Wayne Hills Football: 24 hours until Valley game; Jacob stresses discipline and focus; Team finishes good week of practice with spirited effort; Coaches seem loose and ready as Patriots seek to win Conference title

THURSDAY, NOV. 5: Two weeks of preparation were completed today, as the Wayne Hills Patriots had its final practice, in advance of the Nov. 6 game at Wayne Valley.

While head coach Wayne Demikoff was far from pleased with the overall effort at the Nov. 4, practice, a much more focused group of Patriots put in a three-hour workout today. In fact, most of the team was out earlier than the starting time of 10 a.m. to stretch.

The scout team goes through various Wayne Valley formations while the defense makes the adjustments to various schemes. Demikoff’s familiar ‘Good….back in the huddle’ after each scenario is commonplace. If there’s a mistake, or misalignment, it’s ‘Are you kidding me? Get back in the huddle.’

12208337_10153768379622948_956261155710737915_nHills and Valley will kickoff its 10th game against each other on Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.

Offensive coordinator John Jacob is one of those guys you’ll never truly know, on a football field. He changes his mood during a drill as quickly as someone changes their socks.

A man with as dry a sense of humor as there is, he’s a modern day Rich Little. He can imitate just about anyone. Many times, he’ll tell a story involving multiple people, and the way he tells the story, you’d swear that everyone is in the room, with him.

On the field, I’ve often said ‘Jakes’ is never happy, but loves what he does. Football is what drives him, for sure. Today, he’s busy chiding the offense.

“Focus and discipline,” he says repeatedly, with the voice decibel rising to almost an operatic level. “You don’t want to look back and say what should have been. Stay focused.”

Now that the freshman season is concluded (Hills finished 9-0, including a 27-7 win over Wayne Valley on Nov. 4), a number of frosh are now practicing with the varsity.

“You’re with the big boys now,” said the ‘Czar’, Walt Johnson, as the special teams coach walked by the kids with fresh faces, most of whom look barely over the age of 12.

Johnson is an admitted organizational freak. If there’s a piece of paper out of place, it drives him crazy.

“Fail to plan, (then you) plan to fail,” Johnson said. “With kids this age, or younger, there’s a reason why structure is so important, both with athletes and students, in general. Every detail is important.”

For the most part, the players are loose, but are clearly locked in. They’re quick to recognize formations, and when Demikoff asks the defensive players about where to lineup on D for a particular play, 10 to 12 voices are quick to respond.

The coaches seem comfortable, too. There’s the usual back-and-forth among the guys as to which station may have gone over the limit for a drill. “I’m only 10 minutes late,” said Demikoff with a smirk. “I’m always on time,” Jacob counters, as some of the other coaches try not to break into laughter.

Matt Bogert and Mike Peischl, who coached the freshmen this fall, are now working with the varsity coaches. Today, those coaches are Demikoff, Jakes, Jermain Johnson, Mike Kelly, The Czar, Anthony Vitale and Eric Magrini.

Peischl, Kelly and Magrini are all former Patriots, and the three often share stories of their playing days at Hills, usually including former coach Chris Olsen in their summary of some crazy, but great times. Peischl was the quarterback of the 2005 state championship team while Kelly and Magrini were teammates in 1995 and 1996.

For Magrini, these have been some hectic weeks. He and his girlfriend, Michelle, welcomed their first child, Presley, into the world and Magrini, an educator, recently started working in a new school district.

But for Magrini, as he loves to say, “it’s all about saving the problem, babe.”

Demikoff reminded his players at the end of practice that it’s important for them to get some rest. Since there’s no school today, or tomorrow, he urges the kids to take some down time and stay hydrated, since it’s been unusually warm for this time of year, and the temperature on game day could hit 75 degrees, or warmer.

“No cramping up tomorrow,” Demikoff tells his players.

As for the game, the coach seems confident.

“We’re ready,” he says as the players listen intently. “What do you want to be remembered for, when it comes to playing football? Tomorrow night, you’ll get an opportunity that not all athletes get. You’ll be playing before a huge crowd, on a great night for football. It’s all in front of you.”

And with that, another practice is over, and game time is nearing.

Tick, tick, tick….


By mike051893

Rivalry aside, very happy for good friends Kelly and Chris Helm

Okay, so Wayne Hills will visit Wayne Valley on Nov. 6 in what should be an exciting and well-attended football game. By now, most fans know the Indians are 8-0 while the Patriots come in with a 6-2 record. Both teams are also headed to the state playoffs, starting next weekend, where Hills will visit Roxbury while Valley takes on Morris Knolls in the first round.

For a few hours, at least, the two sides will be adversaries, in as much as a high school football game can be between two schools which share the same town. I’m sure there are plenty of people who will be at the game who may have attended Wayne Hills, but now have children at Wayne Valley, and vice versa. The coaches on both sides know each other pretty well and most maintain a good friendship.

Having grown up in Belleville, I always looked forward to the annual football game with arch rival Nutley. And even though the days of my being in high school are long gone, I’ll always be a Belleville fan, even though a majority of those associated with Nutley are very good friends.

