Patriots look to improve with veteran lineup
A year ago, a very uncharacteristic occurrence happened with the Secaucus High School football team. The Patriots were under .500, 4-6 to be precise, and failed to make the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group I playoffs for the first time in six years.
"It was a big step backwards for us," said Secaucus head coach Charlie Voorhees. "Plain and simple, we didn’t make the playoffs. We had games we should have won and simply blew them. I wasn’t disappointed, because I knew we had so many young kids playing. But the maturity of the team was very bad. We paid the price for having a young team and we were extremely banged up during the course of the season. But we still had opportunities to win, and we blew them."
However, Voorhees believes that the Patriots learned a valuable experience a year ago.
"We learned that we can’t make the same mistakes," Voorhees said. "Just about every kid who started last year is back this year. The mistakes we made last year have not shown up thus far. We’re fine-tuning right now instead of teaching fundamentals. Last year at this point, we were teaching basics."
With basically a veteran roster, the Patriots look to contend for both the Bergen County Scholastic League National Division crown and a return to the state playoffs.
Leading the way is junior quarterback Joe Prestimonico (5-9, 165), who passed for more than 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns a year ago.
"He’s turned himself from being a pampered quarterback into a tough quarterback," Voorhees said of Prestimonico. "He worked very hard in the weight room in the off-season."
Junior David Tejada (5-6, 160) shuttled between wing back and running back last year, rushing for 600 yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. This year, Tejada is strictly a running back and should get the majority of the big carries for the Patriots.
"He’s a fine runner and an outstanding receiver, as well as a good return guy," Voorhees said. "He’s going to do a lot of things for us."
Fullback duties will be shared by senior Neftali Mendoza (5-10, 190) and junior Neil Schaffer (5-9, 165). Juniors Mike Bronowich (5-9, 175), who comes from the long line of incredibly gifted Bronowich athletes from Secaucus High, and Bayu Sutrisno (5-6, 175) share the wing back duties.
The true strength in the Patriots may lie within their immense offensive line, which Voorhees called "by far, the biggest line we’ve ever had and has the potential to be the best we’ve ever had."
Leading the way along the line is senior Austin Hinton (6-5, 285), who has already declared his intentions to attend Penn State next year. Hinton, who has been a starter since he was a freshman, will move to guard this season from tackle to get ready for his life as a Nittany Lion.
Senior Mark Calvanico (6-3, 290) has shed 40 pounds off his massive frame and will be a player to watch at left tackle. Having Calvanico and Hinton on the same side of the line is a blessing for Voorhees.
Senior Matt Ford (6-2, 225) is the center and senior Bill Kosky (6-2, 230) is the guard. Junior Justin Segro (6-3, 325) is the starter at right tackle. That’s a lot of bulk, a ton of experience and a world of talent.
"We need our line to play well to be successful," Voorhees said.
Junior Andrew Ramirez (6-3, 210), who has started every game since he was a freshman, returns to his starting position at tight end.
Junior Josh Grady (6-3, 200), who missed all of last season with a knee injury, has returned to full health. The versatile athlete (basketball in the winter, outdoor track in the spring) has emerged as a sure-handed receiving target for Prestimonico.
Defensively, the Patriots will feature many of the same performers from offense.
Ramirez, who has been a standout at outside linebacker, returns there with junior Gus Bageorgos (6-3, 200). Schaffer and junior Randy Worthington (5-10, 185) are the inside linebackers.
Hinton and Kosky play defensive tackle, with Calvanico clogging up the middle at nose guard.
Junior Victor Vera (5-7, 165) and a host of others, namely Bronowich, Tejada and Sutrisno, will see time at cornerback.
Grady is a player to watch at strong safety, with senior Jeff Rennie (6-4, 200) manning the free safety slot, giving the Patriots the two tallest safeties in the BCSL.
The Patriots, who opened their season last weekend against Wallington, will be more prepared this time around.
"We say it every year that we would like to compete for two championships," Voorhees said. "We’re hopeful that we can bounce back. If things go well this year, we can do even better. We’re a lot stronger and the team has been working on the discipline. If we win our first game, then that should give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the year."
Count on the Patriots to be very strong throughout the course of the 2003 season.