A class conversation between a West Morris football parent and Wayne Hills’ kicker, Dario Sirni

Bad news has a way of traveling quickly, and when someone messes up, it’s all over the proverbial front page.

But when a football player from Wayne Hills, and a parent from West Morris Central, Hills’ opponent from last Saturday, have a simple, but classy conversation, that should get more than a few glimpses.

With that said, social media can be fun, when done right.

West Morris Central and Wayne Hills played a high-quality football game on Nov. 26, in a state sectional semifinal. Hills won, 31-14, but the game was much closer than the score would indicate.

darioDario Sirni shows the form which accounted for a huge field goal in a state sectional semifinal on Nov. 26.

A key to the win came late in the game, when Wayne Hills’ Dario Sirni kicked a 41-yard field goal to give Hills a 17-point lead and, in essence, ice the game.

Anyway, one of the parents of the West Morris players, Steve Draghi, whose son, Cole, is as good a running back as Hills had seen all season, read a post I had written about Dario’s clutch field goal, on social media, after the game.

Steve reached out to Dario, on medium, to say what a good kicker he is, and wished Dario luck at MetLife Stadium this Sunday in the sectional championship game.

“Great game Dario! You’re a great kicker. Congratulations and good luck at MetLife,” said Steve.

And Dario wrote Steve back to say “Thanks a lot! Cole played a very, very good game!”

A simple conversation between a young man and a grateful parent.

Says a lot about human nature.

By mike051893

Holidays bring out the compassionate side of Wayne Hills football program, as players go Christmas shopping for hospitalized children

It’s certainly been a hectic season for the Wayne Hills football team. Back on Labor Day weekend, the Patriots were in Pahokee, Florida to open its season, and lost a 34-23 decision to a team that remains unbeaten and will be playing for a state championship next week.

Once back in New Jersey, Wayne Hills hasn’t lost since, winning 10 straight and earning a berth in the NJSIAA, North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 championship game on Dec. 4, at MetLife Stadium.

The road to that 10-1 record has been well documented. Solid play on the field was offset by an off-the-field issue which almost ended the team’s season three weeks ago, but Hills persevered.

The Hills players and coaches have also taken part in a number of charity events. On Nov. 6, it was a 5K walk for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, an event sponsored by the Wayne Valley High Dance Team. (See related article https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/wayne-hills-football-team-walks-for-st-judes-childrens-hospital-in-5k-event-at-wayne-valley-later-joined-for-group-photo-by-wayne-valley-dance-team/)

Prior to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Patriots donated 25 turkeys to the Father English Community Center. (See related article https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2016/11/22/charity-first-for-wayne-hills-football-team-as-patriots-help-donate-food-to-the-needy-for-thanksgiving/)

And on Nov. 27, the football program raised money for the players to go shopping at Toys-R-Us, to pick out some gifts for some youngsters at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, in Paterson.

The players wanted to do the shopping and will be giving out the gifts soon.

geoffreyThe Patriots enjoyed a nice day at Toys R Us, buying some goodies for children. (Click on photos for larger image)


By mike051893

Wayne Hills heading to the state final as Sirni, DeVera, Tyler Hayek, Costello (11 tackles), Hunter Hayek (2 new records), Salley, Grave (101 yds rushing), Modak, Petracco, Moussa, Tskhovrebov and Njoku (catch for the ages) lead way to MetLife Stadium

As Wayne Hills football coach Wayne Demikoff surveyed a critical situation late in his team’s North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 semifinal against West Morris Central, the coach called for his trusted assistant coach, ‘The Czar‘ of the special teams, Walt Johnson.

The situation was simple. Hills had a 28-14 lead with 3:30 left, and faced a fourth down at the West Morris 24. The Patriots could either go for a first down, or try a 41-yard field goal.

“I asked Walt if he thought Dario (Sirni) could make it, and Walt said ‘yes’.,” said Demikoff with a smile. “That was good enough for me.”

 darioDario Sirni has had a tremendous season for Wayne Hills. (Click on all photos for larger image)

Sirni, a junior, stepped onto the field and calmly booted a 41-yard field goal, off the snap from Jason Modak and a solid hold by Zach Zachmann, giving Hills a three-possession lead, and the Patriots went on to win, 31-14.

specialsThe Wayne Hills special teams, led by (left to right) Zach Zachmann, Dario Sirni, the Czar, Walt Johnson and Jason Modak.

