Father Knows Best ! Andrea Mondadori announces the hiring of a new softball coach at West Essex

Mondo !

That’s the general salute when one sees the incomparable West Essex softball coach, Andrea Mondadori-Llauget. Next spring, when you say Mondo, more than person on her coaching staff may turn their head, now that Andrea has announced the hiring of none other than her legendary dad, Steve Mondadori to the staff.

thAndrea Mondadori has announced that her dad, Steve, will be on the West Essex coaching staff in 2016.

Steve enjoyed a tremendous high school coaching career, at Emerson High and later St. Mary of Rutherford, before ‘retiring’ from coaching. If you know Steve, the word retirement doesn’t really apply to him, as he’s constantly working on building something, or spending time with his family.

But Andrea admitted being a little surprised when Steve approached her about a return to coaching.

“He asked about being a volunteer assistant with our team,” said Andrea. “And, to be honest, I was shocked, but obviously elated.”

Mondo-1024x682Steve Mondadori will be wearing red and black again this year, but instead of Emerson Boro, it will be West Essex colors.

For years, Steve and Andrea’s teams would oppose each other in the EDSAF & Emerson Softball Benefit Tournament, or the ‘Mondo Bowl’, as I’ve often called it.

To be serious, the tourney benefits Ari Solimando, a 2004 Emerson High graduate and former catcher for Steve, who was paralyzed in an accident back in 2003.

The tournament, generally held in mid to late April, is still a thriving success, even though Steve had retired from coaching three years ago. Andrea’s West Essex team continues to play in it, and Steve and his family are always front and center in making the event a big-time success.

“I was 6-2 against him,” Andrea said, with a laugh. “Our teams started playing each other in the tournament in 2005. It’s always been a lot of fun. Now, we’ll get to coach together.”

Andrea expects her dad to help the Knights with the short game of softball, as well as base running.

West Essex is returning a number of key players from last year’s club, which advanced to the Essex County Tournament championship game. A majority of the 2016 roster should be underclassmen, as well.

“He’ll be a great asset to our staff, with his experience, and obviously, my knowing the kind of coach, and man, that he is,” said Mondadori. “I think our kids will enjoy playing for him, and learning the game from his prospective.”

 

 

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By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football: Parade details beginning to take shape for Mayor’s Cup game on Nov. 6

TUESDAY, OCT. 27: I call him the ‘Dean of Football Operations’ at Wayne Hills High. And Tony Giampapa is that, and probably much more.

Giampapa, a successful businessman, puts more than his fair share of time and effort into keeping the tradition of great football alive and well at Hills.

Sitting in his office today, he was excited to talk about a parade of Hills fans that will walk into Wayne Valley on Friday, Nov. 6 for the big cross-town football game.

The 2015 Wayne Hills at Wayne Valley game will also be known as the Mayor’s Cup. Wayne Mayor Christopher P. Vergano will toss the coin prior to the kickoff.

As far as the parade of fans, Giampapa explained the origin.

“Coach (Wayne) Demikoff got the idea after he and (former Hills assistant coach) Claudio Canonaco went to the Phillipsburg-Easton football game one year,” Tony said. “That’s obviously a huge game (every Thanksgiving) and draws big crowds. They do a march similar to what we have in mind for this year.”

The Phillipsburg-Easton football rivalry dates back over 100 years. Approximately 15,000 fans attend the game on Thanksgiving Day, at Lafayette College.

“It was incredible,” recalled Demikoff of attending the game in Pennsylvania. “The fans have been marching to that game forever. It’s something we’d like to do, starting this year. And if the Wayne Valley fans want to do the same next year, when we play at Hills, that’s great, too. It will probably take some time to get the momentum rolling, but I think it could be fun.”

The details are still being ironed out, as to where the fans will begin their march. The original thought was to walk from Hills to Valley, but that’s a 4 1/2 mile jaunt and would cause major traffic jams, especially on a Friday night. It looks like now, the march will from a site somewhat close to Wayne Valley, where fans can park and then walk over to the game.

Along with the fans, Giampapa expects the Hills cheerleaders and band to participate in the parade to the field at Wayne Valley. He’s also hoping to add some bagpipes to the event.

And the Patriots will be selling tee-shirts, as a way to raise funds for the Wounded Warriors.

1917This is what the front and back of the tee-shirts will look like. There

“We think it would be something special to honor the Warriors,” said Giampapa. “The shirts are $10.00 each, and if you wear it to the game, that’s your ticket for admission.”

Admission to the game is $3.00, and the remaining proceeds for each shirt that’s purchased, will go toward the Wounded Warriors project. The shirts should be available for purchase later this week. I’ll have exact details, as soon as they’re available.

wwSome of the proceeds of the tee shirt sale at Wayne Hills will go toward the Wounded Warrior Project.

