The plane had barely touched down on the tarmac at Newark Airport, and for Wayne Demikoff, the wheels were already spinning.
“It was an awesome trip,” said Demikoff of Wayne HIlls’ season-opening football game at Ridge View High, in Columbia, South Carolina. “We played a good team, and that’s what we’re trying to do with these out of state trips to start the season. In the long run, it can really help us.”
Hills lost a 12-0 decision to Ridge View in its season opener, on Aug. 30. This was the fifth straight year that the Patriots opened its season with an out-of-state game. After winning in North Carolina, in 2015, Hills lost to good teams in Pahokee (Fla), Canton-McKinley (Ohio), Timpview (Utah) and this year, in South Carolina.
“We’re playing teams with good size and speed, and for the most part, not using guys on both sides of the ball,” said Demikoff. “I thought Ridge View’s size on the line was impressive and their speed was outstanding. They had some very good athletes. Overall, our defense did a good job. On offense, we didn’t move the ball nearly as well as we would have liked, but that’s something we’ll work on.”
Wayne Hills will have a bye week before playing its next game, on Sept. 14, at arch rival Wayne Valley.
The trip to South Carolina included some practice time at the University of South Carolina. The team also went to the Carolina Panthers pre-season game the night before its game at Ridge View, and were met by Greg Olsen, Carolina’s star tight end, and, of course, a Wayne Hills alum, Class of 2003.
Olsen was also on hand, with his three children, at the varsity game, to lend his support.
Graduation took its toll on Wayne Hills, following an 11-2 season that included a 10th state sectional title, along with a Bowl Game win, last December.
“We have five kids with varsity experience, over 22 positions,” said Demikoff. “I like the way our kids competed. But we also made some mistakes, turned the ball over and you can’t give away possessions, especially against a team like that. The mistakes are correctable and I really think our team is improving, and that’s encouraging.”
Noah Abida had a tremendous game on defense, leading the Patriots with 15 tackles. Dan Bernard and Joe Brunetti had 10 tackles each. On the defensive line, Sharif Odatalla and Angel Roman played very well.
On offense, Steve Masten and Dean Imparato had five catches each. Quarterback Mike Casasanta completed 14 passes and did a good on defense. Dan Daily was also a force on defense, applying pressure on the quarterback, including a sack.
The game itself was played in pleasant weather, with a big crowd on hand, in a nice complex at Ridge View High. Temperatures were in the low 80’s, with clear evening skies. Three years ago, the Patriots opened in the Florida Everglades, in extreme heat and humidity.
“We prepared for hot weather, but it turned out pretty good,” said Demikoff. “We came here to win, so in that regard, it’s disappointing. But I think we’re making progress.”