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.
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.”
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.”
Following practice, the Patriots ventured to the weight room for a work out, before heading home.
Just another day of practice at Wayne Hills.