The conclusion of last season is a memory Immaculata’s football team and its devoted fan base would love to banish — a 30-6 loss to Holy Spirit in the Non-Public Group II final.
“They ran it down our throats,” said Spartans senior defensive end/tight end Joe Vitiello. “It was pretty upsetting.”
The Spartans came into the Dec. 7 final at The College of New Jersey riding a nine-game winning streak that stretched back to a 20-7 loss at Ridge Sept. 14. In that stretch the Spartans had averaged 32.3 points per game, making the final game for now-retired longtime coach Pierce Frauenheim even more disappointing.
Fortunately for the returning Spartans and Vitiello, the chance to do something about it is in their control.
A new season begins Saturday at Plainfield with a completely fit Vitiello raring to make chaos on defense and deliver blocks and catch a few balls on offense.
He caught 11 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown — an 11-yard reception from graduated quarterback Antonio Natale — in the wild 35-31 comeback win against Hunterdon Central. Vitiello provided two sacks that night too.
“He’s the best tight end in the state. He has very good speed where we can split him out and he might have the best hands on our team,” said Immaculata first-year coach John Hack. “He’s very gifted; great size and ability, he always wants to be the best.”
His threshold of pain is something the Spartans talk about too.
Vitiello transferred from Bridgewater-Raritan to Immaculata in Week 6 of the 2011 season. He had to sit out a month because of the NJSIAA transfer rule. His delay was extended because a hairline fracture in his right forearm suffered in scrimmage forced him to miss the first three games of last season.
The fracture didn’t completely heal until after the season. But you wouldn’t have known it. In seven games playing with a protective shield, the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder finished 10th on the team in tackles with 45.
“I was playing at 50-percent ability due to the injury,” he said.
He was second in tackles-for-loss with six behind graduated star Tashawn Bower’s 16. Bower now plays for Auburn, while Vitiello made a non-binding verbal commitment in June to Boston College.
Vitiello said he was up for the challenge of becoming the main man up front with Bower’s departure.
“It means I have to fill big shoes and I definitely believe I’m ready for it,” he said.
“I have a high motor and I’m able to play through pain, I played through a lot of it last year,” Vitiello said.