Weehawken High School head football coach Anthony Stratton is a happy guy these days. After all, he became a father for the first time two weeks ago when his wife, Sara, gave birth to a healthy eight-pound, eight-ounce girl named Brianna Rose.
But that’s not the only reason why Stratton is overjoyed. His football team appears to be a very talented one, as the Indians prepare to face North Arlington in their season opener Friday night.
"I’m elated," Stratton said. "The aggressiveness you want from a team is there. We’re way ahead of where we were last year."
The Indians started the 2002 season slowly, but came on strong at the end, winning five of their last seven games to end the season at 5-5. The late-season surge is another reason for Stratton’s optimism.
"I think there was a big-time carryover effect," Stratton said. "The kids couldn’t wait to come back. The goals were simple last year, just to be competitive and look for a possible playoff berth. This year, we have high expectations. We don’t want to settle for .500 this year. We have 20 guys back from last year, a great nucleus. We’re looking to contend."
The Indians return their entire starting backfield from a year ago, led by senior quarterback Chris Jodice (5-11, 165), who is also a two-time All-Area performer in baseball.
"Chris is just a great athlete," Stratton said. "He’s just a natural leader who does everything with passion."
Senior David LoRocco (5-10, 215) returns as one of the premier running backs in the Bergen County Scholastic League. LoRocco rushed for 895 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
"No question, he’s one of the best in the league, and we expect him to be even better," Stratton said.
The Indians’ other running back is senior Danny Lopez (5-9, 165), who had 1,000 all-purpose yards (rushing, receiving and kick returns) and 14 touchdowns a year ago.
"He can do it all, catch, run, defend," Stratton said.
Another running back is sophomore Omar Romero (5-10, 175).
"Omar was a linebacker last year, and we felt if he got the ball, he could do some positive things," Stratton said.
Senior Alfredo Alvarez (5-10, 170), whom Stratton calls "the most athletic kid on the team and an excellent blocker," and sophomore Joey Poole (5-9, 155) are Jodice’s targets at wide receiver.
Senior Kevin Kallert (6-3, 210) is the Indians’ tight end.
If there is a concern for Stratton, it is the age and experience of his line, which features four sophomores and a freshman. Tackles Luis Leonardo (5-10, 185), Steve LoRocco (5-7, 175 and younger brother of David), and Richie Martinez (5-10, 175), and center John Reilly (6-2, 240) and freshman Nassar Warrab (5-9, 185) are extremely young and not blessed with an abundance of size.
Three-year starter Ryan McLaughlin (5-11, 200), a senior guard, and Mike DiLallo (5-10, 185) round out the Indian linemen.
Because the Indians aren’t blessed with a ton of depth, most of the players turn around and play defense as well.
Martinez and McLaughlin are defensive ends, with Reilly leading the way at defensive tackle.
David LoRocco is a standout at linebacker, earning First Team All-BCSL National honors there last year.
"I really think he can play there on the next level," Stratton said.
Alvarez will play one of the cornerbacks, along with sophomores Vic Ledesma (5-10, 170) and Miguel Cortes (5-10, 160). Lopez and freshman Yessey Tejada (6-1, 170), whom Stratton predicts big things for, will be the safeties.
Stratton is trying to contain the excitement he has.
"I don’t want them to get too confident, but it could be a good year for us," Stratton said.
And one to remember, if it coincides with fatherhood. – Jim Hague