This is the first in a series of blogs leading up to Wayne Hills High School’s big football game on Oct. 24, at home, against Paramus. A win could move the Patriots into the playoffs for a 20th straight year, while a setback most likely eliminates it from post-season consideration.
During the week, we’ll have a series of blogs, highlighting a lot of work, behind the scenes, of the proud program in Wayne, as the Patriots gear for a visit from the Spartans.
Part 1, Coaches Meeting, Oct. 20. 7 p.m.
From September through early December, Monday nights have long been a tradition of coaches meetings in the head coaches office at Wayne Hills.
Chris Olsen held the head coaches job from 1987-2012, and during that tenure, an unprecedented level of success surrounded the program. There were multiple appearances in the state sectional finals, the legendary 55-game winning streak from 2004-2009, and eight state championships from 2002-2011,
Olsen retired following the 2012 season and handed the reigns to long-time assistant, Wayne Demikoff. While the personalities of Olsen and Demikoff are different, the atmosphere is pretty much the same at these Monday meetings during the previous and current tenures.
Demikoff sits at the main desk, eating a sandwich from the local deli. (Gone are the days of the catered Monday night meals from a nearby catering hall, supervised by the late, great, Jon Goldstein). The other coaches, John Jacob, Anthony Vitale, Mike Kelly, Jermain Johnson, Pat Cosgrove, Matthew Bogert, Eric Magrini, Mike Zaccone, Chris Dowling, Anthony Giampapa and Peter Staluppi sit around a large conference room table in the office, as well as some comfortable chairs adjacent to the conference table.
The meeting generally starts around 7:15 p.m., after the players complete a weight training session. Dowling brings in the traditional large coffee order from the local Dunkin’ Donuts. Demikoff is last to arrive, as he was supervising the weight room training.
“You won’t believe how fired up (Justin) Hogan was in the weight room,” paraphrased Demikoff with a laugh. “He was (ticked) that (one of the players) wasn’t working hard enough in the room, and he let the kid know. It was classic. ”
Hogan’s intensity is evident of what the players hope to accomplish at practice this week. The kids all read the websites and follow the all important power points. They know that a loss pretty much ends its hopes of competing for a state championship.
The meeting always starts with Demikoff going over the roster of the upcoming opponent with Cosgrove, the longest-termed coach on the staff. Demikoff will ask a position and Cosgrove replies with the player’s jersey number, height and weight.
While the two discuss that, the other coaches eat, make fun of each other and start talking about Paramus. The brunt of the jokes tonight are directed to Staluppi, who deflects the jib jabs pretty well.
Magrini, a Hills grad and former player, has returned as a coach this year and he fits right in. He gets the usual ribbing from the coaches about his work as a driving instructor.
Demikoff finally gets some semblance of order in the room. While the banter is enjoyable, the staff knows the meeting will last at least four hours, and that there’s no question how tough the assignment will be this week.
“They’re good,” said Jacob of Paramus, and that’s saying something, since Jacob throws compliments around like manhole covers. “They go after it.”
Among the early problems at the meeting is the overhead projector isn’t working. A few phone calls results in Bob Garrone, the father of Hills’ running back Chris Garrone, arriving with an extension cord. It was one of those ‘how many people does it take to screw in a light bulb’ scenario, but in the end, the projector gets the necessary juice and the film work is on.
Paramus has beaten Hills the past two seasons, in close games. Two years ago, the Patriots led at Paramus in week nine, 17-16, having rallied from an early 14-0 deficit on the week after Hurricane Sandy. Paramus would score a late TD and win, 24-17.
Last year, Paramus won in Wayne, 14-10, as Hills’ final rally ended with a key illegal motion penalty. Coming into this game, the 5-1 Spartans will be a slight favorite over the 3-3 Patriots.
Demikoff watches video of last year’s game, since a number of players on Paramus’ roster were key parts of that game, not to mention the 2012 contest.
“They don’t make many mistakes,” Demikoff said, as the meeting heads to 11 p.m. “We gotta get out of here, before the janitors throw us out. Let’s go, tomorrow is another day.”