Here’s Nancy Haggerty on her visit to Spring valley:
Andrew Delva is looking backward to try to move forward.
The Spring Valley coach played D and fullback for the Tigers from 1997 through 2000.
He recalls the ’97 team that won Spring Valley’s last sectional championship.
“We were all committed to team,” he said. “Egos were put aside. You made sacrifices for the team.”
Delva has shown his own commitment in various ways. Consider that last June he invited Northeast Wrestling to the school as a football team fundraiser. Even Delva took to the mat and he didn’t disappoint, winning by a pin. The event raised more than $7,000 for the program.
In July, he also conducted the school’s second annual Lineman Challenge, an event pitting linemen from seven high schools against each other in various skills, including the bench press and obstacle course.
It was incentive for the kids to stay in shape and also, of course, a fun event.
This season, Delva’s own challenge is to get as much as he can from a young squad. Make that a YOUNG squad.
Spring Valley graduated 24 players last spring. Only five players return from last season’s three-win squad.
That makes for lots of question marks. But Delva isn’t close to looking for a white flag to wave.
Instead, he likes his nucleus. That would include senior wide receiver/running back/defensive back Gabriele Lourenco and senior quarterback/linebacker Michael Palma.
Those two will provide leadership, according to Lourenco.
“I believe in my team. Me and Mike will take the leadership,” said Lourenco. “(Our team) has got talent. Everyone knows it. We just have to execute.”
Lourenco emphasizes the team-first mantra. He acknowledged getting off to a slow start last season, saying he was in Delva’s doghouse the first two games but then “climbed out of it.”
This year, he expects to stay out of it and will encourage others to do the same.
“We didn’t work together as a unit last year. This year, we have no more “me” guys. We’re just going to work as a team, as a family. If we can do that, “we’ll surprise a lot of people,” Lourenco said.
One new offensive target will be Justin Eaton, a transfer from Montvale, New Jersey’s St. Joseph’s. He played freshman football there last season but is expected to start at wide receiver and safety, his 6-foot-1, 160-pound frame seemingly perfectly suited for both.
Eaton sees the key to Spring Valley’s success as “commitment.”
Delva has already seen that from Palma, who made the odd transformation from center to QB last year because of injuries.
“He has the tools. He’s a hard worker. He’s a student of the game,” Delva said of Palma.
Delva expects good things both offensively and defensively from senior lineman Marvin Joseph. On defense, he also likes 5-foot-10, 226-pound junior linebacker Leo Pamphile, a strong kid, who is also the defense’s QB, making all the checks.
Another player to watch on D is sophomore defensive end Devin Lawson, a transfer from Florida.
“He’s a big presence,” Delva said of the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder.
In the end, much of Spring Valley’s fate will rest with new guys like senior Lavonte Footman, who expects to see time at linebacker and fullback after playing on the JV last season.
“I think when we work together, we’re a good mental and physical team,” said Footman.
“Whatever I do, I do for my team,” he said, explaining his personal goal is just to help his team be successful.