Giampapa also said that the freshman football game, between Hills and Valley, is set for Wednesday, Nov. 4, at Hills.

“It will be a 7 p.m. kickoff,” said Giampapa. “Both teams are undefeated, so we’re expecting a big crowd. We’ll have music and the scoreboard going, similar to a varsity game. It will be a nice buildup to the varsity game two days later.”

Of course, I’ll have much more on the freshman and varsity game, with stories of previous matchups, interviews with players and coaches, the exact details of the parade, more on the Mayor’s Cup, and a few surprises as Nov. 6 nears.

Tick, tick, tick….

 

By mike051893

10 days ’till Wayne Valley: Joe Kenny’s new spikes; Short, but effective practices; Conference championship on the line

TUESDAY, OCT. 27: The buildup for the Wayne Hills at Wayne Valley football game on Nov. 6 has been steadily increasing for a few weeks. But for Wayne Hills, the focus is one day at a time.

On paper, it will be 6-2 Wayne Hills visiting what should be an 8-0 Wayne Valley team, assuming the undefeated Indians defeat winless Demarest this Friday night. Next week’s game marks the final week of the regular season, and while the game has no affect on playoff positioning, there’s plenty at stake.

A Big North Conference championship goes to the winner, as both teams are unbeaten within its division.

Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff is dealing with something new this season, a bye week. It means a chance to get work in, without a game this coming Friday night. Demikoff is handling the week off carefully. The Patriots had shorter practices from Monday-Wednesday of this week, mixing in offense, defense, lifting in the weight room and plenty of conditioning.

This Thursday, the coach plans to begin full preparation for Valley, but will give the team the weekend off. By Monday, Nov. 2, it will be full force toward a game that has so many dynamics.

“Wayne Valley will probably be 8-0 when we play them,” Demikoff reminded his team. “It’s not easy to go undefeated, but they’ve done that. When you win that many in a row, the confidence soars. That makes for a difficult opponent, for sure.”

For the most part, the Patriots are healthy heading into the bye week. Lineman Matt Sportelli injured his knee in the Paramus game, but he’s confident he’ll be practicing later this week, after being fitted for a brace.

“I’ll be fine, no worries,” Sportelli assured Demikoff on Tuesday.

Joe Kenny’s new football spikes have impressed the Czar, Walt Johnson, who tells Kenny he can get a new pair of shoes every week, if he so desires.

Practices are going well, with a focus on a specific part of the game. Johnson and Mike Zaccone lead a special teams drill, while offensive coordinator John Jacob barks out instructions. Demikoff and defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson are working on different defensive schemes.

Assistant coach and former Patriot Erik Magrini has been busier than usual. The coach and his significant other welcomed a healthy baby girl, named Presley late last week. Presley weighed in at 7 pounds, 15 ounces. The baby and her mom are already home.

“The baby is great,” said Erik. “It’s been quite an experience.”

The normal Monday night coaches meeting was scaled back a little this week, but the coaches are still putting in extra time, preparing for Wayne Valley’s complex offensive formations and dangerous passing attack. There’s already been a lot of film work.

Demikoff noted that assistant coach Chris Dowling didn’t bring the usual donuts and coffee to the meeting, even with this blog running for the next two weeks.

There will be lots to talk about, beginning with a game day parade and tee-shirt sales coming up, along with some memories of previous Hills-Valley football games, from Hills coaches and former players.

Stay tuned…

Tick, tick, tick…

 

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football: 13 days until Wayne Valley, Film Review of Paramus and Modak has a highlight for the grandchildren; ‘Sport’ knee injury; Askew steps up in win over Spartans

SATURDAY OCT. 24, 10 a.m. :Wayne Hills had won a key road game at Paramus on Oct. 23, beating the Spartans, 28-7, despite the worst officiating I’ve seen in some 30 years.

The officials assigned to the game were AWFUL. To say they stunk was an understatement. I’ll have more on those clowns in an upcoming blog.

Anyway, back to the important stuff, Hills overcame the incompetent officials with a good running game, led by junior tailback Luca Grave, who was once again dominant, with another 100 plus rushing game. Grave is closing in on 1,000 yards rushing for the season. He was also a force on defense, while Vincent LoVerde returned an interception for a score.

Specials Team & Coaches2Luca Grave is an outstanding player for Wayne Hills, on both sides of the ball. (Photos courtesy of Albina Sportelli).

While the win improved Wayne Hills’ record to 6-2 and assured the Patriots a playoff berth, head coach Wayne Demikoff didn’t feel his team played anywhere near to its potential.

“You have the talent to win a state championship,” he said to the players after the Paramus game and again this morning during, and after the film review of the Paramus game.

