Written by Vinny Messana, email@example.com Thursday, 28 August 2014 00:00
Nobody wants to make excuses, but sometimes when the injury bug hits, it’s impossible to overcome. Mineola Mustangs football head coach Dan Guido, entering his 28th season at helm, knows the injuries were the cause for their first-round defeat at the hands of the West Hempstead Rams last November.
“There was too many injuries on the offensive line last season,” said Guido. “It was supposed to be our strength and it ended up being a weak link by the end of the season.”
Even with those injuries, the Mustangs went 4-4 during the regular season.
This season, the Mustangs are projected to finish third—behind Roosevelt and Locust Valley—in Conference IV, moving from Conference III. Guido believes that optimism is due to their experience.
“We are returning all of our skill position guys from last year—with the exception of Vinny Bieniek,” he said.
Bieniek, the 6-foot-2 quarterback from last season, graduated and moved on to play baseball at SUNY Old Westbury. His play was a major reason the team clinched a playoff spot last year. In their fourth victory of the season, he passed for 183 yards and three touchdowns while adding a touchdown on the ground.
He will be replaced by senior James Gerstner. Despite his relative inexperience under center, Guido is confident that the offense will not skip a beat.
“He’s a smart and quick athlete,” said Guido. “He’s quite a lacrosse player as well.” Gerstner had been the running back last year, but previously played quarterback on the junior varsity team in 2012.
It will be important that he is protected by the offensive line, which Guido believes will be crucial to their success this season. The unit graduated some solid players from 2013, but will be senior-laden.
“The guys have been working hard with the coaches,” said Guido. “Time will tell how it plays out but I think we’ll be okay there. The unit suffered a huge blow last year with a slew of injuries.”
The injury bug originally hit when Anthony Caruso went down with an injury before the season. The 6-foot-4, 290 pound senior was going to be counted on to anchor the o-line, but his absence affected the dynamic of the entire line.
Even without playing his senior season, he was able to parlay the success of his junior season into a scholarship at LIU Post.
“Caruso was easy to run behind,” he said. “But you can’t plan for injuries.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the team will be relying on the experienced unit that will be returning eight starters from last year. Guido believes that will be an improved unit from 2013 that allowed over 30 points four times.
They struggled to defend the run—notably Enrique McFarlane and Bruce Gibbs of West Hempstead, who combined to rush for 275 yards and four TDs.
The team will open up at Hampton Street Stadium on Sept. 13 at 2 p.m. against Valley Stream South.