HOLMDEL – Standing near midfield, Derek Sininsky remember the exact date he was asked to take over as head football coach at St. John Vianney. It was July 28, three days after the school and former head coach Mark Ciccotelli hastily parted ways, and just days before summer practices were to begin.
“It was a very difficult situation to be in for everyone. For the kids. For myself,’’ said Sininsky, who put together what was essentially an entirely new coaching staff. “We just had to try to bottle up all the personalities and just get these kids to believe in their new coaches. It’s that simple. They’re very talented. I’ve been saying that the whole year. We just had to get focused and get our eyes in the same direction. And the kids have been saying it’s about winning a championship right from the start.’’
They’ll have their chance, when they play for the NJSIAA Non-Public Group III crown in two weeks..
In between it’s been a fairly remarkable four months for this program.
Sure, they were 10-1 last year, with a roster of experienced players sprinkled with Div. I talent. But it wasn’t a certainty it was going to go this way, with the Lancers perfect record intact after Friday night’s utterly dominating 49-6 victory over Red Bank Catholic.
“It was tough,’’ said Calvin Beaty, a senior linebacker/fullback. “The coaches had to get our trust and we had to get the coaches’ trust. So it was very tough. It took some time, getting that contact with the coaches. It was a new staff except for two coaches.’’
It turns out there was simply no way to keep this team down, having outscored its last five opponents by a combined 205-6 margin. And against the defending state champs in the semifinals, the Lancers built a 28-0 lead at halftime and were never threatened.
“It was a little difficult at first because everyone was confused,’’ said junior linebacker Tyler Tedeschi. “No one knew what they were going to do. But in the end, because we were so close from last year and the success we had, we all came together and said ‘we’re not going to give up on each other. We’re all brothers, here for one another, and we’re going to win the ring this year.’ ‘’
As August wore on and the season-opener approached, became clear this group had unlimited potential.
“At the beginning they weren’t coachable yet,’’ Sininsky said. “But now they’ve become a great practice team and that’s been the difference I’ve seen. Once they became a great practice team then I knew we were a little bit special.’’
Friday night was a perfect example of just how special they are.
Defensively, they intercepted four Eddie Hahn passes and sacked him at least six times, putting intense pressure on the Caseys’ quarterback throughout.
The big-plays certainly weren’t limited to that side of the ball, either.
Lancers quarterback Anthony Brown got things started with a 35-yard TD pass to Michael Stapert, with the rangy receiver making a leaping grab near the goal line. The two would hook up again in the third quarter on a 65-yard scoring strike that made the score 35-6.
Then Brown, who also intercepted a pass on defense, ran 35 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
“We knew all this was possible for this team,’’ Beaty said. “It was possible last year, but we just fell short. This year we got after it more, and you see the result.’’
Added Sininsky: “We were always optimistic, but you never know. It was almost like coaching an all-star game when we got here. It was like `OK, here’s a bunch of kids you don’t know at all. You’ve heard about this kid, you’ve heard about this kid, now go coach them.’
“Now we’re 11-0, and it feel great.’’
And while their stable of playmakers gives them a huge advantage, the Lancers greatest edge right now is the tightness they’ve developed as a team, with the coaches and players having quickly formed a seemingly unbreakable bond.
Staff writer Stephen Edelson is an Asbury Park Press columnist: firstname.lastname@example.org
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