The win was the 10th straight for top-seeded Wayne Hills (10-1), which will move onto the sectional championship game, at MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands, on Sunday, Dec. 4. There, it will face third seeded Wayne Valley (9-2) at 7 p.m. West Morris finished an excellent season with a 9-2 record.

“Once Dario made that kick, I knew we had the game won,” said Demikoff. “Let me tell you this. West Morris was tough, and I mean really good. Those kids can play. They run the Wing T really well, kept us off balance, and made us work really hard for this win. I have the highest respect for their coaches, and their players. A game like this will only help us prepare for the final.”

hills4Wayne Demikoff addresses Patriots after a win over a really good West Morris team on Nov. 26.

Wayne Hills will seek a ninth state championship on Dec. 4. It last played Wayne Valley in a state final nine years ago and won, 27-7. The schools also met in a 1991 state championship game, which Valley won, 7-0. Hills leads the all time series with Wayne Valley, 9-2, which includes a 2-1 record in the playoffs. Hills has won the last four meetings between the schools, including a 25-24 win on Oct. 28.

Wayne Hills will be appearing in its 16th state championship game since 1997, as the team seeks a ninth state championship and first since 2011.

Demikoff knew that West Morris would be a tough customer.

“I told our kids this was going to be a physical, hard-hitting game, and that’s just what it was,” the coach said. “Even with a 21-7 lead at the half, we all knew what a really good team West Morris was.”

Hills opened the scoring on a 59-yard run by Tyler Hayek in the first quarter, followed by Sirni’s point after kick. West Morris countered on a three-yard run by Ryan Finlay, off an excellent drive, to tie it. Hills regained the lead late in the first quarter on a 32-yard scoring strike from Brendan DeVera to Luca Grave which gave the Patriots a 14-7 lead.


lucaLuca Grave was back in top form for Wayne Hills, after an ankle injury slowed him down four weeks ago.

tylerTyler Hayek scored Wayne Hills’ first touchdown against West Morris.

Before the end of the first half, the Patriots added a key score, which was highlighted by an incredible catch by senior wide receiver Evidence Njoku, who hauled in a one-handed pass, in traffic, which set up a key first down. Hills later scored when DeVera scored on a 14-yard run, making it 21-7 at the half.

The Patriots extended to a 28-7 lead in the third on a DeVera touchdown pass to Hunter Hayek of 34 yards. West Morris closed to 28-14 early inn the fourth quarter on a run by Cole Draghi, on fourth down. Draghi was outstanding for the Wolfpack, rushing for over 200 yards.

“That kid was tremendous,” said Demikoff of Draghi.

Hills’ running game, led by Grave, who rushed for 101 yards, controlled most of the second half, and Sirni’s field goal sealed the deal for Hills.

DeVera was outstanding again and tied Christian Olsen’s school record for career touchdown passes, with 56. DeVera also has the new school record for passing yards in a season, with 1,919.

NOTES: On defense, Tyler Costello had 11 tackles, Nick Petracco finished with 10, Ky Salley and Omar Tskhovrebov had eight each and Modak had six tackles and a quarterback sack.

costelloTyler Costello

kyKy Salley

petraccoNick Petracco

Modak has 10 sacks on the season. Hunter Hayek set a new school record for receptions in a season, with 53, and now has 863 yards in receptions this year, also a new school record. Bill Monan held the old marks, which were set in 2001.

hunterHunter Hayek


By mike051893

Charity first for Wayne Hills football team, as Patriots help donate food to the needy for Thanksgiving

Wayne Hills football coach Wayne Demikoff thought that the past few weeks of turbulence in his team’s program could best be attributed to his players by remembering what the holiday season is all about.

