By Sophia Ricco
Half Hollow Hills West football team will go for it all at the Long Island championship this weekend following a 21-10 win over Westhampton in the Suffolk County title game.
The team will bring an 11-1 record to the Long Island Class III Championship game against the Nassau champs from Plainedge High School on Nov. 24, 4:30 p.m. at Hofstra University. The Colts have had their eye on this game all season long, their coach said, but always kept their focus on the present.
“You never think about being there, you just focus on the process,” assistant coach, Chris Blumenstetter said. “You don’t climb a ladder by grabbing at the top, you go rung by rung, and that’s how you get to the top. You don’t look ahead and take it week by week.”
Getting ready for the big game, the team has implemented the same routine they have gone through every week: studying plays and preparing on and off the field.
“Our preparation doesn’t change based on the opponent because it’s about the process,” Blumenstetter said. “We’re confident in our preparation process, regardless who is on the other side.”
The coach credits the team’s success this season to the players buying into the culture and system head coach Kyle Madden and his staff have preached.
“You can’t function as a unit without a basis of love and trust with each other… We’re really seeing the benefits of a group that is getting exponentially better on a daily basis,” Blumenstetter said.
The staff has been relentless in sticking with their coaching system, no matter the circumstances and it has paid off. Players put dollar signs on the top of their helmets in the second week of playoffs to remind them of the ultimate goal.
It’s a reminder that “eventually when all of this sinks in and the kids buy in, we will reap very big rewards,” Blumenstetter said.
The team is led by captains Jake Cetta, Michael Carubia, Keith Slaughter, Justin Brown and Joey Venezia, who were chosen to lead the team during the offseason by assistant coach, Rich Pryhocki. Even in the pre-season, it was clear the boys could lead the team to victory, said Blumstetter. Senior quarterback and safety Gerald Filardi has been one of the most consistent leaders for the Colts.
Senior linebacker Michael Smith has worked harder to become stronger. This season, he has seen major reward for his commitment and moved into the role of defensive leader on the team with the number one defense in Suffolk County.
“They just want to keep playing together,” Blumenstetter said. “This is a special group who loves each other.”
Many of the team members have played with each other since childhood, but those who are newer have still been welcomed into the team as family.
“When you spend more time with each other than you do with your own family, then it really just clicks,” Blumenstetter said. “Whether it’s the team breaking out into a dance in the middle of practice or them having team dinners together on Fridays.”
The county championship was Hills West’s fifth consecutive county title appearance, and a repeats of last year’s matchup against Westhampton.
“It’s a whole new year and new circumstances,” Blumenstetter said. “Last year has no bearing on this year and every week is a new challenge, regardless of what happened in the past.”
The Colts will play their final game together at the Long Island Class III Championship on Nov. 24.
“I just hope the boys can reflect on four great months that they’ve had with friends they’ll have forever, coaches that’ll love them forever and can look back on their career and not regret a single thing,” Blumenstetter said.