Hewlett’s football team rolled in to J. Cameron Maiden Field last Saturday and snatched a 28-14 victory over the Glen Cove Big Red, giving new head coach John Palladino the first win of his career.
“We were so focused on just becoming 1-0. We didn't look past our first game,” Palladino said.
The Conference III matchup kicked off with a Hewlett possession where quarterback Matthew Kim delivered a long ball to put the Bulldogs on the doorstep at the 11-yard line. Eventually, Glen Cove’s defense would prevail as a fourth down attempted conversion was stuffed.
The defense, led by only one of two defensive returning starters Gavin Adler, forced a quick three and out where Glen Cove lined up in punt formation. Adler ended the day with 11 tackles and a sack for his efforts. Not even 20 seconds later, wide receiver and return-man Matthew Mannino brought back a punt from around midfield to the house for the first points of the young contest.
“Mannino did a great job on the return. We had a blocking scheme for him and he's a good athlete that made a big play,” Palladino said.
There was no shortage of big plays on the night. On the next drive, the Bulldogs’ opening score was answered by a 70-yard touchdown pass from Glen Cove quarterback Devon Christopher to wide receiver Anthony Rant.
Hewlett found its offensive production through the quarterback and running back tandem of senior Matthew Kim and junior Vinnie Morello. Kim looked poised and calm throughout the course of the game, rushing for 88 yards on 11 carries and throwing for 81 and a touchdown on 4 completed passes.
“Matt (Kim) was a backup quarterback last year and we were very much looking forward to how he would settle into the role of a starter this year,” Palladino said. “He worked extremely hard in the offseason, put some muscle on, grew into the role and is a very coachable kid.”
Morello was another bright spot, slashing through the defense for 106 yards on 19 carries. After hearing praise being thrown his starting running back’s way, Palladino nearly inaudibly chuckled and said: “Morello is a guy that we brought up as a sophomore last year and didn't play any running back. Actually, he didn't play offense. He was a defensive guy. Now, he looks like he’s got real patience, really good vision, and explodes through the hole.”
Only up by a single score with 2:29 left, Hewlett attempted a 32-yard field goal but missed. On the first snap of the ensuing possession, Glen Cove quarterback Joe Grella was intercepted by junior Matt Kadosh, who returned the ball to the 5, setting up Morello to punch in the game sealer.
“We said that our unofficial mascot this year is ‘The Phoenix’, as to say we will rise and rise as one from our play last year,” Glen Cove head coach Pete Kopecky said. “As a small group, the team must come together as one from a minor setback in its first game to bounce back for next week.”