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).
Wayne 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.”
Wayne 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…
“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.