CLARK, NJ- One year removed from what was perhaps the most successful football season in the last decade, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders varsity football team is hoping to build off the successes of the 2017 season.
The Crusaders went 8-3 in the 2017 season, capturing the Mid-State 38 Valley Division Conference Championship, the first conference win for the program since the 2006 season.
They reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 Semifinals for the second time in the past three seasons, losing to Hillside High School 19-16. The Crusaders are working to get even further this year.
“The one thing from last year that [the kids] did, really in the years we got rolling, was the buy-in from the kids and believing what we’re doing,” Johnson fifth-year head coach Anthony DelConte said. “Their work ethic, believing in hard work, doing it for one another [was amazing].”
“When we got rolling and clicked, that’s when we meshed together as a unit,” he added.
This season brings some new faces, along with some that are very familiar to the field. Sophomore Joe Greenbush is expected to take over the reins as the starting quarterback, after excelling through his freshman season and hustling during practices over the summer.
Other players who look to have standout seasons include on the offense: senior running backs Sebastian Iakouchevitch and Vito Galluzzo, along with junior Evan Parenti, senior kicker Nick Serpe, junior wide receiver Max Carmino, senior wide receiver-tight end Rico Veltre and Tom Sweeney.
The offensive line for Johnson consists of senior left guard Luke Giltner, junior center Patrick Brennan, junior right guard Albert Galiszewski, senior tackle Thomas Bizzoco and junior tackle Jerome Palmer.
“They are adjusting well to the new offensive changes and are stepping into their new roles,” DelConte said. “There are a lot of adjustments and work to do, but our identity is still the same: play fast, play physical, play together. That will never change.”
The defensive line for Johnson features Bizzoco and Serpe (defensive ends), junior Vito Cassano and senior Danny Burns (defensive tackles), Iakouchevitch (strongside linebacker), junior Joe Kaulfers (middle inside linebacker), Veltre (wide linebacker), Carmino and junior John Cuccolo (cornerbacks) and Parenti and Galluzzo (safeties).
“They did a nice job over the offseason, the weight room was big and being three-sport guys,” he added. “It’s everybody across the board, not just them, but the team as a unit really buying into what we’re doing,” said DelConte.
The schedule for the new season also brings two new opponents for the Johnson Crusaders. Metuchen and Spotswood, both from the Greater Middlesex Conference will be on the field against the Crusaders this year
.After the 2017 high school football season concluded, a newer formatted schedule and massive changes were approved and are now in place for the 2018 season.
Under the new schedule, teams now have the option to open the season in Week 0 (Aug. 30-31) and can have the bye week during the season if they decide to do so. Some teams have the option to play the eight straight weeks, or in some cases, nine straight weeks without the bye week.
The regular season runs through Week 8 (Oct. 26-27) and the playoff brackets are set right after in each section. The high school football playoffs kick off with the first round the weekend of Nov. 2-3. The semifinals are played the following week with the sectional championship weekend now the weekend of Nov. 16-17.
Thanksgiving Week and the rivalries between the teams over the years remain unchanged. For the public school sectional champions, they face off in state bowl games the weekend of Nov. 30-Dec. 1.
Following the regular season, the top 32 PowerPoint earners are broken up into four different brackets, which were the former traditional North 1, North 2, Central and South brackets. The North 1 and North 2 winners would face off in those bowl games, while the Central and South winners would face off.
“We just have to take it one day at a time and keep working each day,” DelConte said. “One thing we tell our kids is to get better each and every time we get on the field. We can’t waste a rep, can’t waste a set. Each time we’re out there, we have to make sure we get better at it.”
The Crusaders kick off their 2018 season in Week Zero with their season opener at Governor Livingston HS on Thursday, August 30 at 3:00 p.m.
“We have to be ready. We have a tough schedule and we have a lot of tough opponents on there,” DelConte said. “We have a long season ahead of us, especially in Week 0 against a tough GL team unit, it’s no break by no means. We have to be ready to play each team and they’re going to be ready to go.”