MILLBURN, NJ - The first day of practice last week produced some surprises for the Chatham football program when two coaches were unavailable because of personal circumstances.
Veteran line coach Bob Beattie was sidelined with a medical condition and offensive coordinator Joe Sullivan left to take a job in another profession.
The surprises continued on Tuesday with the return to the football field of senior quarterback Andrew DesMarais, who has not strapped on the shoulder pads in a game since his freshman year. To Cougar head coach Jason Izsa it was one of the highlights of the controlled quad-scrimmage with Millburn, Gov. Livingston and Whippany Park at Millburn High.
"He's our surprise guy just because he's sat out so long and now he's back taking over the reins," Izsa said. "He had to be the guy who stood out as a surprise. I'm not surprised that he's standing out - he's a good kid and works hard - but for him to come out and take over it's a good day."
According to DesMarais, he played football as a freshman and then decided to concentrate on basketball for the next two years. Now he's back on the gridiron for his senior year.
"Andrew DesMarais, first year playing in three years, four years, whatever you want to say," Izsa said. "First snaps as a varsity quarterback he did a nice job and with our usual cast of characters with Max (Schelling) and Christian (Cuttita). Andrew might be the No. 1 guy, stepping up and taking over at quarterback. We don't know whose going to be our day-one starter, but right now he's No. 1 on our depth chart."
There is plenty of competition for playing time on this Cougar squad. Izsa pointed out that there are five quarterbacks working in preseason camp and that there is also depth at running back with Schelling being joined by Jake Wingate and Drew Sardini.
One player who was hard to miss during the scrimmage was junior middle linebacker Luke Agnew, who played like he already was in game shape.
"Some guys are in preseason shape, he's in season shape," Izsa said. "He's been working hard in the offseason. He's gung-ho this year. He's all in."
Izsa confirmed that Steve Trivino, who was slated to be the defensive coordinator this season, has moved back to his old spot as offensive coordinator. Elliot Platt will take over as the defensive coordinator.
"Bob Beattie had some health issues and Joe Sullivan took another position professionally, so we're trying to figure things out," Izsa said. "Everyone is professional here. Having nine coaches is a tremendous luxury. Years ago, we had four on our varsity staff. We want to hire more coaches, but we want to make sure we get the right people and not just hire anyone.
"Whippany Park, Millburn and Gov. Livingston all have a scrimmage under their belts, so the first time out against another color, we did some good things. All the way around, whether it was a varsity guy, a JV guy, a second guy or third guy in, everyone gave a good effort. We made some mistakes and we have some things to work out. That's what we have the preseaon for, to correct those mistakes."
Cougar senior Christian Cuttita pulls in a touchdown pass from Ryan Lonergan in scrimmage action vs. Gov. Livingston
Senior QB Andrew DesMarais connects with a pass to Christian Cuttita in scrimmage vs. Gov. Livingston
COUGAR SCRIMMAGE HIGHLIGHTS: Senior tri-captain Christian Cuttita had a strong day at wide receiver for Chatham and pulled in a touchdown pass from Ryan Lonergan vs. Gov. Livingston ... sophomore Charles Cuneo denied Gov. Livingston a TD when he broke up a pass in the end zone with a diving play ... sophomore Jeremy Pollard had a sack and made his presence felt on the defensive line ... sophomore quarterback Ryan Coughlin connected with classmate Carson Lubrano for two touchdowns.