History will be made tonight at Doug Wilkins Field in Mountain Lakes — long before the Herd tees it up to face Kinnelon.
For the first time in the storied Herd program, there will be a night game.
The Herd have been scheduled to host the rival Colts in a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Portable lights are being brought into “The Doug” for the game.
“The idea of lights has been on the table for a long time,” said Mountain Lakes head coach Darrell Fusco. “I think everyone wants to see what it will look like. Everyone else has lights and plays on Friday night. This is the first time with lights, so we want to look and see. The discussion has been going on in the community, so now the groundwork has been put in place.”
Fusco said that the Board of Education never rented lights before, so it’s a little bit of a gamble.
“It’s a great time to give it a shot,” Fusco said. “We look at it as being enjoyable.”
Fusco said that he has been using the lights as a motivational tool for his team.
“No question, we told them that there are very few times in Mountain Lakes that you can do something for the first time,” Fusco said. “Especially in football.”
Fusco said that the impromptu lighting has brought some added excitement.
“I’ve been getting calls from alumni and other interested people,” Fusco said. “People who rarely go to a game want to come to this one. And it’s a pretty good game.”
Both teams are coming off opening game victories, with the Herd toppling Hopatcong, 25-13, and the Colts besting Whippany Park, 28-0.
There’s also added incentive for the Colts. They haven’t defeated the Herd since 2001, losing the last 12 meetings. The two teams used to play on Thanksgiving Day, but that rivalry ended in 2006, Kevin White’s first year as the Colts’ head coach. It means one thing: White has never defeated Mountain Lakes in his eight years at Kinnelon.
“Obviously, Mountain Lakes is like our Moby Dick,” said White, who guided the Colts to the NJSIAA North 1, Group II state championship last year. “We’ve been chasing them for so long, so this is obviously a big game and can have a big impact on our season. If we want to take the next step, then we have to get over the top and beat Mountain Lakes. That’s one of our major goals.”
White knows that his team has drawn closer during the last few years. Gone are the days of the 40 and even 50-point blowouts, like the Colts endured in 2008 and 2009.
During the last three showdowns, Kinnelon has lost 28-14 (2010), 35-18 (2011) and 42-21 (last season).
“We’ve gone out and competed,” White said. “We just never put four quarters together and that’s a big sticking point.”
White likes the idea that the game is being played under the lights, albeit makeshift.
“I think it shows the respect that they have for us,” White said. “It’s a good marquee game and a big event under the lights. I find it flattering that they saw us as a big game.”
Fusco knows that the Herd has a big challenge tonight.
“I have great respect for Coach White and his program,” Fusco said. “They won a state championship last year. Our kids all know each other. I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Fusco likes the way his team played defense last week against Hopatcong, containing a high-powered Chiefs attack.
“I’m very pleased with the way we played defensively,” Fusco said. “When you play good defense, it helps the team’s confidence.”
Linebackers John Spagnola and Christian Cuccinello, linemen Zach Kuehm and Brian Olshanski and Leo Boerstohl and John Dubose all played well defensively last week.
The Colts will look to quarterback Kyle Presti (111 yards, one touchdown) and bruising back Liam Nelson (16 carries, 111 yards, three TDs) to lead the way.
“Nelson is only going to get better and better as the season goes on,” White said. “We controlled the action against Whippany Park and that tested our toughness. Those are going to be spring boards as we go forward. In order to compete with Mountain Lakes, toughness has to be a part of it. We either have to match their toughness or exceed it.”
Fusco thinks his players are ready for the excitement of Friday Night Lights coming to Mountain Lakes.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Fusco said. “It’s a local rival under the lights. That’s a pretty good deal.”
Here’s a look at the other games on this weekend’s schedule:
West Morris (1-0) at Randolph (0-1): It’s already a crucial game for the Rams, after they suffered a tough loss to Pope John in the opener. The Rams displayed a ton of offense, with six backs getting in on the action. James Bertelle is a tough back to handle. The Wolfpack will look to Kevin Hennelly, the coach’s son, to lead the way.
