2014 was an uncharacteristically lost year for Jefferson. The Falcons posted a 2-8 record, the worst mark in Mattessich’s decade-long tenure at the school, and dropped their last five games.
It was only the third sub-.500 season in head coach Joe Mattessich’s career.
“We were in every game, but then took a beating,” said Mattessich, who guided the Falcons to an NJSIAA North 1 Group II championship in 2008. “We were young and inexperienced. We didn’t finish games. It’s rough when you don’t have a winning season. … We talked about taking our lumps and coming back. It would be nice to give the lumps this year. We talked about having courage and our confidence.”
Because of the veteran status of his team, the always-enterprising Mattessich, who invented offensive formations using the names of other birds (like Phoenix and Eagle) as an offshoot to Falcons, has put in different offenses to start the year.
The Falcons will turn to junior Logan Hollenritter to lead the way at quarterback. The talented Hollenritter took over as the starter late last season.
“He’s come in this year with a lot more confidence and poise,” Mattessich said. “He’s good on his feet.”
The fullback is senior Avery Sheruda and the tailbacks are juniors Connor Brown and Jakob Jakova. Brown is one of the more lethal backs in Morris County, elusive and quick as well as strong.
The wide receivers are senior Michael Agnes and junior Brandon Magnotta, who is a dynamic playmaker.
The tight end is senior returning starter Griffin Riley, who has good size and even better hands. Riley is also a player to watch. The tackles are Cole Benfatti and Victor Schiavo, who started last year as sophomores. Benfatti’s uncle, Lou, played for Morris Knolls and Penn State and later the New York Jets. The guards are junior Dan Heys, who missed all of last season with a broken leg, and Dan Glazewski, who saw time at both guard and center. The center is senior Anthony Imperato.
The Falcons run a 5-2 defensive front, with Brown and Aidan Sinisgalli at defensive end. and Benfatti, Glazewski and Schiavo at defensive tackle. Sheruda and Jakova are the linebackers, with junior Alex Leming at cornerback with Magnotta. Senior Matt Ryan and junior Jalen Torres are the safeties.
The Falcons also begin the season with three home games, after having to give up those home games last year because their new FieldTurf surface was not completed in time.
“It feels like we’re finally home this year,” Mattessich said. “Last year, for the first month, everything was up in the air and we were on the road. There’s a better feel this year. There’s more confidence. No doubt, last year broke our hearts. We were so close in some games. We talk about that every day. We’re going to give everything we got.”
Head coach: Joe Mattessich, 10th season
Stadium: Falcons Stadium
Colors: Blue and gold
Classification: North 1 Group III
Offensive formation: Spread
Defensive formation: 5-2
2014 record: 2-8
Returning veterans: Connor Brown (Jr. RB-DE, 5-11, 190); Avery Sheruda (Sr. RB-LB, 5-11, 210); Brandon Magnotta (Soph. WR, CB, 5-10, 170); Griffin Reilly (Sr. TE, 6-4, 215); Cole Benfatti (Jr. OT, 6-2, 220); Victor Schiavo (Jr. OT-DT, 6-1, 210); Anthony Imperato (Sr. C, 5-8, 180); Jakob Jakova (Jr. LB, 5-10, 190); Logan Hollenritter (Jr. QB, 5-10, 170).
Top newcomers: Michael Agnes (Sr. WR, 5-6, 160); Dan Heys (Jr. OG, 5-10, 220); Dan Glazewski (Jr. OG-DT, 6-1, 230); Aidan Sinisgalli (Jr. DE, 6-0, 190); Alex Leming (Jr. CB, 5-10, 165); Jalen Torres (Jr. S, 5-10, 185); Matt Ryan (Sr. S, 5-8, 160).
Outlook: The Falcons fielded a very young team last year, starting as many as eight sophomores at one point. Mattessich has to hope that the youngsters, like Hollenritter, come of age this year. The Falcons have to stay away from allowing the big play at key times and from making the crucial mistakes, also in key situations, to dramatically improve on last year’s lost season.