth-grader Shane Wardell said the reason he was at the camp was simple.

“To have fun and to see the varsity team,” he said. “I want to play on varsity some day.”

Senior running back Joey Evangelista echoed Mark’s sentiment, and said he thinks the camp is an important one.

“It shows them what we do up here at this level and it gets them ready for it,” Evangelista said, and then assessed his team’s chances this season. “We have a lot of our backfield coming back, which is awesome. A lot of our line left us last year, but we have some big guys, so I think we can do it.”

Cosci will rely on all 14 of his seniors to set the example for the younger generations and the underclassmen on the team. The hope is to make a deep run in the playoffs.

“From year to year you never know and you always get surprises, but hopefully they’re good surprises,” Cosci said. “We have a couple of holes that we knew we’d have to fill up front because of guys who graduated last year, but every day they’re getting better and they’re working hard and that’s all you can ask of them.”

“I remember when I was that age and we didn’t have a Port Jeff youth program, so it’s nice to be part of … it’s nice to be able to give back to the community and I’m happy that I’m able to be part of it.”

— Jack Collins

The Royals look to improve on the 5-3 conference season from last year, and have a new weapon in their arsenal to get the job done, according to senior quarterback Jack Collins.

“This year we have athletes like we’ve never had before,” the third-year varsity player said. “We have some new kids who are really good outside. We’ve lost some tonnage from last year’s team, so we’re going to have to work on getting the blocks down, but we got players to do it — we have the size to do it.”

Mark said he also likes what he sees in this year’s lineup.

“We have a lot of skill players — our receivers, running backs, quarterback — we’ve got a good bond so far and a lot of really athletic kids, so I’m looking forward to seeing how many big plays they can make,” he said. “But it’s knowing who to block and when, and knowing our schemes.”

Collins reflected on what it means to be involved with the local youth football players in their formative years.

“It’s very important to involve the younger players [because they] are the ones who keep the program going,” he said. “I remember when I was that age and we didn’t have a Port Jeff youth program, so it’s nice to be part of [it]. It’s nice to be able to give back to the community and I’m happy that I’m able to be part of it.”

The Royals will pick up where they left off as they open their season on the road against Miller Place, the team that ended their season in the playoffs last year. The Sept. 8 matchup has a kickoff time slated for 7 p.m.

Cosci said he is optimistic about Port Jefferson’s chances to go further.

“What I like a lot is our skill positions — they’re very dangerous on the football field,” the head coach said. “Even on defense our linebackers and our secondary, we’re very, very strong and as long as we keep going in that direction we’re going to be a dangerous team. Shoreham is the team to beat — we’ve always had a tough time with them, but we’re not just looking to make the playoffs, we’re looking to make some noise when we get there.”

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By Bill Landon

Although Mother Nature smiled on Port Jefferson Saturday morning during the school’s homecoming day parade, the same could not be said for the football game that followed two hours later. Despite the cold and drizzling rain as gusts of wind spoiled the kicking game for both teams, the Royals (2-2) were able to still show Wyandanch what they’re made of, reigning over the visiting team, 34-8, for a sweet homecoming victory.

Port Jefferson struck first in the Division IV matchup when senior fullback Garret Hiz punched into the end zone for a touchdown eight minutes into the game. Although the ensuing two-point conversion attempt failed, the Royals found themselves with an early lead.

“We came out and gave it everything,” Hiz said. “It was rainy, cold and the field was a mess. It was hard to run out there, but we held our own and we got the win.”

In a game riddled with turnovers, Port Jefferson was on the move again thanks to a fumble recovery by junior outside linebacker John Knapp, which set up the next score. After a long run by Hiz to the 3-yard line, senior quarterback Nick Caltagirone finished the drive. The quarterback also helped score on the 2-point conversion attempt, to help the Royals extend their lead to 14-0 with five minutes left in the half.

Caltagirone and sophomore Jack Collins shared the quarterback duties all afternoon, and like Hiz, Collins was also happy with his team’s performance.

“I thought we played well — our backs just powered through their defense,” Collins said. “The ball was tough to handle, there’s a lot of mud out there and the grass is a lot slipperier than turf.”

Wyandanch coughed the ball up again, and this time, it was the junior linebacker Brian Mark on the recovery as the wind gusted and the rain intensified.

The possession did not lead to another score, but Royals opened the second half looking to put the game away.

Caltagirone got the call on the opening drive, and capped it off by diving into the end zone to make it a three-score game. With a failed conversion attempt, Port Jefferson settled for a 20-0 lead.

The senior quarterback said his team had several miscues, but grew stronger as the game wore on.

“Honestly, I thought we played a little bit sloppy, but overall we kicked it in, especially in the second half,” Caltagirone said. “The conditions were rough, it was a dogfight, it was slick — everybody’s slipping all over the place — but other than that, it was a good game.”

Wyandanch couldn’t get any traction, and turned the ball over yet again. This time, junior linebacker Eddie Park recovered the ball to set up the Royals’ next score.

In the closing minute of the third, with the ball at midfield, Port Jefferson senior running back Michael DiCalogero went to work. When the handoff up the middle went nowhere, DiCalogero bounced it outside and went the distance down the right sideline as he scampered into the end zone. The Royals lost traction, and again failed to convert on the two-point play, as they surged ahead 26-0.

“We wanted to play a clean game — as clean of a game with the elements you have here — but the conditions are definitely more suited for our style of play,” Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said. “We came out in the second half looking to finish the game, so I was proud of the guys for playing hard the whole game and not letting up.”

Two minutes into the final quarter, the Warriors scored when Christian Flowers bulled his way up the middle, broke free from tacklers and found the end zone. Flowers finished it with two more points, as his team trailed 26-8.

With five minutes left, Caltagirone found the end zone for his third touchdown of the afternoon.

Cosci said it has been a frustrating start to the season, after opening with a win to drop two big losses, 23-8 and 34-6, and he looked for Caltagirone to have the kind of game he did.

“This is the first time we’ve seen him play the way he’s capable of playing, and he can carry a team when he plays like that,” Cosci said.

DiCalogero put the icing on the homecoming cake with the two-point conversion, to put the 34-8 victory into the record books.

The Royals will have their hands full on Saturday when they host undefeated Shoreham-Wading River. Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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