After 44 years at Morris Knolls High School (Rockaway, New Jersey), there isn’t much Bill Regan doesn’t know about running the veer offense – or teaching it to a new group of high school football players. Yet Regan has been a teacher even longer than he’s coached, so he appreciates methodical lessons and gradual progress.
That’s a big reason why Morris Knolls will open the season hosting sister school Morris Hills (Rockaway, New Jersey) on Friday night, a full week after most New Jersey teams started their seasons and multiple weeks after many around the country.
Regan had a lot to teach his young team before the Golden Eagles faced their archrivals.
The Golden Eagles’ first two scrimmages against Montville (N.J.) and Orange (N.J.) were to practice defending against the spread. Morris Knolls hosted Ridge (Basking Ridge, N.J.) on Sept. 3 – when most New Jersey teams were already game-planning for their first opponents – specifically to get a look at the Wing-T, which Morris Hills utilizes. That’s been Regan’s focus for the past two weeks.
But not even Regan can predict what will happen when the rented lights flip on at Morris Knolls on Friday night.
“You want to be making progress,” he said. “You want to be improving from all your scrimmages. You hope your first game will be a big step forward. Some guys are gamers. They have athletic poise. They’ve had enough competition under their belts, these games are exciting. Other kids are like, ‘Oh my, what did I get into?’ When there’s 3,000 people and the lights are on, it’s a whole different atmosphere.”
Flip the calendar
The majority of New Jersey high school football teams kicked off their seasons last weekend, shortly after students returned to classes.
However, there were 15 games involving 21 in-state high schools in Week 00, before Labor Day – including Don Bosco and St. Joseph (Montvale) traveling to California to face St. John Bosco and JSerra Catholic; Timber Creek at Bishop Hartley in Columbus, Ohio; part of Rumble on the Raritan at Rutgers; and several cross-border games in Pennsylvania.
There are 58 football games this weekend involving teams making their 2019 debut. In four of those, both teams will be fresh off preseason.
“We have played Week 0, but this year it didn’t suit our schedule and our team, so we decided not to pursue it hard” said Central Regional (Bayville, New Jersey) athletic director John Scran, who will open at Jackson Liberty (N.J.) Friday night – both teams’ 2019 debut.
“It’s all up to my coach, whatever the coach feels and where you can align that bye. … I put a lot of trust in my coach, communicate with him, and we come up with a game plan.”
Jim Sharples has been at Jackson Liberty since the school opened in 2006, and has never played before Week 1. He “did get a lot of offers” for Week 0 games, but turned them all down – including the opportunity to play archrival Jackson Memorial on Sept. 6, the second day of school.
Sharples switched the Lions from a pro-style spread offense to a triple option, and wanted more time to prepare – and less risk activities would be curtailed due to heat. The fact that Jackson Liberty and Central Regional are starting Friday night is just a bonus.