“Yes, it got hectic for us,” said Demikoff. “But in the end, a lot of people supported us through the process. And what we want our players to always know is that helping others, in need, will go a long way in their own lives. This is a high school football team, and our kids work hard.

hills3The Wayne Hills High School football team took a few minutes before practice on Nov. 22 to donate turkeys to the Father English Community Center, in Paterson. (Click on photo for larger image)

“But there are people out there, living their lives and struggling. If we, as a team and representing our community, can step up and provide smiles and a nice meal to some needy people, especially this time of year, it’s a great feeling. And I think it meant a great deal to our kids.”

The team donated 25 turkeys to the Father English Community Center, which is located at 435 Main Street, in Paterson.

Carlos Roldan, the Pantry Director at the Center, was on hand to receive the turkeys. The players also helped to load them onto Roldan’s van.

hills2Team captain John Stadler (59) receives turkeys to place in van from teammates Tyler Costello (53) and Ky Salley.

Wayne Hills is preparing for the semifinal round of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 tournament on Nov. 26, when the top-seeded Patriots play host to fourth seeded West Morris Central, at 1 p.m.

“It’s a busy week, especially with Thanksgiving, but we’ll get our practice time in,” said Demikoff.

The Patriots have done a lot to help others during the fall. The team competed in a 5K race on Nov. 6 for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, an event put together by neighboring rival Wayne Valley High’s dance team. (See related article. https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/wayne-hills-football-team-walks-for-st-judes-childrens-hospital-in-5k-event-at-wayne-valley-later-joined-for-group-photo-by-wayne-valley-dance-team/)

In October, the team took part in a Fun Run to help autistic children.

“It’s what we’re about,” said Demikoff. “There’s always time to help others, especially in our community. I’m proud to coach these kids. They mean the world to me.”

By mike051893

Chris Pusterla will miss rest of season for Hills; Demikoff lauds senior’s contributions and accomplishments

In winning a conference championship on Nov. 4, against Irvington, the Wayne Hills High School football team finished an 8-1 regular season on a high note. However, not all the news was good.

Senior Chris Pusterla went down with a serious knee injury late in that game, and will miss the rest of the season.

Pusterla is the third Patriots player in 2016 to be sidelined with a season-ending knee injury that will require major surgery. Team captain Jacob Casale, a senior, hurt his knee in a non-contact drill in June, underwent surgery a month later, and amazingly enough, might be able to get back on the field for a game before the end of this season. (See related article https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2016/11/16/its-all-business-for-wayne-hills-football-as-patriots-prepare-for-roxbury-and-welcome-back-team-captain-jacob-casale-after-incredible-return-from-surgery-moussa-costello-looking-good-in-practice/)

Sophomore lineman Gabe Dellechiaie injured his knee in an August scrimmage at Montclair and recently had surgery. He’s hopeful to be ready for practice by June.

pusterlaChris Pusterla

Pusterla had been an outstanding linebacker for the Patriots, according to head coach Wayne Demikoff.

“Chris was playing really well for us,” said Demikoff. “You hate to see any player get hurt and need surgery. For the last four years, Chris has been a hard worker and committed young man to this program. I can’t say enough about his tenacity, team-first attitude and the attributes it takes to be a Wayne Hills football player.

“I’ve often told the kids that not everyone is supposed to play football here. It’s not easy. But when a young man comes through those four years, hopefully he’s learned a lot about life’s lessons and that will carry him into the next phase of his life. I’m confident Chris is one of those guys. He’s still a big part of what we’re trying to accomplish here, as far as winning a (state) championship. We’ll continue to rely on his leadership and toughness.”

Pusterla will most likely have surgery on his knee in a few weeks and start rehabbing.

By mike051893

Back on the field, Wayne Hills in its element, as Polgar, Ruby, Modak, Njoku, Hayeks, DeVera, Couso, Stadler, DiCarlo, Costello and Tskhovrebov stand out in 33-7 playoff win; Patriots into The Roar

The past two weeks were certainly adventurous for members of the Wayne Hills High football team.

But once the Patriots got back on the field for the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs on Nov. 20, it was business as usual for the top-seeded team in the first round of the North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 playoffs, with a 33-7 win over Roxbury, in Wayne.

