Changing of the Guard in NJ Football
While the NFL is experiencing a new brand of change with shortened free agency, the best football teams around New Jersey will undergo overhauls of their own with the departure of senior leaders. Here’s some of the biggest impact seniors from 2010 and what their teams will look to do to fill the voids they have left.
Roxbury – Angelo Mangiro OL/DL
This 6-foot-4 295 pound beast of a young man will be tough to replace on both sides of the ball due to his sheer size and natural abilities. An anchor on the offensive line, Mangiro was the heart and soul up front on both sides of the ball for the Gaels last year.
On defense his ability to garner double teams will be sorely missed and Roxbury will have to do more with schemes and speed to create the pressure they need on opposing quarterbacks. Mangiro was also the consummate leader, something the Gaels will be searching for hard this season having graduated all four of their captains last season.
Good news is the future is bright for Roxbury in the form of a couple underclassmen who impressed a year ago. Donald Panciello got the opportunity to showcase some of his abilities as a sophomore last season, averaging better than 5 yards a carry as a tailback while scoring four touchdowns and playing some good linebacker for the Gaels.
Ryan Michaels was also a pleasant surprise as a sophomore for Roxbury in 2010-2011. The shifty 5-foot-6 wide receiver and kick returner ran the ball, played on the flanks, and showed flashes of brilliance in the return game. As juniors, both Michaels and Panciello should give a boost to the skill positions for the Gaels.
It’s hard to replace such a gifted athlete and great leader like Angelo Mangiro, but that is the task for Roxbury in 2011. They need to answer some questions at the quarterback position, but with a good class of returning juniors and some potential standouts becoming upperclassmen, the Gaels hope to soar this season.
Wayne Hills – Brian Downling RB/DB
When describing Brian Dowling in our top 31 athletes countdown throughout July, we put it this way: “The kid did everything. Literally.”
Hard to argue with that.
Offense, defense, special teams -- there was seldom a night where Dowling did not influence a couple, if not all three aspects of the game tremendously. In one of the most amazing sports plays ever, high school or otherwise, Dowling pitched the ball while being tackled on a kickoff return to Troy Zaffino who scored the state winning touchdown in last year’s state championship.
Dowling broke three school records by tallying 74 career TDs, 5,554 career all-purpose yards and 46 carries in a game. That 46 carry game was one of the biggest of the year, a huge win against Ramapo where a banged up Dowling accounted for 326 yards and four TDs. Most importantly he led Wayne Hills to a perfect record and a state championship in 2010, shouldering most of the load on offense with a maturing young quarterback, while doing his best to impact every other facet of the game.
Now the question for Wayne Hills is, how do you replace a blood and guts guy like Brian Dowling? A big onus will fall on junior signal caller Kevin Olsen. After relying heavily on Dowling a season ago, the training wheels are coming off and Olsen will be expected to make more plays not only with his feet, but with his arm as well.
The good news for Hills is that Olsen should have help in the form of some great targets on the outside. Andrew Monaghan returns as a great pass catcher and burner who can help stretch the field, while Joe Lane will get his first chance at tight-end after impressing at defensive end last season. The big 6-foot-2 230-pound wrecking ball should give Olsen a security blanket over the middle and help in the run game.
Paramus – John Robertson QB
Quarterback is undoubtedly the most important position in football, possibly in all of sports, and that fact cannot be overstated when talking about John Robertson from Paramus.
A true workhorse, Robertson was an unbelievable two-way player, not only roaming the backfield on defense, but accounting for 3,978 of the 4,685 yards of offense the Spartans gained in 2010.
Robertson was a leader in every sense of the word; in the biggest games he never flinched. He put up 500 yards of total offense and eight touchdowns in a historic, 63-56 loss to Devin Fuller and Old Tappan On Thanksgiving, Robertson registered 514 yards of offense and six scores in a thrilling 42-38 victory over Ridgewood.
So the obvious question for the Spartans entering the 2011-2012 campaign is, who picks up the torch? The early favorite is senior Mike Bussanich, who was the only other quarterback listed on Paramus’ depth chart a season ago. A gifted athlete, Bussanich saw time at wideout last season, catching 33 balls for nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns.
Bussanich will also have help returning in the form of a 5-foot-9 185-pound running back named Mike Urban. Urban had over 100 touches for Paramus last year, accumulating over 400 yards and contributing on special teams. A junior to watch for the Spartans will be Josh Rollins, who saw time at tight end as a sophomore last season, averaging over 17 yards per catch
Bergen Catholic – Tanner McEvoy QB
Another signal caller leaving big shoes to fill, Tanner McEvoy truly left his mark on one of the top programs in the state. As a junior, McEvoy wowed scouts at wide receiver, receiving scholarship offers from many top Division I schools.
