WEST ORANGE, NJ – West Orange High School football coach Jim Matsakis sat down with The Alternative Press on Aug. 15 to discuss the coming football season. Practices began in July and 50 players just returned from an intensive five-day football camp. Practices run Monday through Saturday, and 100 freshmen, junior varsity, and varsity athletes are all working together on the field with the next few weeks determining team compositions.
Matsakis began by saying that from the camp experience, the coaches identified eight varsity starters and named seniors DJ Grant and Hassiem Williams as co-captains. Both athletes expressed their enthusiasm for the coach and the assistant coaches, saying that none of the players quite knew what to expect when Matsakis took over as coach earlier in the year. However, the head coach and assistant coaches provided them with a comfort level in an effrot to foster a good working environment and to ease the transition. Grant and Williams said, "We have never worked harder" in practice, and said one of the more difficult exercises, called “Titans,” similar to Mountain Climbers, was tough, along with the 300-yard shuttle runs.
Matsakis realistically spoke of the strengths and areas of improvement he recognized. He acknowledged former coach John Jacob and his coaches.
“John is a friend of mine,” said Matsakis, who had nothing but kind words to say about the former coach. He noted that the players had been well-conditioned and had a good degree of discipline, and attributed that to Jacob. He said that while he understood and respected much of the “West” culture, that is was important to return to a “West Orange” culture that would not only foster athletic teamwork, but include the entire school as well as the West Orange community.
Matsakis is from a small town in Ohio and grew up in a mutually supportive community. Football players attended the Drama Department’s plays, went to cheerleading competitions, wrestling meets, and more. His desire is to establish that kind of culture with his athletes so that whether playing football as a team or attending a class, everyone is united and part of a whole. The team will be learning the WOHS school song and will sing it at each game. He wanted to see the ‘cliques’ on the football team become a cohesive team.
Matsakis, who has also been hired as a full time math teacher at the high school, shared the names of the WOHS Football coaching staff:
Offense/Running Back: Rich Wroblelewsi
Quarterback: Billy Bock and Peter Brand
Wide Receiver: Joe Cina and Jas Rousson
Offensive Line: Tony Grego and Alan Zanobli
Defensive Line: Dave Grant
Linebackers: Rob Lomoriello
Defensive Backs: Derek DePascuale
Volunteer Coach: Paul Williams
In addition to the new coach and staff (Dave Grant returns), almost everything is different, from the vocabulary, plays, and blocking. Tackling remains the same. New strategies include a run-and-shoot offense, a no-huddle offense, and snapping the ball every 15 seconds.
When it was mentioned to the coach how the players have been saying how tough the conditioning is, he chuckled and said, "It’s going to get a lot harder." He works with the football team more like a wrestling team, he said, and his goal is to train them like a college team, developing team and school pride and spirit and challenging players to change their mindset and go beyond their own expectations.
“I want the team to make their own tradition,” said Matsakis. “There’s no reason why a school of 2,000 students can’t be competitive in all their sports.
“Everyone has a story," Matsikis said. "You can make it an excuse, or you can rise above it.”
The team’s first game is away on Thursday, Sept. 12 in Teaneck.
The WOHS Football Discount cards will soon be available this season for $20 each and include several coupons for food, sportswear and more.
The WOHS Football Parent’s Club is handling Spiritwear sales. Check out the link at http://www.cafepress.com/wohsmountaineerendzoneclub.