With a bye week, the focus is now on the regular season finale, at Wayne Valley, on Nov. 6. Wayne Valley had a huge win on Oct. 23, rallying from 25-7 down to edge Lakeland, 29-25. The win improved the Indians’ record to 7-0. Valley will be a prohibitive favorite to improve to 8-0 when it visits Demarest on Friday night, which then sets the stage for what Demikoff called an “electric” setting at Valley, on Nov. 6.

“Pressure comes with life,” Demikoff reminded his team. “And there will be pressure when we go there. As you continue in your life, success will come with how you deal with pressure. Wayne Valley will be packed on Nov. 6.  It’s going to be something special. Two playoff-bound teams. If that’s not enough to get you fired up, nothing will.”

The film session goes pretty well. Offensive coordinator John Jacob starts with a breakdown of the offensive successes and miscues. ‘Jakes’ will run the gamut of emotions, from “good job, Dude”, to “are you kidding me?” to “accountability is everything.” Jacob has an uncanny ability to break someone down, then build them up, sometimes within three sentences.

Line coach Anthony Vitale, when he’s not talking about a new dish he’s cooked in a crock pot, is as analytical as they come when it comes to blocking schemes. And he’s in no mood for excuses when he sees a mistake.

“We practiced that all week, Dude,” Vitale barks at a lineman, after seeing a mistake. “No excuses, just results.”

Demikoff and defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson are next, and they also run the gamut. Demikoff mixes in sarcasm as good as any coach I’ve ever seen. On one play, Demikoff’s two young sons, Tyler and Troy, are playing on the sidelines and within camera view. Both kids seem to roll over like bowling pins and when Jacob asks who hit who, Demikoff replies “No one. They just both feel down.” The film affirms this and the entire room roars with laughter.

On another play, sophomore lineman Jason Modak makes a nice play on defense. “Wow, Modak, look at you,” paraphrases Demikoff. “This is a play that you can show the grandchildren one day.” Laughter fills the room again.

 

Specials Team & Coaches_2Jason Modak is a sophomore lineman who is becoming a big part of Wayne Hills’ good season.

Demikoff also notes some good work by Leyshawn Askew and Matt Varone, on defense. Askew, the tallest player on the team, is becoming a solid lineman on defense. He batted down a couple of passes against Paramus and created havoc at the line. Varone, a fire plug, was also effective and filled in well when Matt Sportelli went down late in the game with a knee injury.

Sportelli is at today’s film session. He was limping slightly, but very confident that he’ll be okay. The witty Demikoff will ask him on one play if he was a roller skater in a previous life, after watching ‘Sport’ make a play on defense prior to getting hurt. “You look like one of those skinny guys with the tight shirt, roller skating, on that play,” said Demikoff.

It was all in good fun. Sportelli is one of the most valuable players on the roster. He’s considered one of the best long snappers in the conference and his work on the line has been outstanding.

On other plays, Demikoff is not so funny, noting a lapse on a coverage, or a missed tackle, by a certain player, or players. But for the most part, the reviews are good.

With a bye week, Demikoff wants to give the kids a bit of a break from the usual 2 1/2 to 3 hour practices. The team will have lighter workouts early this week, before getting into full Wayne Valley mode late this week. which then leads to a full week of preparation.

“You have at least two more games left,” said Demikoff, referring to Wayne Valley and then at least one playoff game. “We want to have four more games to play (with the last one at MetLife Stadium in early December for a state championship). They’re all big games now. There are no more easy ones on the schedule. Think of all the hard work you’ve put in since January. Do you want it to end in two weeks, or in early December? For the seniors, this may be the last time you play football. You’ve been doing it since the fifth, or sixth grade. Where do you want it to end?”

It’s about 12:20 p.m. when the players file out of the classroom. Demikoff’s day is just beginning, however. He’ll go to his office at Wayne Hills and begin breaking down film of Wayne Valley.

Johnson says he’ll talk to Demikoff later. But about a minute later, Jermain says, “hey Wayne, I’m coming with you. Let’s start going over that film.”

The life of a coach, especially with Wayne Valley on the schedule.

Tick, tick, tick…

 

 

 

By mike051893

Getting ready for the big Wayne Hills-Wayne Valley football game

Following tonight’s expected tough game at Paramus, the Wayne Hills football team will get an unusual bye week for next weekend. After that, the final regular season game looms at Wayne Valley, on Friday night, Nov. 6.

This year’s contest promises to have as much drama as the 1991 and 2007 state championship games between the rivals, whose schools are separated by four miles. There’s a good chance Wayne Valley will enter the contest undefeated while Hills, if it defeats Paramus today, will be 6-2. Both schools are heading to the NJSIAA playoffs, as well.

Starting this Saturday, I’ll be doing some blogs as Wayne Hills enters its bye week. While the team will have a week off from playing, there won’t be much down time as the Patriots begin film work and practicing for the Indians.

