SATURDAY MORNING, NOV. 21, 11:30 a.m. Barely 12 hours have passed since Wayne Hills defeated a very good Indian Hills team, 21-14, in the semifinals of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 playoffs.
Parents, players and fans gathered at the Outback in Wayne, after the win over Indian Hills on Friday night. (Courtesy, Cindy Skiba)
The Patriots are headed to the sectional final, where it will meet an old-time rival in Old Tappan. Kickoff is 1 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5, at MetLife Stadium, in the Meadowlands.
Most fans know that Hills and Old Tappan met in the 2010 and 2011 state finals, at MetLife Stadium, with Hills winning two electric contests.
“We’ve all heard about how good Old Tappan is,” said head coach Wayne Demikoff, as his team filed into the film room after a 90 minute session in the weight room, which senior lineman Frank Petracco called ‘our best, since last May.’
Wayne Hills seniors are looking forward to their final high school game, most likely at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.
“But we’re here today, to start preparing for a state final. We need to correct the mistakes we made against Indian Hills. Stay away from all that other stuff. Don’t be reading about their players. Watch the film we’re showing you, let us coach you, and we’ll get ready to play a state final in (a little less than) two weeks. We’re going to worry about us, nothing more.”
Offensive coordinator John Jacob actually smiled, for about 90 seconds at the Outback, following the Indian Hills game, but he was back to his surely self (kidding) Saturday morning, while watching film.
Jacob is complimentary, but mistakes on blocking assignments are noted.
“That Mike has to blow inside your double team.”
“The only time a front side double comes off a Mike….”
“That’s a bad play for us, Dude.”
“Why are you not pulling through?”
“Good read, here. Good read.”
“We had fun last night, (after the game) but that’s over. (The voice begins to rise). Are you kidding me? This can’t happen again. Another breakdown.”
“Our red zone efficiency has to get better. We had 400 yards of offense, and what do we have to show for it? 21 points?”
“This is your mistake Dude. You’re a good player, you’re doing a great job. But this one’s on you.”
“Good job on the double kick out.”
Jacob will end his portion of film review with a joke, that has the room cracking up.
Line coach Anthony Vitale is as technical as it comes when he looks at film, seeing minor mistakes that he notes need correction for Old Tappan.
The coaches laud the performance of junior running back, Jacob Casale, who got the brunt of the work in the backfield as fellow junior, Luca Grave missed the game with an injury.
“Someone goes down, another person steps up,” said Demikoff. “Casale did a tremendous job.”
On a run by Casale, the room breaks into applause, thanks to some good cut running, and tremendous blocking. Casale finished with 135 yards on 20 carries. He was also effective in the second half of the first round playoff win against Roxbury.
Another junior, Hunter Hayek, was tremendous on both sides of the ball, scoring a touchdown and coming up with a huge interception late in the first half.
After missing the first round of the playoffs, senior captain Vincent LoVerde was back in the lineup and played very well, on both sides of the ball.
Yet another junior, Brendan DeVera, passed for 145 yards and rushed for 151. But it was a short run, with less than a minute left in the game, that will be remembered in Wayne Hills’ lore. The run gave Hills a first down and secured the game, since Indian Hills had no timeouts left.
The unofficial Dean of Hills Football Operations, Tony Giampapa, comes in and sits in the back, while the film sessions are going on.
Tony recalls what he was doing 52 years ago this Sunday, Nov. 22, 1963.
“I was in Miss Nazzaro’s fourth grade class, at St. Philips The Apostle School (in Saddle Brook),” Tony said, wistfully, remembering the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. “We actually heard Walter Cronkite, over the school PA, announcing JFK had died. I remember, as kids, we were afraid the guy who shot JFK was coming after us.”
Anyone old enough remembers what they were doing on Nov. 22, 1963.
On a lighter note, Tony said he has kept in touch with his fourth grade teacher, through social media.
“The stuff you never forget,” he said.
Back to football, Demikoff is now reviewing the defensive side of the films. Like Jacob, he’s somewhat complimentary, but the criticism is there, too.
“That’s your responsibility,” he says to one player. “That’s you, 100 percent. That’s your fault.”
“This isn’t a dance.”
“Don’t run into people. Hit gaps !”
“You’re jogging (on a play). Blitz, run!”
“Dude, you come through this fire, tackle him!”
“A mistake like that, again, will cost us the game.”
“As bad as we played (on defense), allowing seven points through three quarters is pretty good.”
Ky Salley is credited with a key play on defense late in the game.
“That’s a great job by you, Salley,” Demikoff said.
Of course, no meeting is complete without a Mike Fiumarelli mention. The senior gave a riveting speech in the pre-game lockerroom before playing Indian Hills, and any time his name is mentioned in film review today, the room breaks into the familiar sounds of ‘FOOOOOMMMMM‘.
Assistant coach Mike Kelly, a former Patriots player, adds his input, too.
“Collision him,” Kelly tells a player. “You’re better than that.”
Assistant Coach Mike Kelly, here with wife Melissa and daughter Gracelyn, has been vital to the team’s success.
The criticism is needed, since there’s still another game to play. This will be Demikoff’s 13th state championship final, as a Hills coach, and first as the head man. He’s helped Hills to eight titles, including the wins over Old Tappan in 2010 and 2011, so it’s safe to say he knows what he’s doing.
“I still say you haven’t played your best game, yet,” said Demikoff. “You can’t be satisfied by saying ‘you got a state championship game.’ I’m not satisfied, and you shouldn’t be, either. We have one game left. You should say ‘we saved our best game for the last game.'”
The team will practice and lift early this coming week. The annual Father-Son Beefsteak is on Thanksgiving Eve. Practice resumes on the Friday after Thanksgiving and continues on Saturday.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Jacob. “We’ve won a conference. That wasn’t a milestone yesterday (against Indian Hills). That was a win that gets us a chance to achieve a milestone. The average American underachiever doesn’t understand what is means to reach a milestone. I’m happy that we have a chance to reach a milestone. We’re coming into this game to win. Nothing else.
“The next two weeks will require work, and more work. We can’t be underachievers. We haven’t done anything. We won’t get a tee-shirt for winning a state semifinal. We’re going there to win.”
The meeting wraps up around 1 p.m., but again, Demikoff’s work is just beginning. When asked if he would take a day off, over the weekend, since the game with Old Tappan is nearly two weeks away, he looks in mock horror.
“I can sleep after the game is over,” Demikoff says. “We have a game to win, and a lot of work to do. Simple as that. I’ll be here for a while.”
And with that said, a quick trip to a local restaurant to enjoy a buffet is followed by the next eight hours in Demikoff’s office, reviewing tape of Old Tappan. Coaches Kelly and Jermain Johnson are also on hand.
“Old Tappan has played 11 games, and I plan to watch film of all 11 games,” said Demikoff.
Tick, tick, tick….