By Joseph Wolkin
According to Centereach football coach Adam Barrett, having a 4-4 record isn’t good enough.
The Cougars’ 2015 record placed them in a tie with Half Hollow Hills East for ninth in Division II out of 14 teams. With several key areas to work on, including developing sophomores and juniors from last year’s team, Barrett is hopeful for the team’s 2016 season.
“We have to top our win total from last year,” he said. “Obviously, we want to be better. I think we have the talent and the group that can get us to the playoffs for the first time in a while. We have to get better.”
Centereach missed the playoffs once again in 2015, putting pressure on several returning starters, including incoming senior Shawn McFarland. The wide receiver, who also played on the defensive side of the ball last year, is expected to be a team leader this season.
However, McFarland isn’t the only returning starter Barrett is counting on to carry the team.
Junior running back Alec Kiernan is on the coach’s radar as someone who will stand out in 2016. Standing at 5-feet, 10-inches tall, he continuously defeated opposing rush defenses throughout his sophomore season. Highlight reels show him methodically moving his way through defenders, including an approximately 50-yard rush and another 40-yard one for a touchdown.
“We have a lot of seniors this year,” Barrett said with optimism. “We were a little bit younger last year. I think across the board, a lot of guys have more varsity experience already, so that will help us this year.”
The Cougars will have a first-year starter at quarterback in 2016, with Jay Morwood making the move from junior varsity. According to Barrett, there is a lot of pressure for Morwood to perform early and often.
With 14 seniors on the squad, Barrett expects the team to be stronger this season, but he understands the challenges ahead. The Cougars must defend the ball better after being outscored 184-130 last year, including shutouts at home against Huntington and Half Hollow Hills East, along with an away game at West Islip.
There might be light at the end of the tunnel though, now that there are more student-athletes focusing on the football program at Centereach.
“We’re getting a full-year commitment from these kids now over the last couple of years,” Barrett said. “In the past, it hasn’t been that way. These kids are really putting in the time over the offseason in the weight room and coming to spring ball after playing two to three sports. They have to go in the weight room and stay in shape all year, so that way they’re ready to go as soon as their spring sports are over. We have a year-round commitment to football, and it’s making a difference.”