Then, the following week, I’ll be blogging daily from Hills, as the preparation for Nov. 6 really amps up. There will be a lot of interviews with players and coaches, and it promises to be some fun stuff, too, such as coaches Anthony Vitale and Mike Kelly’s daily crock pot updates, the always entertaining John Jacob adding his spin to the rivalry and, of course, words of wisdom from the ‘Czar’, Walt Johnson, and some other entertaining stories by the ‘Dean of Football Stats’, Pat Cosgrove.

I’ll also look back on that epic 1991 final, which was played at Wayne Valley High before some 15,000 fans. There are some who already feel that this year’s game could be a huge attendance night at Valley, albeit probably not the level of ’91.

Stay tuned for the blogs, starting this weekend, as the Patriots watch film of their game against Paramus. sport‘Sport’..Matt Sportelli and his teammates will be gearing for the big game at Wayne Valley on Nov. 6.

hillsThe Wayne Hills seniors will be fired up to play Wayne Valley.

 

 

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Diary, Day 5: Demikoff challenges his team–Who Will Be The Next Chris Garrone? Athletic Trainer Scarpa has the ‘Fabulous Kicks’; Game Time just 24 hours away

Over the next 24 hours, I’ll be blogging updates on the Wayne Hills football team, as it prepares to play a HUGE game against arch rival Ramapo on Friday, Oct. 9, in Wayne. The 4-1 Patriots are seeking to get back on the winning track after losing a tough game on Oct. 2 to Pascack Valley, 23-20. Ramapo will be a tough assignment. The Raiders will come to town with a 3-1 mark. In it’s three victories, head coach Drew Gibbs’ team has averaged 45 points a game. The lone setback was a 32-28 loss to undefeated Old Tappan.

Days 1=4 of the Diary are up and posted on the blog, under the archives for October, 2015. Check them out, in case you haven’t tuned in yet.

THURSDAY, OCT. 8: The message has resonated all week. This was not the usual preparation for a Big North game. This has been Ramapo Week.

There’s a reason why Wayne Hills and Ramapo have put together a tremendous rivalry for over two decades. Both programs are solid and well coached. Championships are considered the goal in Franklin Lakes and Wayne. On more than one occasion, they’ve met for a state title.

There’s not rebuilding with these teams,  just reloading.

So when they meet on the gridiron , expect a battle, regardless of the records. And this year, the records are good. Hills is 4-1, Ramapo, 3-1.

Head coach Wayne Demikoff had been reminding his team all week long, that when it comes to a game like Ramapo, a player that perhaps wasn’t on the forefront, sometimes steps up and plays the game of his career.

“Last year, it was Chris Garrone,” said Demikoff, reminding his team that Garrone, a senior last fall, rushed for 234 yards on an incredible 43 carries, at Ramapo, as Hills won a thriller, 22-21. “Who will be this year’s Chris Garrone? Who steps up and plays the game of his life tomorrow?”

garroneChris Garrone, here carrying the ball, was a hard-nosed running back for Wayne Hills. He had a marvelous game against Ramapo in 2014 and graduated high school last spring.

Practice on the day before the game was good, but not great. The players were loose. The scout team did its share of taunting the starters during a two-minute drill and seemed to revel in stopping the first unit on a drive.

Assistant coach Pat Cosgrove is at practice, before he heads over to Franklin Lakes to see the Hills freshman play Ramapo in a battle of unbeatens. (For the record, Hills won a thriller, 27-26. Ironically, 10 years ago, the Hills varsity defeated Ramapo by the same score).

There was the usual fun among the coaches. Assistant coach Walt Johnson noticed a nice pair of sneakers on fellow assistant Erik Magrini, and decided it was to have some fun with Magrini, who is an expectant father.

“Nice shoes,” Johnson, the Czar of the special teams, said. “I hope that money didn’t go in place of taking care of the new baby?

“Have you started a college fund yet?

“I noticed you have a nice ($400.00) hair cut. Where’d that come from?”

Magrini takes it all in stride, reverting to his ‘Just here to save the program, Babe’, line.

As practice starts to wind down, ATHLETIC TRAINER Corinne Scarpa arrives, wearing an equally pair of nice ‘kicks’ (or sneakers), comparable to Magrini’s.

csAn example of Scarpa’s sneakers.

csScarpa on duty.

“Nike, World Cup,” said the even-keeled Scarpa of her snazzy footwear, as Magrini takes note of the shoes and nods in the affirmative.

Back to on-the-field stuff, the coaches had some good news in that junior tailback Luca Grave, who hurt his knee two weeks ago and missed last week’s game at Pascack Valley, has been practicing well and was listed as hopeful of playing against Ramapo.

Scarpa checks with Grave after practice, and when he says he feels good, she responds “fabulous”.

Line coach Anthony Vitale growls at me that there’s too much references to food, on his part, in this week’s blogs and not enough emphasis on his vast coaching skills. (To be completely candid, Vitale is as good as they get when it comes to coaching linemen).

