WEST POINT – Seven o’clock in the morning, late February, snow-covered practice field. Such is life for Army during spring football practice.
“It’s always good to get back on the field, especially after that kind of loss [to Navy],” fullback Larry Dixon said. “All you want to do is get back on the field and get better. Just 184 days until [the season opener against] Morgan State!”
Yes, the Black Knights are counting already. And while the next step for Army’s record-setting quarterback Trent Steelman is his post-graduate military assignment, the team’s triple-option offense will remain. And during the individual position-drills portion of the workout, Army’s quarterbacks, fullbacks and running backs went through a series of handoffs and pitches. The quarterbacks also threw a series of passes to the wide receivers. Included was an impressive one-handed catch by Mike Parros.
Three plays stood out during seven-on-seven drills. Quarterback A.J. Schurr hit wide receiver Patrick Laird for a 40-yard touchdown. Gino DeBartolo made a pass break-up from his linebacker position. And running back Trenton Turrentine came up with a good reception out of the backfield. The likely backups to Schurr – Angel Santiago and Cody Jackson – also worked with the first unit.
“I think it’s working fine,” Dixon said of working with the new quarterbacks. “We got a lot of reps during [last] summer, and we’re getting a lot of reps now. It’s a lot different because we had a four-year starting quarterback, but we have a lot of talented guys ready to step up. I just want to continue to get better at the fundamentals. We always go back to that because that’s really what leads to our success. We are also looking to form good team cohesion. We lost a lot of key seniors last year, but now we have a new group of guys, and we’re starting to come together.”
Senior diver Chris Nguyen and freshman swimmer Molly Mucciarone were both selected to the All-Patriot League first team; 11 other Black Knights were named to the all-conference second team.
The Army men placed nine on the second unit, the highest number of Black Knights to earn a spot on that team since the Patriot League began handing out second-team honors in 2004. The 10 named to all-conference tied the Army record, set in 1997.
Senior Ayman Andrews earned his third career All-Patriot League award with his selection to the second team. Sophomore Will Viana and Zachary Woods were both selected to the all-conference second team for the second straight year. Joining those three on the second unit were seniors Chad Drake and Dan Foky, sophomore Michael Dustin and freshmen Sam Mo, Chris Szekely and Richard Xue.
Grace Hamilton and Natalie Beale joined Mucciarone on the All-Patriot League team, as both were named to the second team.
Nguyen, who was named Patriot League Diver of the Meet for the third straight season, was placed on the all-conference first team for the fourth straight year. He became the second Black Knight to make first team four times, joining Jake Mentele, a 2008 graduate.
Nguyen is just the 10th Patriot League student-athlete to be named to the first team four times and became just the third diver in conference history to sweep both boards in three straight championship meets. He finished first in the one-meter (359.10 points) and three-meter events (381.25). He completely dominated the competition, winning the one-meter event by more than 42 points; his margin in the three-meter event was more than 78 points.
Mucciarone, who helped set three school records and three freshman records over the three-day meet, was named to the first team by virtue of winning the 50-yard freestyle. She also broke the school record in the 100-yard butterfly, placing second overall with a time of 54.88. Her sixth-place finish in the 100-yard freestyle in a time of 51.16 was an Army freshman record, and the second-fastest time in school history.
Mucciarone also swam on Army’s 200-yard freestyle-relay team that won gold with a school-record time of 1:33.00. It was the Black Knights’ first win in any relay at the Patriot League Championships since 2001. She also helped Army to fourth-place finishes in the 200-yard medley relay, 400-yard medley relay and 400-yard freestyle relay.