SATURDAY MORNING, NOV. 14, 10 a.m. Twelve hours after a stimulating 35-14 win over Roxbury in the first round of the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 playoffs, Wayne Hills head coach Wayne Demikoff addressed his team in the film room.
“You played your best game of the season, SO FAR,” said Demikoff. “But have you played your best game of the season? I don’t think so. In fact, I know you haven’t. We play Indian Hills on Friday (Nov. 20), and if we win that game, we’re going to MetLife (Stadium) to play for a state championship. It’s as simple as that.
“But make no mistake. Indian Hills is a very good football team. They’re having a special season over there. They’re the higher seed. If they win, they’re going to MetLife. We’re going to their place. They will be fired up to another level. We need to be prepared.”
Special teams coach Walt Johnson, with (left to right), Luca Catania, Brendan DeVera and Matt Sportelli. All three players have been key contributors to the team’s outstanding season.
Offensive coordinator John Jacob wasn’t in the mood to celebrate.
“This is work right now,” Jacob said to the team. “We don’t need to go over the good plays (against Roxbury). We need to correct the mistakes.”
To show you the life of a coach at this level, Jacob’s evening, after the Roxbury game, included driving home, while most the players and coaches celebrated at the Outback. Once home, Jacob broke down as much film as he could of Indian Hills, then sent the footage to the coaches. Assistant coach Matt Bogert, who was having dinner at the Outback, heard his phone buzz and said to Demikoff, “Jakes just sent the film out.”
The following morning, Jacob was back in the building at Hills by 7 a.m., working on offensive schemes. Demikoff was there, as well, and planned a 12 to 14 our day at the school, looking at film of Indian Hills. Defensive coordinator Jermain Johnson will be working on the defense, as well, with Demikoff, in the head coach’s office, all day Saturday, and most likely well into the evening.
Another example: Assistant coach Mike Zaccone had no idea his son, Mike, had scored a touchdown in the second quarter of the Roxbury game until he said to me at halftime, in the lockerroom, “Mike scored?”
Jacob’s intensity is noticeable, as he watches the film. He loved what he saw in his team’s effort against Roxbury, but he’s more concerned about keeping the team focused.
“You know what keeps me up at night?” Jacob said to the team. “It’s keeping the continuity that we have now. There’s trust in the room that I don’t think was here about six weeks ago. I love that. We’re coming together, but I’ll say the same thing I said last week.
“A week from today, are we saying ‘see you at practice on Monday’? Or are we saying, ‘good season guys, we’ll see you at the (Thanksgiving Eve, Father-Son) beefsteak?”
Jacob is critical of certain plays, and also notes the mistakes he made, too.
“You bailed me out on that one,” Jacob says to a player after seeing a run, on film.
On another note, he’ll say, “Dude, that’s non-negotiable. Don’t do that again.”
He’s also complimentary. “Look at the (Roxbury) guys on the ground (on a Joey Kenny touchdown). That’s imposing your will. That’s what I’m talking about. (Matt) Sport (Sportelli), that’s AWESOME (after a big block).”
Demikoff has been around for the glory years of Hills football. He was an assistant coach for the eight state championships, at Hills, between 2002-2011.
“There is nothing like those two weeks preparing for a state championship game,” said Demikoff. “But you need to play your best game, on Friday, to get there. Indian Hills has a tremendous quarterback and some very tough wide receivers. They can flat out play. They did a great job in beating West Morris (in the first round of the playoffs, on Nov. 13).
Demikoff also reminded the team of the 2009 Patriots, who were a big favorite in a state semifinal against Sparta.
“We’re favored, and we’ve got a 28-7 lead at the half,” Demikoff told the current group. “We figured we’ve got it wrapped up. Guess what? The game went into overtime. We won (41-38), but learned a valuable lesson that day.”
Demikoff didn’t want to keep the players too long at films. The kids were in at 10:30 a.m., where they lifted weights for an hour, before film work.
“We’ve played 10 games, not to mention all the lifting and practices that goes back to January,” said Demikoff. “There has to be soreness. If not, something’s wrong. My point is, we need to rest. Take the weekend and get off your feet. Rest up. Then, when practice resumes on Monday, be ready to go.”
With that, the team headed out around 1 p.m.
The coaches day is just beginning. For Demikoff, he’ll work until about 7:30 p.m., then head to West Essex High to see a junior football game for the next generation, where Hills will play Wayne Valley, with the winner going to the Junior Super Bowl. Eric Dagati, a Hills assistant, who has done marvelous work getting the players stronger in the weight room, will lead the youngsters for Hills this evening.