Demikoff hurries off to Back to School Night at Wayne Hills High while most of the other coaches (Magrini, John Jacob, Vitale, Johnson and Mike Kelly), sit in the office and reminisce about coaching days gone by, with Johnson telling most of the stories.

They’re all pretty good accounts, and a nice way for the coaches to settle down, with just 24 hours left until kickoff.

“I think we’re ready,” said Jacob, the team’s offensive coordinator.

He then added, “At this point, we better be.”

Tick, tick, tick…

 

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Diary, Day 4: Intensity continues to amp, but team finds time to give back to local youth and Demikoff reviews film with parents

For the next two days, I’ll be blogging daily updates on the Wayne Hills football team, as it prepares to play a HUGE game against arch rival Ramapo on Friday, Oct. 9, in Wayne. The 4-1 Patriots are seeking to get back on the winning track after losing a tough game on Oct. 2 to Pascack Valley, 23-20. Ramapo will be a tough assignment. The Raiders will come to town with a 3-1 mark. In it’s three victories, head coach Drew Gibbs’ team has averaged 45 points a game. The lone setback was a 32-28 loss to undefeated Old Tappan.

Days 1, 2 and 3 of the Diary are up and posted on the blog, under the archives for October, 2015. Check them out, in case you haven’t tuned in yet.

WEDNESDAY, OCT. 7: After a longer-than-usual practice on Oct. 6, Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff didn’t want to wear down his team, with just two days left before the big game with Ramapo. Practice was a little over 2 1/2 hours, and while Demikoff wanted to keep the team somewhat fresh, the tempo of the practice required plenty of energy.

Assignments had to be done quickly, and players needed to run to, and from water breaks. Hitting was nominal. Instead, the focus was on finishing plays and preparing for Ramapo’s complicated offensive schemes.

hillsWayne Hills will rely on (left to right), Luca Catania, Sal Abbracciamento, Tom Skiba, Frank Petracco, Joe Kenny, Leyshawn Askew and Matt Varone, among others, in its game against Ramapo this Friday.

Demikoff’s stack of manilla cards are never far away, as he presented different offensive formations for the scout team to run against the starting defense.

“Good,” Demikoff would say. “Back in the huddle.”

That would continue throughout most of the drills. There would be the occasional wise crack from the head coach, mostly with some levity. Offensive coordinator John Jacob prided himself on being 10 minutes ahead in his work. During a drill, the Czar, Walt Johnson and lineman Leyshawn Askew talked about their favorite television show, ‘Friends’.

“One of my all time favorites,” said Johnson. “I couldn’t believe Leyshawn liked it, too. I didn’t think most of the kids ever watched that show.”

Friends tv show (2)Walt Johnson and Leyshawn Askew are both fans of the legendary TV show, ‘Friends’.

The staff was happy because the Hills sophomore team had won its game today against Roxbury. It’s been a good season for the program, with the freshman, sophomore and JV teams all unbeaten, so far, while the varsity had that one loss, last week, at Pascack Valley.

Defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson constantly reminded his players to talk on defense. “Read your keys,” he repeated on at least 10 occasions.

As practice wound down, Demikoff brought the team together.

“I’ve said it all week, it doesn’t get any bigger than this,” Demikoff reminded his team. “Normally, we condition after practice on Wednesday, but we’re playing Ramapo on Friday and I want your legs to be fresh. We’ve got everything in. Now, it’s a matter of refining it, and getting our mindset in the right place. Look around you. For the seniors, this could be your last home game. (The Patriots’ final three regular season games, after Friday’s game, are on the road).

“If we win, we’ll probably get a home playoff game. Like I’ve told you all along, we’re a 5-5 football team until we say otherwise. (5-5 was the team’s record the past two seasons).”

While practice was winding down, the Wayne Boys Club junior football team was getting ready to practice. A number of varsity players, including team captains Tom Skiba, Joe Kenny and Frank Petracco would spend time with the kids, working on drills, along with Demikoff.

After watching the youngsters practice, Demikoff hustles back to the school for the weekly film review of the previous week’s game with parents and fans. It’s a tradition started by former coach Chris Olsen, and Demikoff has continued it since he was named head coach in 2013.

It’s a long day for the coach, but, again, it’s Ramapo week. Perhaps assistant coach Joe Lane, a former Patriot standout from 2008-2011, put it best when the team came together after practice.

“Ramapo, baby,” Lane shouted.

That pretty much said it all.

