After winning more games than it had in the previous four seasons and reaching the NJSIAA playoffs for the first time since 2007, South Plainfield’s success translated into renewed interest in the football program.
The timing couldn’t have been better for second-year head coach Gary Cassio, whose squad was depleted by graduation, and who welcomes a host of newcomers including four players from the school’s perennial powerhouse baseball program.
“In this day and age where everybody is focusing on one sport,” Cassio explained, “you are battling for these athletes. I didn’t come and recruit them. They are coming to us (saying), “We want to play. We like what we see.’ “
Cassio enjoys a symbiotic relationship with all the other varsity coaches at South Plainfield, especially baseball coach Anthony Guida, who encourages his charges to play multiple sports.
“I encourage kids to play other sports just for that competitive advantage,” Guida said. “I think it’s going to benefit both (the football and baseball) programs. The summer time is the most difficult, especially between baseball and football. Our season just ended and we want the kids to keep playing (baseball), but we want the kids to play (competitively), even if they are not playing our sport.”
Senior Rob Eggert, a baseball star who has never played a down of organized football, will start at strong safety and play wideout.
“He’s got great speed and great hands,” Cassio said. “He’s picking everything up.”
L.J. Scarpitto and Kyle Dickerson, who will both play receiver and defensive back, and two-way tackle Sean Cullen — all are baseball players — will help South Plainfield fill voids at key positions.
“They are definitely going to help us out in the secondary,” South Plainfield senior running back Roemello Monroe said of Eggert, Scarpitto and Dickerson, noting all have quality speed and are good open-field tacklers.
The Tigers return one starting offensive lineman and graduated 778 of the team’s 927 receiving yards. Incumbent quarterback Kyle Moroney may have new faces to throw to and new faces protecting him, but don’t expect him to be less productive than a year ago when he passed for 871 yards and six touchdowns.
“He can throw the football well and we’ve got a good group of receivers who can catch it,” Cassio said. “We are going to be very balanced.”
Monroe, who carried a team-high 113 times for 533 yards, will be the feature back now that Joe Pellegrino, the team’s leading rusher with 659 yards, is playing at Kean University.
“Roemello is a different type of back than Joey,” said Cassio, who described Pellegrino as a scat back with a quick burst. “Roemello is a kid that can run between the tackles.”