Morristown (0-1) at Roxbury (1-0): You can be rest assured that this one won’t be a 40-point blowout like it was last year for the Gaels en route to the state title. The Colonials, led by gritty linebacker Freddy Ruiz, are a much better defensive team. Peter Sutton gets the brunt of the carries for the Gaels.
Pequannock (1-0) at Hopatcong (0-1): The Golden Panthers opened their season with a solid 19-13 win over Wallkill Valley. Two-way lineman Vinny Parrotta is a standout for the Panthers. Ryan Clarke and Johann Lara lead the way for the Chiefs, who dropped a tough one to Mountain Lakes.
Lenape Valley (1-0) at Jefferson (1-0): The Patriots escaped with a 21-20 win over Hackettstown last week, while Kyle Neuschatz helped to power the Falcons to a 21-7 win over Newton.
Vernon (0-1) at Morris Knolls (0-1): The Vikings are coming off a tough loss to Roxbury, while the Golden Eagles dropped a hard-fought contest to West Morris, so both teams are hungry for a win. Quarterback Joe Leonardis is a master at running the Golden Eagles’ Veer attack.
Boonton (1-0) at Butler (1-0): The Bombers had a great defensive effort, shutting out Morris Catholic, 14-0, last weekend. They’ll need a bigger effort to control quarterback Glenn Reger and the Bulldogs’ attack. The Bulldogs gave new head coach Jason Luciani a 27-7 win over North Warren last week.
Newton (0-2) at Hanover Park (1-0): The Braves already have two losses, so they will look to get on track against the Hornets, who beat Parsippany last week with a solid defensive effort. Anthony Bossolino and Anthony Volante are two tough linebackers for coach Gerry Moore.
Parsippany (0-1) at Madison (1-0): History could be made at Ted Monica Stadium Saturday afternoon, as the Dodgers shoot for their 39th straight victory, which would set a new record, breaking the mark set by teams coached by the legendary Monica. A.J. Schmitz showed he was a capable quarterback in the Dodgers’ comeback win over Dover last week. Flip McGuane will look to get his first win as the head coach of the Red Hawks.
Mendham (1-0) at Delbarton (0-1): The Minutemen welcomed the return of coach Bill Carpluk with a solid win over Mount Olive, but the challenges get bigger as the county’s top team, the Green Wave, will try to avoid an 0-2 start. Matt Oplinger does a little bit of everything for Delbarton.
Dover (0-1) at Lincoln of Jersey City (1-0): The Tigers suffered a heartbreaking last minute loss to Madison, but showed they have a lot of firepower, especially receiver/running back Dwayne Brown, who had 180 yards receiving in the first half alone last week. The Lions defeated Livingston, 54-7, last week, compiling more than 500 yards in total offense. This could be a shootout.
Parsippany Hills (1-0) at Chatham (0-1): The Vikings showed an explosive offense in their huge win over Morris Hills, with new quarterback Brandon Katzenberger leading the way. The Cougars played tough defense against Montville, but came up on the short end of an 8-3 decision.
Mount Olive (0-1) at Sparta (1-0): This is a match-up of two of the best linemen in the area, with Zack Heeman of the Marauders and Kevin Foulds of the Spartans. Heeman is already headed to Rutgers. Foulds is a Division I talent as well.
Montville (1-0) at Morris Hills (0-1): The Mustangs, under new coach Don Morgenroth, will look to quarterback Booker McLean to make the big plays. The Scarlet Knights are still without their standout quarterback in Willy Hansen.
Whippany Park (0-1) at Morris Catholic (0-1): Both the Wildcats and the Crusaders were held scoreless last week, so something has to give this week. Sophomores Shawn Davis and Wayne Patterson hold the key to the Crusaders’ offense. Quarterback Dante Stefanelli leads the Wildcat attack.