As an understudy the past two seasons to three-year starting quarterback Vin Gargano, who ran Old Bridge’s spread option attack to near perfection, Nick LaVecchia learned from the best.
“He always made things look so easy and simple,” said LaVecchia, who will succeed Gargano behind center this fall. “I just wanted (as the backup) to be able to be sort of the way he was – very calm – because he ran things so smoothly.”
Gargano, who led the Knights to the Central Group V semifinals, where they lost for the second time in 2012 to eventual sectional champion South Brunswick, graduated along with gifted running backs Aaron Ford and Chris Middleton.
The trio combined for 2,852 yards of total offense, all of which must be replaced by a promising group of newcomers that has waited for its chance in the spotlight, and which was motivated by last year’s NJSIAA playoff defeat.
“I feel a lot of responsibility goes on my shoulders and I feel everybody in the program does based on last year’s performance,” LaVecchia said. “We all know as juniors and sophomores who played in that game or were at that game how we felt that last South Brunswick game.”
LaVecchia, who did not play organized football until his freshman year at Old Bridge, has been a quick study.
The quintessential student, LaVecchia frequently asked questions of Gargano and head coach Anthony Lanzafama, himself one time a star quarterback at Old Bridge. Like a sponge, he absorbed knowledge.
“Vin and Coach “Lanz” were always there to help me,” he said. “I always had a lot of questions. My sophomore year, I was very nervous and wasn’t sure what I was doing. The following year I was coming back a little stronger mentally.”
The Knights built sizable leads against four opponents last season, enabling LaVecchia to take paramount snaps in game action, which bodes well for him this fall.
“Being in that game atmosphere helps me out a lot,” LaVecchia said. “It makes things a whole lot easier for me. When you gain experience, it builds confidence. I knew my role last year. This upcoming year, I was going to be considered as one of the starters. It (playing some varsity) helped build chemistry with the kids that are coming in with me this year.”
LaVecchia attempted just one pass and rushed 10 times for 136 yards. The numbers, however, pale in comparison to the importance of getting a feel for the speed and tempo of a varsity game.
“That’s why I think I’m ready this year,” he said. “The (senior) group we have is very close knit. They all have a lot of confidence in me. They trust me back there leading the offense. Coach (Lanzafama) has a lot of confidence in me, as well. I think I’m ready and prepared for the season.
“After four years in the program, it’s almost like second nature to me.”