This brings me to why I’m writing this particular blog. I cover Wayne Hills football and, admittedly, am good friends with many of the team’s coaches, as well as some of the player’s parents. I enjoy being around the team, for sure.

Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley doesn’t have a long rivalry, in terms of games played, but there’s plenty of intensity. I’ve written blogs all week long about Hills’ preparation for this game, without disclosing too much about the game plan.

As far as Wayne Valley, I have great respect for their program. I cover the school for other sports, including wrestling, and softball. But when it comes to football, while I’ll be standing on the Hills side on Friday night, it will be great to see Valley assistant coach, Chris Helm, before the game.

helmsKelly and Chris Helm, here celebrating their wedding day.

How long do I know Chris? Hmmm. Let’s just say I went to high school with Chris’ mother, the former Maria Federico. While Maria and I grew up in Belleville, Maria and her husband raised her two children in Nutley, so as Chris grew up, I had the privilege of covering his athletic endeavors as a football player and wrestler for thoseĀ  evil Raiders of Nutley High. (LOL).

And, get this? Chris’ wife is the former Kelly Rauco. I went to high school with Kelly’s dad, and uncle. The Raucos would also move to Nutley and Kelly was later a standout softball player for the Raiders. Kelly was a batterymate with Michelle Wlosek, who is currently a teacher at Wayne Hills and is the head softball coach at Wayne Valley. (Confused yet?) And yes, I covered Kelly for a few newspapers when she played for Nutley.

Kelly and Chris will be welcoming their first child, very soon. It’s a girl ! And I’m as happy for them as just about any other friend could be. Because, literally, I’ve known them for a lifetime. They’re both doing well in their professional career endeavors. Kelly is a Physical Therapist, Chris an educator, and both are up-and-coming coaches, with Kelly, as an assistant softball coach (of course!) at Wayne Valley while Chris, in addition to football, also helps out with Valley softball.

So, yes, it will be fun to see Valley and Hills play football on Friday night.

But it will be just as good to see a class young man in Chris Helm, and hopefully, Kelly will be there, too.

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football: Dowling’s freshmen get the job done, defeat Wayne Valley, 27-7, to finish 9-0; Clock ticking to Friday’s varsity showdown at Valley, with a conference title on the line

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 4: As the final seconds ticked on a workmanlike 27-7 win for the Wayne Hills freshman football team, over its biggest rival in Wayne Valley, head coach Chris Dowling took a moment to celebrate and donned a tee-shirt which told the true story of a marvelous season.

Hills and Valley each came into tonight’s game with undefeated records. And when Wayne Valley scored on its first series, it looked like this contest would go down to the wire. But Hills righted the ship in the second quarter, tying the game at seven, and then gained a 13-7 advantage before the half.

The second half was all Hills, as the Patriots ground game took over and the defense was marvelous. The performance sealed a 9-0 campaign.

12208337_10153768379622948_956261155710737915_nPhoto courtesy of Anthony Sorce

Most of the Hills varsity players were on hand to cheer on the next generation. We’ll have more on the individual Hills freshman players soon, but in the meantime, congrats to Dowling, as well as coaches Mike Peischl (spelled it right this time?), Anthony Giampapa, Joe Giampapa, Eric Dagati (who has done a tremendous job with the youth program in town) and Matt Bogert.

Kudos also to Wayne Valley, which has a very talented freshman team, with some outstanding players who could make an immediate impact on the varsity team in 2016, and beyond.

The varsity practice today at Hills was so-so, according to head coach Wayne Demikoff. The defense looked good, but the coach was far from pleased with the offense and special teams.

“You have to bring it, every day,” said Demikoff. “You can’t turn it on and off. We’ve had a good week, until today. You can’t play at this level, and expect to succeed, without maximum effort.”

Wayne Hills will play at Wayne Valley on Friday, Nov. 6, in what promises to be a very exciting game. The Indians are 8-0 and the Patriots are 6-2. Both are heading to the playoffs and the winner of this game wins a Big North championship.

“There’s a lot on the line,” said Demikoff. “Winning the conference is big, but a win against Valley is something that you’ll never forget. And it’s a big step as we get ready for the playoffs.”

Tick, tick, tick…



By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football: Coach Dowling brings the doughnuts ! Wayne Valley game nears on Nov. 6, with Big North title on the line; Buy your Hills tee-shirts at freshman game on Nov. 4.

WEDNESDAY, NOV. 4. 2 DAYS ‘TILL WAYNE VALLEY: You know the Monday evening coaches meeting at Wayne Hills is on target with The Man, Chris Dowling, shows up with two boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts, a Box O’Joe and the now famous pumpkin sauce.

Such was the case on Nov. 2, when Hills’ legendary freshman football coach walked in with the fare that drew raves from the coaches, including John Jacob, Anthony Vitale, Matt Bogert, Joe Giampapa, Mike Kelly, Anthony Giampapa, (head coach) Wayne Demikoff and Jermain Johnson.