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Diary, Day 3: LOOONNNGGG practice emphasizes need for physical and mental edge as Ramapo nears

For the next three days, I’ll be blogging daily updates on the Wayne Hills football team, as it prepares to play a HUGE game against arch rival Ramapo on Friday, Oct. 9, in Wayne. The 4-1 Patriots are seeking to get back on the winning track after losing a tough game on Oct. 2 to Pascack Valley, 23-20. Ramapo will be a tough assignment. The Raiders will come to town with a 3-1 mark. In it’s three victories, head coach Drew Gibbs’ team has averaged 45 points a game. The lone setback was a 32-28 loss to undefeated Old Tappan.

Days 1 and 2 are up and posted on the blog. Check them out, in case you haven’t tuned in yet.

TUESDAY, OCT. 6: It was, by far, one of the longest practices of the season. Following a meeting, the Patriots hit the field around 3:30 and weren’t off until nearly 7 p.m. The weather was picture perfect and as head coach Wayne Demikoff would say in his post-practice talk, there’s a lot of work to do.

After all, Ramapo is in town this Friday.

“This isn’t just any game,” Demikoff reminded his team. “Ramapo is coming here. Wayne Hills-Ramapo is as good as it gets when it comes to a high school football rivalry in New Jersey. This is your last (regular season) home game. If you guys want a few more home games next month (when the NJSIAA playoffs begin), you have to win on Friday night. It’s as simple as that. If not, we’re probably on the road for the playoffs.

“It’s up to you. Ramapo is good, they always are. We had a tough game with them last season (Hills won, 22-21, in Franklin Lakes). Do we rebound from Pascack Valley, or make the same mistakes we did last Friday? Again, it’s up to you.”

Special teams was a big focus in practice today.

sportMatt Sportelli is having a tremendous season for Wayne Hills, both as a lineman, as well as the team’s outstanding long-snapper on special teams. “He’s one of the best long snappers I’ve ever seen,” said the Czar, Walt Johnson, who tends not to extend compliments freely.

“Ramapo is always well prepared and have tremendous special team players,” said the ‘Czar’ of Wayne Hills special teams, Walt Johnson. “Everything we do has to be fast, and precise. No excuses, no mistakes. They’ll block point after attempts if we’re not ready. And they’ve got athletes who can make plays on specials. On the other hand, I think we do, too.”

Johnson has been coaching high school football for the better part of 30 years. And during a long practice, he always enjoys talking about some of the great players he’s seen, coached and coached against. “Craig Heyward may have been the best I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson of the one-time Passaic High legend known to most as ‘Ironhead’. “But we had a pretty good one here (at Hills) named Greg Olsen. Tommy Vigorito (a DePaul High legend who later played for the Miami Dolphins) was darn good. And Ramapo had Chris Hogan (who now plays wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills) and that kid was as good as they got.”

wjThe Czar, Walt Johnson and his special team players, including (left to right) Luca Catania, Brendan DeVera and Matt Sportelli.

Johnson has been around the Hills-Ramapo rivalry for a while. “We’ve had some good success against them since we started our (championship) run,” said Johnson. “But there was a time they had so many good athletes that we didn’t match up well with them, at all.”

Ramapo’s last win over Hills, in Wayne, came in 2004. Ironically, Hills would not lose again for nearly five years, running off the epic 55 game winning streak, that included five straight state championships. Hills avenged the 2004 regular season loss to Ramapo in the playoffs that season and are 9-1 against the Raiders since. The only loss in that 10-game run still sends shivers down the spines of the Hills coaches who are still on the current staff. It came in the 2009 NJSIAA sectional championship game at snowy Giants Stadium, when Ramapo won, 16-8, ending the five year run of state titles for the Patriots.

“Probably one of the toughest losses we ever had here,” said Demikoff.

There have been some epic games in the series, including the 2005 encounter, in Franklin Lakes, when Hills trailed, 26-7 at halftime before rallying to win, 27-26.

The coaches still have some time to have fun in practice, usually at the expense of each other. When offensive coordinator John Jacob asks if any of the stations were running behind, Demikoff noted that special teams went over by two minutes. Johnson, in mock horror, countered it was only a minute over, and if Demikoff wanted to fire him, that would be fine. (The two are always kidding each other and Johnson likes to say that he needs to ‘steal time’ in a typical practice for extra work on special teams).

Jacob, who has maybe the driest sense of humor on the staff, shoots back and says he’s owed a few extra minutes to run the offense, and Demikoff, a defensive guru, will say that defense wins championships. It’s back and forth, and keeps what could be a mundane practice up beat.

As the players trudge to the locker room after practice, assistant coaches Anthony Vitale and Mike Kelly are exchanging recepies for a good chicken dish, as well as tasty meatballs. Vitale loves a good chicken with papryka and lemon and was bragging about how his young daughter made him soup. The conversation is pretty in depth, and anyone listening was sure to be hungry.

Demikoff realizes the practice was long and says to his coaches that it won’t be as extended, on Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some raised voices if the intensity level isn’t what is expected.

Again, Ramapo is coming to town…in just three days.

