IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- Eric Palese and Jon Cofre realized immediately that the Irvington High School football program was taking a major step in a positive direction going into the 2011 season.
Irvington won seven consecutive games and advanced to the Section 1 Class B Football Championship semifinals under first-year coach Mike Oliva. Now, the senior tandem and their teammates are planning on building on the foundation laid in 2011.
Irvington returned to the football field on Friday, as the Section 1 high-school football season opened with the first day of practice. Irvington's first game will open the season hosting Edgemont High School, Sept. 8., 1:30 p.m.
“I’ve been waiting for football to start, all year,” said the 6-foot, 220-pound Palese, who will start at center and linebacker. “We have a new group of guys coming in but we’re hoping to definitely go further this year.”
Irvington lost its season-opener, to Briarcliff High School, in 2011, then ran off seven consecutive wins before Our Lady of Lourdes High School, Poughkeepsie, trimmed the Bulldogs by one point in a sectional semifinal. It was a stinging loss, but Cofre termed the 2011 season successful.
Irvington players spent the offseason in the weight room, based on the team’s success last year, in preparation for the 2012 season.
“You could see that everyone wanted to go harder,” said the 6-2, 190-pound Cofre, who will start at tight end and defensive end. “We were preparing ourselves mentally and physically to give 110 percent this season.”
Palese, who will be a three-year starter, and Cofre, who will be a second-year starter, will be two of Irvington’s impact players. Junior Anthony DiNardo will join Palese on the offensive line. Senior fullback Hunter Gizzi will be a major factor on offense and in the defensive secondary. Dillon Darrigo, who missed the second half of 2011 with an injury, returns at quarterback and Shoran Tamura, who stepped in for Darrigo, moves back to wide receiver.
Cofre and Palese agreed that Irvington’s first practice session of the new season was much more advanced as opposed to day one last year. This led to a more polished practice.
“Last year Coach Oliva was new and we didn’t know what to expect, at first,” Cofre said. “We just feel much more comfortable this year. Our offense was crisp. We were all into it mentally and physically.”
Now that Irvington has tasted success, the Bulldogs want to keep the program moving forward.
“We definitely want to achieve some higher goals,” Palese said. “We have some tougher teams on the schedule this year, which means we will have to work harder. As Coach Oliva said, we are going to take it one game at a time.”