|JAMES SUOZZO 20 total TDs|
Suozzo goes out strong
At 10, representing the Everett Huskies C team, James Suozzo was front and center for the ESPN cameras, showcasing his rocket right arm.
“They said they had never seen a Pop Warner player throw the ball farther,’’ recalled the 22-year-old Suozzo, a four-year starter who is closing in on virtually every passing record at Merrimack College.
“Strongest arm of any kid I’ve coached,’’ said third-year coach John Perry, whose previous stops as an assistant included Northeastern, Brown, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Hofstra, and his alma mater, New Hampshire.
Even at the youth level, though, coaches put in plays to capitalize on Suozzo’s ability to tuck the ball under and scoot.
To him, run or pass, it was all about the end result.
“Just doing everything I can to make sure we come out on top,’’ said the sturdy (6 feet 3 inches, 215 pounds) quarterback.
Whether he was piloting Everett High to a Division 1 Super Bowl in 2006, leading Bridgton Academy to an 8-1 mark the following season, or directing Merrimack to a Northeast-10 Conference title as a sophomore, it was always about the wins.
Not the conference MVP honors as a sophomore, or his NE-10 Offensive Player of the Year award a year ago when his numbers (17 TDs passing, 14 rushing) were staggering. And if the Warriors are better served in the long term having junior Joe Clancy rotating in for a few snaps every game this season, Suozzo, selflessly, has taken a breather on the sideline.
This afternoon, however, he can be a little selfish.
In his last home game donning Warrior blue, Suozzo has an opportunity to carry Merrimack (5-2, 4-1) past New Haven (7-1, 5-0) and earn a share of the conference lead.
“We will utilize him every way we can, he has always risen to the occasion,’’ said Murphy, emphasizing “every.’’
And that is a concern for the Chargers.
“I never mind a quarterback that can throw, or a quarterback that can run, but when they can do both, that causes you a lot of problems,’’ said New Haven coach Pete Rossomando. “The toughest thing is trying to contain him.’’
According to All-America senior linebacker Shawn Loiseau, “[Suozzo] can clearly just take over a game, single-handedly, and I have never been able to say that about any teammate since I was 7 years old.’’
Last Oct. 23, New Haven escaped with a 27-25 thriller, despite Suozzo’s 314-yard passing, three-TD rushing performance.
“There was a momentum swing in the fourth quarter,’’ he said, summing up an opportunity lost.
“They are fast, we have to execute,’’ he added. “I have to perform, the line has to be ready to go.’’
With Suozzo (11 TDs passing, 9 rushing) at the trigger of the spread, and weapons such as junior Isaiah Voegeli (40 catches, 11 touchdowns) and junior Jimon Hill (5.4 yards per carry), the Warriors have the NE-10’s most prolific offense (42.9 points per game).
New Haven (38.3 points per game) has an outstanding leader of its own in 6-4 junior Ryan Osiecki (21 TD passes), who paces the NE-10 in passing efficiency (169.03).
“There’s not much that he can’t do,’’ said Rossomando, noting that Osiecki can dunk a basketball, and has homered off pitchers on the Chargers baseball team.
Meanwhile, the Warriors want the ball in the hands of Suozzo with the game on the line.
“Just a great competitor, and all he cares about is winning,’’ said Murphy.
“Sadly, this our last home game, but we have an opportunity for the No. 1 spot, a great honor,’’ said Suozzo. “Hopefully, we get a chance to make the playoffs, and play our best. We have a great home record [4-0]. And we want to keep it that way.’’
Craig Larson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.