 

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football Diary, Day 2: After meetings and practice, coaches gather late into the night, preparing for Ramapo

For the next four days, I’ll be blogging daily updates on the Wayne Hills football team, as it prepares to play a HUGE game against arch rival Ramapo on Friday, Oct. 9, in Wayne. The 4-1 Patriots are seeking to get back on the winning track after losing a tough game on Oct. 2 to Pascack Valley, 23-20. Ramapo will be a tough assignment. The Raiders will come to town with a 3-1 mark. In it’s three victories, head coach Drew Gibbs’ team has averaged 45 points a game. The lone setback was a 32-28 loss to undefeated Old Tappan.

MONDAY, OCT. 5: For a Wayne Hills football player, the thought of playing Ramapo generally amps up the intensity factor. The Wayne Hills alumni usually take part in the preparation, as well, with former players welcomed back to talk to the current team, either before or after practice.

Wayne Hills-Ramapo has produced some great games, including state championship finals. The last playoff game between the two was in 2009, when Ramapo defeated Hills in a driving snowstorm at the old Giants Stadium, 16-8. After Hills defeated Ramapo in a 2011 regular season game, 31-24, the two teams didn’t play in 2012 and 2013. The rivalry resumed last year, with Hills traveling to Franklin Lakes and winning a thriller, 22-21.

It is indeed Ramapo Week at Wayne Hills. The game has so much meaning that head coach Wayne Demikoff elected to have the traditional Senior Night ceremonies before the home opener in September, rather than hold it on Friday, before Ramapo. (This is Hills’ final regular season home game, which is when Senior Night is usually held).

The loss to Pascack Valley last Friday night was a tough one, but there’s little time now to dwell on it, past film review and correcting mistakes, in practice.

Demikoff sees me as practice is beginning and asks the usual question. “Hey Mike. What are you hearing out there?”

After a few minutes, practice begins. The players are in ‘uppers’ and the work for a little over two hours is more technique and special teams-oriented.

skibaWayne Hills will need a big effort from senior captain Tom Skiba, among others, in Friday’s game against Ramapo.

Mondays are a long night. Following practice, the coaches meet in Demikoff’s office for a night of film review and scheme talk. Demikoff sits at his desk while most of the staff sits at a large conference room table. Assistant coach Pat Cosgrove reviews Ramapo’s starters with Demikoff, giving height and weight for each player.

Freshman coach Chris Dowling is always the most-welcomed man of the night, as he arrives with two large boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as the Box ‘O Joe and various condiments. Gone are the days when then-assistant coach Jon Goldstein would have the Monday meetings catered, so most of the coaches bring their own dinner to eat while reviewing film.

The team’s trainer, Corinne Scarpa, peeks her head in to give Demikoff some injury updates. Paramount is the status of junior tailback Luca Grave, who hurt his knee 10 days ago and missed the game at Pascack Valley. Grave is making progress, and he’s hopeful of practicing during the week.

These meetings are generally 75% serious and 25% laughs, but with Ramapo the opponent, that percentage is up to 95-5.

Demikoff and offensive coordinator John Jacob are bantering back and forth on defensive alignments, along with defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson. The verbiage would make no sense to a lay person, but in this room, it’s as common as a Dick and Jane story book.

The doughnuts that Dowling brought are now being passed around, and assistant coach Erik Magrini, a former Patriot, is quite impressed. Assistant coach Anthony Vitale is very pleased with the french crullers.

While film is being reviewed, the various coordinators are in mini meetings with their staff, going over individual assignments. It’s organized chaos, with the occasional wise crack.

With the lights back on, Demikoff grills his assistants on different formations and how they’d handle it. There are three former head coaches on the staff, Jacob, Johnson and Magrini, as well as the legendary special teams guru, the Czar, Walt Johnson, who is back on the staff after a two-year retirement.

There’s plenty of experience in the room, but with that comes a lot of opinions. Among the pressing concerns is the fading white board, which has plenty of old marks and is beginning to fade.

Late in the meeting, Magrini gets a call about mentoring a student in driving. While Demikoff is figuring out a defense, there’s Magrini, asking whomever is on the phone whether the prospective student has ever driven before. Erik usually gets the brunt of jokes about his part-time work as a driving instructor.

Around 10 p.m., Demikoff looks up and says “okay, let’s get going. Tomorrow’s another day.”

Four days ’till Ramapo.

 

 

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football Diary, Day 1: Film review of team’s first loss to Pascack Valley; Focus now on huge assignment in Ramapo

For the next five days, I’ll be blogging daily updates on the Wayne Hills football team, as it prepares to play a HUGE game against arch rival Ramapo on Friday, Oct. 9, in Wayne. The 4-1 Patriots are seeking to get back on the winning track after losing a tough game on Oct. 2 to Pascack Valley, 23-20. Ramapo will be a tough assignment. The Raiders will come to town with a 3-1 mark. In it’s three victories, head coach Drew Gibbs’ team has averaged 45 points a game. The lone setback was a 32-28 loss to undefeated Old Tappan.