11161354_10205496300079767_9155489033228631582_nCoach Dowling hopes to be celebrating again around 9 p.m. on Nov. 4, as his freshman Patriots take an 8-0 record into its season finale against undefeated Wayne Valley.

Dowling has a big game to concern himself with, as well, The Patriots will take on the Wayne Valley Indians on Nov. 4 in a HUGE freshman game. Both teams are unbeaten, and it’s the final game of the season, as well. Kickoff time is 7 p.m. at Wayne Hills, and a big crowd is expected. Wayne Hills will also be selling tee-shirts to hype Friday’s varsity game, at Wayne Valley, between the Indians and Patriots.

Like I often enjoy saying before a big game, ‘Get Your Popcorn Ready.’ And it should be an ideal weather night, as well, so come on out.

When he’s not breaking down blocking schemes and technique on the offensive line, coach Vitale loves talking about food. His latest dish, baked chicken with a soy combination.

“Incredible,” said Vitale, who is also a self-proclaimed Master of the Crock Pot.

Practices have been going well for the Patriots and Demikoff continues to keep the intensity at a high pace.

“Conference championship on the line,” said Demikoff. “You’ll remember this game for the rest of your life.”

The Czar, special teams coach Walt Johnson, loves to give senior Joe Kenny the business during practice, but Kenny goes with the flow pretty well, generally smiling and, when he makes a good play in practice, he’ll look over to the Czar, who begrudgingly nods in the affirmative.

Demikoff often gives senior lineman Frank Petracco a hard time in practice, but that’s all part of the daily routine. Petracco is an up-and-coming politician. Great kid, whose wheels are always turning.

Matt Sportelli, a senior lineman, injured his knee in the Paramus game, but he’s coming around well and should be fine for Friday night.

Bottom line among all the coaches is clear. Friday’s game is as big as they get in the regular season. The playoffs are around the corner, but Wayne Valley is 8-0 and that’s the only focus now. Roxbury (the Patriots’ first round playoff opponent next week) can wait ’till Saturday morning.



By mike051893

Big freshman football game set for Nov. 4, as Wayne Valley visits Wayne Hills; Tee-Shirts available for purchase at game

TUESDAY, NOV. 3: While the varsity football game between Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley is on Nov. 6, the freshman game between the two rivals is even closer.

Wayne Valley will make the short trip to Wayne Hills for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Wednesday, Nov. 4. It promises to be a very exciting game, as both schools have undefeated freshman teams.

Expect a big crowd on hand for the final game of the season for both squads.

Those who attend the game can also purchase a tee-shirt for Friday night’s varsity game. The shirts are $10.00 each and were arranged by the Wayne Hills football program. If you wear the shirt to Friday’s game, that will cover the $3.00 admission cost. The remaining proceeds from each shirt will be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project.

The JV game between Hills and Valley was played on Nov. 2, with Hills winning, 21-0.

By mike051893

Wayne Hills Football: Tee-Shirts for sale to benefit Wounded Warriors, ‘We Carry The Ball, They Carry The Country’; Quick facts about Hills-Valley rivalry; Parade and Tailgate canceled

TUESDAY, NOV. 3: Three days and counting until the 10th overall meeting, on the gridiron, between Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley High Schools, and the momentum is quickly gathering. The teams will meet on Friday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m.

Some quick facts: Wayne Hills leads the all-time series, 7-2.

The teams first met in a 1991 state sectional championship game, at Wayne Valley, with the Indians winning a classic, 7-0, before an overflow crowd estimated at close to 15,000.

Hills defeated Valley in the 2007 state sectional final, 27-7, at Giants Stadium, in front of nearly 20,000 fans. Both teams were undefeated heading into that game.

The schools first met in a regular season game in 2009, with Hills winning, 7-0.

Wayne Valley is 8-0, its best start since 2007, while Wayne Hills is 6-2. For the first time since 2010, both teams are playoff bound, with Hills earning a playoff spot for the 20th time in the last 21 years.

The only overtime game in the series occurred in 2013, when Hills rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to win, 17-14, in overtime, on a field goal by Erik Martinez.

The last time the teams met at Wayne Valley was 2012, when the Indians jumped out to a 23-0 first half lead, then held off a furious second half rally by the Patriots to win, 23-17.

Wayne Hills won last year’s game, 36-0.

Okay, with that out-of-the-way, some updates for the game. The Wayne Hills football program is selling tee-shirts in advance of Friday’s game. The shirt costs $10.00, and if you wear the shirt to the game, that covers your cost of admission. RWC Windows, Doors & More, along with Right Way Driving School, LLC, have covered the cost of printing the shirts.


Since admission is $3.00, the remaining funds garnered, per shirt, will be donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, which benefits thousands of soldiers who are returning from the battlefield, as well as providing assistance to the respective families.


The slogan on the shirt reads ‘We Carry The Ball, They Carry The Country.’ The shirts will be available for purchase during school on Wednesday, Nov. 4, as well as at the big freshman football game between Valley and Hills, which is set for Nov. 4, at 7 p.m., at Wayne Hills High School.

Plans for a parade and tailgate party, prior to Friday night’s game, have been canceled.



By mike051893