West Morris head football coach Kevin Hennelly wouldn’t dare take Delbarton lightly, even if the Green Wave is in a totally uncharacteristic position at 0-2 and will miss standout two-way back Andrew Papantonis with a season-ending knee injury.
West Morris will host Delbarton at 7:30 p.m. Friday night as part of what should be an exciting weekend of local high school football that got an early start Thursday, when Pope John visited Parsippany Hills.
“To be honest, I was at the Morris Knolls game (in which the Golden Eagles shocked the Green Wave, 21-19), and I came away impressed with Delbarton,” said Hennelly, whose team has won its first two games of the season. “They’re a very good football team. They’ve lost two close games (to St. Anthony of New York and to Morris Knolls). … They’re a very good team and dangerous. They’re very physical, and I don’t expect there will be any hangover from two tough losses. I will make sure our kids are reminded of that.”
Delbarton head coach Brian Bowers knows how important this game is to his team. No Green Wave team in recent memory has fallen to an 0-3 record.
“It’s very important to us and means everything,” Bowers said. “We are very focused on getting a win. The kids know what they’re up against. They’re facing a physical team that is well coached. It’s a great challenge for us. It always is against them. You get to see old-school football in a great setting. I think it’s great.”
There are some who believe that going to West Morris to play on a Friday night is the most daunting task in Morris County football. It’s always about 15 degrees colder as the fog rolls over the hills of Washington Township. There’s this eerie mist that hovers about. One would think the game is being played in London in the 1840s rather than here and now.
“We like to play at home,” said Hennelly, who is in his 20th season of coaching home games in the fog and mist. “The game is 7:30 at night under the lights on grass. We don’t want (Field) turf. We’ll never get that. We feel comfortable at home.”
Junior Cole Draghi has emerged as a go-to player for the Wolfpack, which scored 35 points against Mount Olive last week. Solomon Holdsworth is another capable runner, and sophomore Bryce Sokolowski has done a good job stepping in and carrying the ball.
Senior Cooper Sloan is West Morris’ starting quarterback.
“Our offense has been pretty good,” Hennelly said. “We have been able to run the ball well. That’s our main focus. We want to be able to run the ball.”
The Wolfpack enter the game a little banged up. Standout senior two-way lineman Ryan Pruss injured his shoulder in the preseason and has not returned to full action. Fellow linemen Taylor Parkinson-Gee and Mike Bulla have also been hobbled this week.
“It’s a challenge for us because of their style of play,” Bowers said. “They come after you. We can’t afford to dig ourselves out of a hole. I see a lot of resolve in our players. Sanders has been playing great and looks to where he can only get better. Luca Tria has had some nice runs for us.”
Despite the 0-2 start, Bowers likes the performances he’s been getting from Sam Johnson at defensive end, Jake Maciejewski and Michael Huston up front, and two sophomore linebackers, Cole Kreshpane and Anthony Siragusa, the son of former Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Tony Siragusa, now an analyst for Fox Sports.
Chris Colon is another Green Wave player who has done well defensively. Matt Zebrowski is the quarterback.
“He’s a real leader for us,” Bowers said. “He’s only going to get better. I think we’re going through some growing pains right now, but we’re ready to turn the course and play some good Delbarton football.”
Added Hennelly, “They’re still Delbarton. We have to be really ready to face them.”
Other than the Par Hills-Pope John game played Thursday, here is the rest of a busy week in Morris County football:
(All games starting at 7 p.m.)
Parsippany (0-2) at Newton (1-1): Coach Jason Hurta thought that the Red Hawks would be better this year. If the improvement is going to happen, linemen like John Burk and Rich Martin have to step it up to block for backs Mike Ilic and Rob Hockey.
Morris Hills (1-1) at Vernon (0-2): Daymon Fleming is the play-making quarterback for the Scarlet Knights. Dajon Chappelle is a promising running back and defensive back.
Morris Knolls (2-0) at Roxbury (2-0): Not many people would have thought that in Week 3, this would be the contest for first place in the NJAC-National, but it is, with two different offensive styles going at each other. Jason Parisi is the workhorse running back for the Golden Eagles’ veer offense, while Craig Roumes carries the load in the Gaels’ spread approach.
Morristown (1-1) at Mount Olive (1-1): It’s too early to call anything a must-win situation, but one of these teams will be behind the eight-ball for playoff possibilities with a loss. Colonials quarterback Cam Boswell has been impressive thus far, and running back Jhamil King has already proven to be a big-play back. Jason Drury calls the signals for the Marauders.
North Warren (2-0) at Jefferson (1-1): Logan Holleritter at quarterback and Connor Brown and Avery Sheruda at running back make a nice offensive combination for the Falcons, who have their work cut out for them against undefeated North Warren.
Mountain Lakes (1-1) at Kinnelon (0-2): Quarterback Griffin Baker and backs Dylan Gottesman and Jordan Kern are trying to restore the Herd tradition. Jon Toye is the quarterback for the pass-oriented Colts, who need a win in the worst way. David LoCasio is a standout two-way tackle for Kinnelon.
Boonton (2-0) at Dover (1-1): The soaring Bombers, with do-everything quarterback Gage Cabalar and monster linebacker Quinn Sweeney, travel to Dover to take on the multi-talented Dwayne Brown and the Tigers. Dan Castro is a two-way beast at running back and linebacker for Dover.
Madison (1-1) at Butler (0-2): The Dodgers are smarting after a tough loss to Lenape Valley last week. They hit the road, led by Justin and Mike Dalena and running back Joe Mobley, to face the struggling Bulldogs, who will look to Dan Castiglia to put them on the winning track.
(All games 1 p.m. unless noted)
Hackettstown (2-0) at Morris Catholic (1-1): The Crusaders will count on quarterback Zach Poreman and two-way lineman Paul Onorati to hopefully get them a second win under head coach John Hack.
High Point (0-2) at Chatham (1-1): Could the Cougars actually have two wins in the third week of the season? Well, quarterback Alec Sands and do-everything Timmy Adams are going to give it a try to keep the happy feeling at Cougar Field.
Randolph (1-1) at Mendham (1-1): A battle for NJAC-National supremacy, as Carlo Zarro and the Rams travel to take on Jack Dugan and the Minutemen. This should be a defensive struggle and a battle of field position.
Montville (0-2) at Sparta (1-1): The Mustangs look to get on the winning track, but it won’t be easy against the strong host Spartans. Graham Jespersen is an experienced signal caller for the Mustangs. Mike Trezza and Anthony Manna are quality receivers for Jespersen to throw to.
Kittatinny (0-2) at Whippany Park (0-2): The Wildcats will look to John McGuire, last year’s starting quarterback who has been moved to running back, to lead the way. Kyle Lisa and Luke Papa are sharing snaps at quarterback this year.
Pequannock (1-1) at Wallkill Valley (1-1): The Golden Panthers are still smarting from last week’s loss to Boonton but have to recover in a hurry against a stubborn bunch of Rangers. Tommy Crooks is proving to be a quality signal-caller, and Derek Nelson is a proven receiver for Pequannock.
Hanover Park (2-0) at Morristown-Beard (0-2): The Hornets hope to keep things buzzing with the sensational Radomski brothers, Tomasz and Michal, catching their share of passes from quarterback Donato Casolaro. Tahj Valentine is the bread-winning ball carrier to lead the Crimson.