Last season ended in heartbreak for the Fieldston Eagles when they fell to Hackley at home in a contest that decided the championship of the Metropolitan Independent Football League. And now the Eagles enter the 2018 season without a bevy of talented players from that team, such as Josh Godosky, and Pierce and Patrick O’Hagan, who have moved on to college.
So what does longtime Fieldston football coach Gus Ornstein think of his team as it gears up for the season? Let’s just say Ornstein is a glass half-full guy.
“I feel good about things,” Ornstein said. “We have a ton of offensive weapons. I feel good about what we have skill position wise. And the fact that we have Jesse (Cooper-Leary) back for a third year as a starter (at quarterback) is amazing. So I’m excited about that.”
For most teams, losing key players like Godosky and O’Hagan would surely mean a rebuilding year for a program. But that’s not the case with the Eagles who are deep in offensive options as Alexander Thorpe, Ben Rosen-Cappellazzo, Jake Horowitz, Henry Herzog, Gabe Hostin and Ryan Conard form quite the formidable offensive stable.
It’s a prospect that has both Ornstein and Cooper-Leary eager to get this season started.
“Thorpe is back at running back, and he’ll replace Josh and be our main back,” Ornstein said. “Jake Horowitz will be playing a ton as a slot guy/running back. Ben is back at receiver. And then we have guys like Herzog, who we’ll mix in at tight end. Gabe Hostin, who is a real good athlete with some speed, and Ryan Conard played defense for us a ton last year and now we’re working him at receiver.
“So we just have a lot of options with skill guys, and we’re really excited about our ability to spread the ball out.”
Having so many offensive playmates is music to Cooper-Leary’s ears.
“We have a lot of options inside and outside on offense,” Cooper-Leary said. “I also think we have more depth than we’ve had in a while. So I think we have a chance to be really good offensively, and the same thing defensively. It’s all a process, but I think we have a shot to be really good.”
Cooper-Leary also is eager to embrace his new role as senior leader on the team.
“It’s been good to be a leader, but it’s been a bit of an adjustment for me,” Cooper-Leary said. “Last year we had great leaders like Josh and the O’Hagans, all great guys who all knew what they were doing and brought intensity. Now that it’s us as seniors — me, Asher (Raduns-Silverstein) and Thorpe — now the intensity is coming from us, and that was an adjustment a little bit.”
Ornstein, in an effort to spice up the preseason, recently brought in another school to scrimmage, and he liked what he saw — for the most part — from this new version of the Eagles.
“It just gets stale at this point (of training camp) where we’ve just seen each other all the time,” Ornstein said. “That’s why it was good to get Dalton in here for a scrimmage. I do want to see more effort, and I want to see us compete a little more and see more sense of urgency. But overall I like this team.”
Just as is the case over at Riverdale Country School — a league and neighborhood rival — there is excitement at Fieldston as the MIFL will hold conference playoffs for the first time this season.
“We’re super excited about that,” Ornstein said. “In our league it was sort of like (college football) where, if you lose a game early, you’re pretty much done. They would just give (the title) to the team with the best record. Now that there are playoffs and the top four teams make it, it just engages you more, and teams are more involved for a longer part of the season.
“I love the idea of having a playoff system.”
As does Cooper-Leary, as he prepares for his final season at Fieldston.
“Oh man, it’s so exciting,” he said. “When you’re playing high school football, you feel like it’s big time. But if it’s a league where just the best record wins, it’s tough.
“But when you have playoffs, I can only imagine what that atmosphere is going to be like. I’m hoping we’re going to be there, and I think we will be there.”
Fieldston kicks off its 2018 season at home Sept. 7 when the Eagles host King at 4:30 p.m.