Hills got another tremendous game from quarterback Brendan DeVera (14-for-21 passing, 260 yards and 4 TD’s), as well as wide receivers Hunter Hayek, Tyler Hayek and Evidence Njoku.

evEvidence Njoku (click on photos for larger images)

jakesBrendan DeVera, here with offensive coodinator John Jacob.

hunterHunter Hayek caught 6 passes for 118 yards against Roxbury.

The Patriots also got some big hits, including a beautiful tackle from Bence Polgar on a Roxbury kickoff return and Njoku’s marvelous block on an offensive drive. John Stadler, a team captain, continued his tremendous season on the offensive line.

benceBence Polgar

standlerJohn Stadler

There was also some marvelous defensive work by Chris Ruby, who was back after a shoulder injury two weeks ago, Jason Modak, Anthony Couso, Tyler Costello, Dom DiCarlo and Omar Tskhorebov.

domDom DiCarlo

cuosoAnthony Couso

And because of a team effort which head coach Wayne Demikoff appreciated more than ever, Wayne Hills is two games away from winning a ninth state championship in school history.

demWayne Demikoff addresses Patriots after walk through on the morning of game with Roxbury.

Demikoff lauded his team in the pre-game lockerroom. “I love you guys,” he told them. “I’d do anything for you.”




By mike051893

It’s all business for Wayne Hills football as Patriots prepare for Roxbury and welcome back team captain Jacob Casale after incredible return from surgery; Moussa, Costello looking good in practice

After eight days of craziness, the Wayne Hills football team had a ‘normal’ practice, as the Patriots prepare for Sunday afternoon’s first round, state sectional game, against a very good Roxbury team.

As is his usual custom after a practice, head coach Wayne Demikoff addressed the team at midfield.

“Good practice today,” said Demikoff. “Whatever has happened over the last eight days is now behind us. We’re not discussing it. The only thing on our mind is playing Roxbury, which has a really good team, on Sunday (at 2:30 p.m.) That’s our laser focus. Nothing else. ”

Demikoff reminded his team that a year ago, the Patriots, which were seeded seventh in North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4, traveled to second seeded Roxbury for the first round. Hills won, 35-14.

“Not a lot of people expected us to win that game a year ago,” Demikoff said. “And that game helped get us to the championship game at MetLife (Stadium). A year later, we’re the top seed, they’re seeded eighth and they’re coming in here believing they can do the same thing we did last year. This is a very good team, well coached and tough.”

Roxbury played Hills during the regular season this year, in Roxbury, and led 35-21 in the fourth quarter, before Hills rallied to win, 42-35.

“We have a lot of respect for Roxbury,” said Demikoff. “No doubt about it. We need a good week of practice.”

On the injury front, seniors Danny Moussa and Tyler Costello appear to be getting better. Both have been dealing with knee injuries and are key to the defensive effort Hills will need to contain Roxbury. Moussa was a huge part of the team’s win over Irvington on Nov. 4, which clinched a conference championship.

moussaDanny Moussa

costelloTyler Costello

Even more noteworthy, as the Patriots practiced, a number of players and coaches watched as senior fullback Jacob Casale worked out on the sidelines. A day earlier, Casale reported that he was cleared to start practice on Nov. 16, an amazing accomplishment considering he had undergone major knee surgery in late July for torn ligaments.

Casale had injured the knee during a non-contact drill in late June, at East Stroudsburg University, during the team’s four-day camp. A day after the injury, which was considered a season-ending, Casale was unanimously voted a team captain.

Casale has taken his role as a captain seriously. He’s been suiting up for each game, is a regular at practices and recently took part in a 5K walk/run for charity at Wayne Valley High. (see related article https://mikelamberti.wordpress.com/2016/11/06/wayne-hills-football-team-walks-for-st-judes-childrens-hospital-in-5k-event-at-wayne-valley-later-joined-for-group-photo-by-wayne-valley-dance-team/)

As Casale was put through a series of drills by trainer Corrine Scarpa, offensive coordinator John Jacob could be heard yelling “looking good, Casale, looking good.”

jc1Jacob Casale (top and bottom) getting conditioning work in at Hills. (Click on photos for larger image)

And Casale, one of the nicest kids you’ll ever meet, took it all in stride.


