Ward Melville Patriots Football
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Green.  Green field, green uniforms, even the coaches were wearing green – and it created the greenhouse effect.  
It was only preseason practice, but there was an authentic, fresh energy on the Ward Melville football field and it was re-radiated in all directions.  Just as the athletes have gained seniority throughout the years; the previous assistant coach, Rob Neugebauer, has taken rank as head coach this year.  Everyone involved in the program is excited and prepared.  It could be the Patriots time to shine.
Coach Neugebauer founded his love for the game as a Sayville Golden Flash, but joined the Ward Melville green and gold last year as a coach.  After graduating from high school, he played for C.W. Post and became the assistant coach at the university after he graduated college.  After three years coaching a Division III college, he took a job at Longwood and has now settled in at Ward Melville.  
He is joined by offensive coordinator Mike Hoppey, running back and line back coach Ed Munoz and offensive line coach Chris Pugliese.  This seasoned team of coaches has helped develop the skills of their tops players.  Look out for Pat O’hae their senior quarterback, Zach Zannone, senior running back and Mike Corrie, senior defenseman.
“It was a smooth transition since Coach Neugebauer was our assistant last year,” said O’hae.  “We already feel committed and confident about this year; it is great to feel like we are starting something new.”
Although the Patriots ended last season with a record of 2-6, the coaching staff and new fitness center at the school have brought life to the program.  With no attempt to reinvent the wheel, the team will rely on their hard work and high energy to start the season strong.  The work ethic that was displayed during preseason made it obvious that the players are dedicated and certain of getting wins.
The team was captain-less as preseason came to a close and coach Neugebauer said, “I want the players to know, just because someone is not named captain does not mean that their job as a leader comes to an end.”    
The players bonded and built team morale by putting together a car wash and having two team barbeques over the summer.  They also met for training to jumpstart the new program.
“We have been in the weight room four times a week with the staff, said Zannone. “Our first game is away at Commack on the first day of school [September 7th].  It will set the tone for the season.”
The Patriots are known for their success in lacrosse and the supportive town has created a large, spirited fan base.  Many of the football athletes finished their lacrosse season in the spring, used the gym to stay in shape over the summer, and now hope to use their confidence and agility on the football field this fall.
The number of athletes participating in football grew exponentially this year.  Although there may be a problem getting the ball to every kid on the team, each athlete will play their own unique and crucial part in this season’s experience.
The program now has a website for parents and fans to help build a following for football.  This season’s schedule and roster are available and game changes and players of the week will be readily updated throughout the season.
“Every game is important and my philosophy is that ‘no game is more important than the one we are playing right now’,” said Coach Neugebauer.  “We will take it one game at a time.”
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