Charlie Voorhees has a lot more on his plate these days than being the new athletic director at Secaucus High School.
The long-time head football coach at the school, Voorhees also has perhaps the biggest challenge of his 13-year coaching career. Only two offensive starters and three defensive players are returning from the 7-3 squad that made the program’s eighth consecutive trip to the NJSIAA state playoffs, the second-longest playoff streak in Hudson County next to St. Peter’s Prep.
Voorhees, who replaced the retired Stan Fryczynski as the school’s AD, knows that it won’t be easy replacing all those players from a year ago. But he’s also not overly concerned either.
“This is without a doubt one of the biggest turnovers we’ve ever had,” Voorhees said. “But we’ve been fortunate enough to have our scout team play against our starters the last couple of years. We have a bunch of guys who are ready to take the step up. They just had to wait their turn. We have a few guys right now that saw some playing time last year and we have some others that really could have played, but we just didn’t have room for them.”
Added Voorhees, “Sure, this is a big turnover for us, but it’s nothing new for us. At one time, it used to be a big challenge. But this group is ready to slide right in. I guess it has something to say about our program and our town recreation program. The kids are already molded as they come into high school. They’re ready.”
One of the most prepared members of the Patriots is senior quarterback Sean Egan (5-9, 180), who has the most varsity experience of anyone on the roster. Egan has started games under center in parts of the past three seasons, including the Patriots’ appearance in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship game in Giants Stadium in 2009.
“Sean has been around it all for quite some time,” Voorhees said. “He’s worked real hard in the offseason to get stronger for this year.”
Senior Nick Schaffer (5-10, 180) is the Patriots’ go-to guy in the backfield. Schaffer saw a considerable amount of action at running back last year, as well as starting as an inside linebacker. This year, it’s his show.
“He’s one of the smartest players we’ve ever had,” Voorhees said. “I think he’s going to have a big year.”
Senior Casey Quinones (5-7, 155) is another who saw some playing time last year and returns to the backfield this year.
“He’s shifty and quick,” Voorhees said. “And he’s strong.”
Senior Dom Rizzo (6-0, 185) is another Patriot with some playing experience. Rizzo is the starting fullback.
The wide receiver duties are being shared by seniors Mike Mele (6-1, 180) and Anann Shahin (6-0, 180).
Voorhees is using two players at tight end in senior Vittorio Macaro (5-10, 185) and junior Bob Jernstedt (6-2, 200).
The offensive line welcomes back only one returning starter in senior tackle Evan Rodriguez (6-2, 300), who is no relation to the former North Bergen standout and former Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year, currently playing at Temple.
A pair of seniors, namely Justin Arujo (5-10, 205) and Christian Bartola (5-10, 210), are sharing time at the other tackle slot. Senior Tom Kessler (6-2, 210) is at one of the guard slots, with senior Mike Schmitt (6-1, 200) and sophomore Brandon Medina (5-9, 200) sharing time at guard. Schmitt is an interchangeable part along the line and can play all three positions. Junior Kyle Nelson (6-2, 210) is the center.
The Patriots utilize a 3-4 defensive set, but Voorhees said that they do improvise from that base set.
“We make it work for what we want,” Voorhees said.
Rodriguez and Jernstedt play the defensive ends, with Arujo at the nose guard.
Kessler and Schaffer return to the middle of the field at linebacker, flanked by Rizzo and senior Thomas Roselli (6-0, 190).
The safety responsibilities will fall within Egan, senior Chris Soto (5-10, 175) and junior Jason Mitchell (6-0, 170), who is also the Patriots’ backup quarterback.
Mele, Shahin, Quinones and junior Rob Crittelli (5-10, 165) will rotate at cornerback.
No one is about to feel sorry for the Patriots, who have been one of the most dominant programs in the old BCSL National and now the NJIL Meadowlands Division.
But this could be a real test for all involved in Secaucus. He has turned the reins of his offense over to former Patriot standout quarterback Peter Flora, who will serve as the offensive coordinator this season.
“Peter’s been with us for a while now and he’s fitting right into the role,” Voorhees said. “We look at this team as one that will get better as the season goes on. Once they got through training camp, I felt comfortable with them and their roles. I really think we’re going to be competitive again.”
Call it just part of the program. The Patriots were scheduled to open this weekend against Manchester Regional, but because a light stand fell during Hurricane Irene last weekend, the Patriots will play most of their home games this year (if not all) at nearby Kane Stadium. The new athletic director had to secure that deal. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.