So, with that said, Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff spent last Saturday, Oct. 3, reviewing film with his players. The tone had already been set.

Demikoff was not in the best of moods as he reviewed the film, prior to meeting with his players.

“This wasn’t about playing a close game with Pascack Valley,” said Demikoff as he downed a large cup of coffee. “It was about winning the game. We didn’t do it. And watching this film, the mistakes are annoying, but correctable.”

The Patriots were without one of its best players for the Pascack Valley game in junior tailback and defensive back, Luca Grave, but Grave’s absence never came up in post-game conversations. (Grave hurt his knee a week earlier. He’s hopeful of playing against Ramapo).

7c223d3046913d3c674724d6e4e8f446Wayne Demikoff is in his third season as head football coach at Wayne Hills, after 14 season as an assistant coach there. Demikoff is 14-11 as a head coach at Hills. The Patriots have won six of its last seven games, heading into this week’s game.

“We had plenty of chances to win,” said Demikoff. The coach will watch the film and growl, on occasion. “Are you kidding me?” he says to himself. “How did we miss that play?”

The players are in the weight room, getting a morning workout, before film starts around 11:30 a.m. Offensive coordinator John Jacob, defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson and line coach Anthony Vitale are going over film clips on various desktop computers, with each coach noticing something different in their assessments.

Jacob sees opportunities the offense missed on a messy, rainy night.

“Accountability,” he continually says while watching. Vitale, ever the technician, sees a missed block, or a player out of position. All of the mistakes are being reviewed, in advance of the players coming in for the meeting.

All the coaches agree on one thing. Senior lineman Matt Sportelli was outstanding in the game for Wayne Hills last Friday.

“He’s in on every play,” said Demikoff. “That kid never stops working.”

get-attachmentWayne Hills players are working hard toward adding another championship banner at the school. The program has won eight crowns, starting in 2002, continuing from 2004-2008 and then in 2010 and 2011.

When the players arrive, the mood is set quickly.

“You guys are just a little too loose today,” Demikoff says. “You lost last night. I don’t want t hear how it was a close game, or that you guys battled. We should have won, but Pascack Valley made a few more plays. That’s why they’re a championship team. They made the extra play, we didn’t.

“We don’t have moral victories here.”

Demikoff’s message in the lockerroom at Pascack Valley before kickoff a night earlier was that the Patriots aura for winning titles had probably ended in the 2012 playoffs in the same venue. (Pascack Valley defeated Hills, 20-11, in Hillsdale, ending a streak of eight straight appearances in the state sectional final). And if Wayne Hills was truly ‘back’ as a championship contender, it would return to the scene and win.

Film review on Saturday was critical, but the players take it the way a team with high aspirations should receive counsel. Often, Demikoff will stop the film and ask a player where he should have been lined up. The player responds with the assignment.

In the long run, the purpose of film work is to correct mistakes, for the players to see what they did wrong, so that when practice resumes the following Monday, they can adjust those errors.

“The film doesn’t lie,” Demikoff says on numerous occasions.

Jacob, who is often passionate in his review, oversees the offensive film while Demikoff and Johnson go over the defense. Long-time coach and former player Mike Kelly sits in the back of the film room, adding his perspective.

“Put your egos away and play for the team,” Jacob implores the players. “Do you know how good you can be if you do that? We didn’t even play well last Friday and you lost by three points to the number 11 team in the state. Can you imagine how good you’ll be when you play to the level you’re capable of??”

Vitale is running the film on the computer and he’ll often chime in with comments on different blocking schemes.

“Dude, where should you be?” he’ll ask a lineman.

There will be line talk, with comments like…

“Right shoulder.”

“Jam him.”

“That’s not how we practiced it.”

When the film work ended, Demikoff had a simple message.

“Our pass coverage has to get better,” he said. “You’re going to see a team on Friday that can throw the ball and score in a lot of ways. They’re really good. Either you’re ready to meet that challenge, or not. This is your last (regular season) home game (Hills’ last three regular season games are on the road, at Teaneck, Paramus and Wayne Valley).

“If you want some more home games, that comes in the playoffs, and if you want that, then this Friday is as big as it gets.”

The players quietly exit around 1:45 p.m., but Demikoff and Johnson’s work is just beginning.

“Let’s go to my office,” Demikoff says to his D-Coordinator, as the two will start reviewing film of Ramapo.

Demikoff has another large cup of coffee in tow while Johnson has picked out his favorite doughnut, which he had eyed out earlier in the day.

It will be a short weekend, with practice on Monday that will begin a big week of preparation.

 

 

 

 

 

By mike051893