“I’m a little winded, but that’s fine,” said Casale. “It feels so good to be out here again.”

Casale’s recuperative powers have been amazing.

“I’ve always believed I could make it back before the season ends,” said Casale. “I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully, get into a game before the season ends. I know it’s not going to be easy, but I’ve gotten this far.”

Demikoff was pleased to see Casale practicing.

“He’s such a great kid,” said Demikoff, clearly happy to be talking about football again. “It’s great to see him out there.”

wayneCasale and Demikoff during a summer training session, shortly after Casale had surgery on his knee. (Click on photo for larger image)

Following practice, the Patriots ventured to the weight room for a work out, before heading home.

Just another day of practice at Wayne Hills.



By mike051893

Wayne Hills football team walks for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in 5K event at Wayne Valley; later joined for group photo by Wayne Valley Dance Team

They’ve earned the top seed in the upcoming North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 playoffs. And while football may be paramount on the minds of the Wayne Hills Patriots team coaches and players at this time of year, taking part in a charity event to help children was just as important.

The Patriots and head coach Wayne Demikoff were at Wayne Valley High School on Nov. 6, to take part in a Wayne Color Run, 5K race to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. The race itself encompassed the Wayne Valley campus and there were plenty of different colors tossed, in fun, at all the participants, in the form of dry paint, as they ran, or walked, the course.

hillsWayne Hills High School football players and members of the Wayne Valley dance team were all smiles after competing in a 5K race to benefit St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. (Click on photo for larger image)

Demikoff, standing at the finish line with a mix of green, blue, yellow and red paints, over his clothes and sunglasses, was all smiles. He was also approached by a number of parents and fans, thanking him for bringing the team.

“It’s about St. Jude’s, charity, in general, and helping others less fortunate,” said Demikoff. “It was our pleasure to be here and to see so many residents cheering on our kids was really nice. We were there to support a great cause in our town. It was a really nice morning.”

hills1Wayne Demikoff, looking like the Green Hornet after the Wayne Color Run and 5K, here with Danny Moussa, who played a tremendous game against Irvington on Nov. 4.  (Click on photo for larger image)

Wayne Hills, which was won eight straight games, will host Roxbury in the first round of the NJSIAA playoffs, most likely on Nov. 11, at home, in a 7 p.m. start. The team ended its regular season on Nov. 4, defeating previously unbeaten Irvington, 48-27, to clinch a second straight conference championship.

hills2Members of the Wayne Hills High School football team after the 5K at Wayne Valley on Nov. 6. (Click on photo for larger image)

“We have plenty of time to prepare for a (playoff) football game,” said Demikoff. “Being out here for a few hours is special. We wouldn’t have missed it.”

hills3Patriots celebrating the of the 5K. (Click on photo for larger image)

Wayne Hills football has been making the rounds, supporting charities and classmates. The Patriots walked to benefit Autism Awareness last month, and also were on hand to support the Wayne Hills High School band a few weeks ago, leading the band onto the field for a state-wide competition, which was held at Hills.

“A lot of people go out of their way to help and support our kids,” said Demikoff. “It’s very important that we give back to the community in ways that will teach our young men how important it is to be of service.”

hills4Hills football players walking the 5K course at Wayne Valley. (Click on photo for larger image)

Demikoff and his players were noticeably surprised and fulfilled by the warm sentiments of race officials and spectators.

“We’re walking through the various paint tosses, and people are saying ‘thanks for being here, thanks for taking the time,’ and I’m saying ‘are you kidding?’ Thanks for inviting us’,” said Demikoff.

hills5Walking through some dry green paint. (Click on photo for larger image)

After the race, the team gathered for photos and were then joined by the Wayne Valley High Dance Team. The young ladies and the Patriots football players all smiled in unison, and the photo was clearly overwhelming to the parents and fans, who loved every minute.

One woman may have made the best statement, as Demikoff and his team prepared to leave the facility after the race.

“This is what it should always be about,” the woman said. “We’re one town. These kids are wonderful.”





By mike051893