Floyd ready to take it to the air
With explosive and record-setting running back Stacey Bedell the focal point of Floyd’s offense last season, quarterback A.J. Otranto rarely got to display his passing chops.
But Bedell is gone, taking his considerable skills to the University of Massachusetts, and for Floyd to repeat as Long Island Class I champion in 2012, Otranto must have a big year.
The rugged senior embraces that challenge.
“You can’t replace Stacey, so I expect to throw the ball more this year,” Otranto said Thursday during the evening practice session. “We have a lot of receivers with speed who can catch the ball. And they’re all seniors.”
The veteran group is led by Vantrell Nash, who caught a touchdown pass from Otranto in the LIC and grabbed two scoring passes in the Suffolk Division I title game. The Colonials also feature Corey Banks, who caught the winning TD pass in Floyd’s 54-47 victory over East Meadow in the LIC, Nick Natale and Jonathan Martinez. Tight end Natale is also a senior with good hands and speed.
“We have a great chemistry and a great understanding of the offense,” Otranto said of his receivers. “We built up that chemistry the last two years and now we’ll get to show what we’ve learned.”
That’s because Floyd’s offense, a mix of spread and power-I, may not feature a breakaway threat this year, putting more of an emphasis on the passing game.
Floyd coach Paul Longo is more than comfortable with that set of circumstances. “A.J. has one of the strongest arms on Long Island,” Longo said. “You can hear the ball hiss when he throws it.”
You can also hear the thump of shoulder pads colliding when Otranto runs, because he is a powerful force with his legs, too. “It’s like having another fullback because he’s such a tough runner,” Longo said. “He can rush for a thousand yards. He can run, he can throw and he’s a great leader. You can’t ask for more from a quarterback.”
But, Longo will ask for more from Otranto. He will ask his quarterback to also play defense, where he is a hard-hitting linebacker who could move to defensive back this season because the Colonials are so deep at linebacker. “I love defense,” Otranto said. “It’s a good balance for me. I’m an aggressive player, but I have to be calm on offense. On defense, I can let it out and just use my natural ability.”
Those abilities, combined with excellent grades, have attracted interest from schools such as Cornell, Columbia and Stony Brook. Otranto hasn’t made up his mind and said that if he had an especially good senior year, he would love to go to West Point and play that level of Division I football.
“My Dad was in the army for four years. I would love to serve my country,” Otranto said.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to be the good soldier for Floyd.