As a first time signal caller under first year head coach Nunzio Campanile, McEvoy did not disappoint. The Crusaders fell one game short of a state championship, losing to the nation's top team, Don Bosco, in the Non-Public Group 4 title game, but McEvoy was not to blame.
He truly carried the offense for Bergen Catholc, accounting for 3,664 of the teams 5,513 total yardage for the season. He threw for 2,264 yards and 32 touchdowns, both of which were school records. While he couldn’t get Bergen over the Bosco hump in Campanile’s first season in charge, he definitely closed the gap and paved the way for this year’s class of Crusaders.
Enter junior quarterback Anthony Lovecchio.
As a sophomore, Lovecchio got a chance to start one game and looked pretty impressive, throwing for 211 yards and three scores in a 47-12 win over Paramus Catholic. The good news for Lovecchio and the rest of the Crusaders is that they return a lot of help, especially at the wideout spot with three burners to stretch the field in all directions.
Charles Wingate got plenty of run as a junior, catching balls in seven of BC’s games last year and accounting for three scores. He will be joined by Brian Kelly and John Psimis, who both saw time at receiver a season ago.
The biggest question for the Crusaders' offense is, who will help shoulder the rushing load with departures of not only McEvoy, but the team’s top two running backs in Karl Bostick and Spencer Kulcsar? Campanile will probably use junior James Dawson and senior Mike Gerst to round out this year’s three-headed attack, but with less than 100 carries between them in 2010, a lot is up the air in Oradell.
Don Bosco - Paul Canevari RB/ Gary Nova QB
The easiest way to measure the success of the leader is with that one wonderful word: winning.
You’d be hard pressed to say there were two better leaders for a team the past two seasons than Paul Canevari and Gary Nova for Don Bosco Prep. Following a national championship in 2009, the table was set for a potential changing of the guards as Don Bosco lined up againse Bergen Catholic for the Non-Public Group 4 championship game at Giants Stadium. Nova and Canevari would not allow that to happen.
Nova finished his career a perfect 24-0 as a starter, a two-time state champion and a national champion. He is committed to Rutgers in the fall and Greg Schiano gets not only a very talented athlete, but also an extremely likeable young man. The Ironmen may have a tougher time replacing his leadership than his stats.
If Nova was driving the ship, Canevari was the diesel engine that made it go. In posting 1,500 yards and 27 touchdowns this past season, Canevari was great from the word go. He rushed 20 times for 323 yards in the team’s opener against a very good Gilman team from Maryland and never looked back.
Canevari was the model of consistency, scoring a touchdown in every one of Don Bosco’s games.
Now the task of taking over under center falls on senior Mike Yankovich, who has been waiting three seasons for the opportunity. Meanwhile, Leonte Carroo is a phenomenally talented wide receiver who gained nearly 1,000 yards en route to 16 touchdowns and a wildly impressive junior season. Carroo was a matchup nightmare in 2010 and with another year of size, strength and awareness on his side, he could have a truly mammoth season.
This year’s workhorse in the backfield will likely be Elijah Shumate, who makes the move from defense to offense, having played linebacker in 2010. At 6-foot-1 and over 200 pounds, Shumate is built out of the Canevari mold (6-foot, 220 pounds) and hopes to be that engine for the Ironmen in 2011.
St. Peter’s Prep – Savon Huggins RB
Everyone knew the ball was going to Savon Huggins in 2010, but that didn’t mean anyone knew how to stop him.
One of the greatest running backs in New Jersey state history, Huggins did it on a team that relied heavily on the run. Despite every team and every defensive coach game planning against him, Huggins still managed to put up gaudy numbers while leading the Marauders to a state semifinal loss to eventual champion Don Bosco.
The 6-foot, 200-pound Huggins rushed for 1,891 yards and 35 touchdowns, helping St. Peter’s to a 9-2 record for the season.
So where do the Marauders turn now to pick up the slack? Jared Crayton is sure to get some touches in 2011. As a junior, Crayton carried the ball for nearly 300 yards and five touchdowns.
Much of the burden will fall on signal caller Brandon Napoleon, who will not only be asked to run more, but will probably have to open up the offense through the air. The Marauders return a good player in 6-foot-5 230-pound tight end Michael Giacone, but he is the only player from a year ago who registered more than five catches.