HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - A lot has changed since the beginning of 2020 for the Hasbrouck Heights football program. 

After nearly 50 years as a player, coach and 36 years as head coach, Nick Delcalzo has retired and will not be on the Hasbrouck Heights sideline for the first time since the 70s.  

Bryan Ille, a former Aviator and Montclair State standout lineman, is the new head coach.   If taking over for a local legend is not challenging enough, a COVID-19 altered pre-season schedule has added a new challenge, and Hasbrouck Heights is resurfacing of Depken Field has the team practicing behind the high school, sharing space with the soccer teams. (The field is expected to be ready for opening night against Cresskill October 2.) 

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Ille will serve as his own offensive coordinator, as Adam Baeira, the offensive coordinator the previous nine seasons, has taken over the head coaching position at Ramsey High School.  Long-time line coaches Frank and Dominick D’Amico have also both stepped away from coaching as well.  The brothers were both standout lineman at Hasbrouck Heights, and contemporaries of the Ille, but have decided to spend time with their young families.

“I believe in a balanced offense,” said Ille. 

While all that sounds like a lot of change, one thing has not changed, the Aviators are loaded with talent, players who have been part of two state championship teams.  Last year was a “bad” year for the Aviators, who went 9-2 and lost in the Sectional Finals to Park Ridge.  While other schools would be celebrating such a season, after three straight Group 1 title seasons, any season without a championship has become a disappointment.

Offensively, there are changes all over the field, as many of the Aviators' skill position players have graduated, and those who return, are moving to different positions. That does not mean, however, the Aviators lack talent on offense. It just has a different look.

Two things that have not changed are long-time defensive coordinator Rocky Minichiello is back, and being Group 1 football, players appear on both sides of the ball, as well as in multiple positions as need occurs. 

Quarterback: Senior Steven Faussette moves in from wide receiver to take over the role of starting quarterback for the Aviators.  A shifty runner, Faussette spent last year at receiver, (where he was a first team All-NJIC Meadowlands selection) and brings leadership and starting experience, albeit at a different position, to Hasbrouck Heights at quarterback. One of the Aviators’ three captains, Faussette is also the starting point guard on the Aviators basketball team, so he is used to being in charge during games. 

In 2019, Faussette was 2-for-2 passing for 111 yards and a touchdown, while rushing 21 times for 158 yards, and catching 15 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns.  Faussette averaged 26.7 yards per reception, showcasing his speed.

Junior Jake Diaz will start in the slot, but he is also the number two quarterback.  Ille was pleased with the competition that Diaz provided Faussette in camp, and has confidence that Diaz will be the starter in 2021.  

Running back: Healthy off an injury-plagued year a season ago, Rocco Minichiello goes from being the third or fourth option to being the focal point of the running game. Playing in nine games a season ago, he rushed for 402 yards on 70 carries with six touchdowns, while catching 22 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns.  Despite missing time, Minichiello was a first team All-Meadowlands choice at running back in 2019. 

The difference is that last year Minichiello started as the wingback before moving to tailback due to Michael Robertson’s injury. He will start off the season as the running back.  As a sophomore, Minichiello averaged 10 yards per carry for 340 yards and four touchdowns in a limited role. He has breakaway speed once through the hole.  

Sophomore Anthony Dilascio, who rushed for 146 yards on 30 carries in 2019 when injuries hit the Aviator backfield, will be the main backup.  More of a straight line runner with outstanding speed, he provides a different style of running than Minichiello for the Aviators. He also had one catch for one yard. 

Junior Hunter Freschi will be the H-back in the Aviators' offense in 2020. Seeing time at fullback in 2019, Freschi, who is a standout wrestler for the Aviators, scored four times for the Aviators as a sophomore, catching three touchdown passes and rushing for one. He was efficient, as he carried twice for 66 yards, while caught four passes for 79 yards.

Additional depth will be provided by sophomore Anthony Grasso, who has impressed the coaches in camp.   

Slot back:  Diaz will line up in the slot where they can use his game-breaking abilities to the utmost. In 2019 Diaz was a secondary option in the offense, yet still managed to account for 462 yards and four touchdowns.  As a receiver, Diaz caught 13 passes for 315 passes, a remarkable 24.2 per catch, while scoring three touchdowns.  He carried the ball six times for 80 yards and a touchdown, and completed his only pass of the season for 27 yards.

He will be backed up in the slot by Robert Boscarino, who has impressed the coaches, with his hands and route running.

Tight end:  The Aviators will incorporate the tight end in the offense more in 2020, and will turn to junior Jadan Nelson and senior David Morgan to fill that role.  Nelson starts the season as the starter, as the coaches were happy with what they called “an excellent camp” from the junior.  Sophomore Michael Canavatchel will also provide depth here, as well as at guard. 

Wide Receivers: The team will break camp with senior Daniel Viola and junior Luke Kest holding down the starting receiver spots.  Viola played a season ago, hauling in one pass for five yards at the varsity level, while also seeing time on defense.  Kest has impressed the coaches with his hands and by executing his assignments each play.

There is depth at the position, with seniors Adrian Mercado, Isaiah Barone and AJ Parente coming off the bench. 

Offensive line:  The Aviators return two linemen from a year ago, both Second Team All-Meadowlands selections, a season ago.  Seniors Chris Lohrmann and Peter Garifalos will anchor the line from the guard positions. They will be joined by junior tackles Massimo Vignola and Justin Wexler to provide the Aviators with a relatively big offensive line.  

The center position has been a week-to-week battle in camp between Kevin Campen and Joey Delfino, with Campen expected to get the nod on opening night.   However, should any difficulties arise the coaching staff will be quick to make a change if needed, as they have confidence in Delfino as well.

Depth will from sophomore tackle Aiden Warren and senior Christian Lopez getting the first looks, while another sophomore, Kyle Cappadonna is the third center.  Juniors Bryan Formisano and sophomore Roman Eschert also provide depth.  

Not much will change on the defensive side of the ball, as Ille has turned the defense over to Coach Rocky Minichiello, who he played for as a player when Minichiello was beginning his coaching career. That means expects to see a 4-4-3 that can morph into various fronts and coverages at times, with plenty of defensive lineman running in and out of the game. (A necessity when players go two-ways in Group 1).

Defensive Line:  The Aviators are counting on senior leadership from Lohrmann (36 tackles) and Garifalos to anchor the line, while Wexler moves up to the line after being a reserve linebacker as a sophomore.  Morgan, who is out to start the season, Campen and Lopez will round out the rotation of defensive linemen up front.

Additional depth will come from seniors Michael Priore and Steven Antunez, junior Marcus Poole, sophomores Nestor Coll and Damian Lalama.  

Linebackers:  There is experience and depth here, as four of the five top players saw significant playing time a year ago.    Minichiello and Mercado, a pair of seniors, finished the year as the starters on the outside last season. Mercado had 42 tackles a season ago, and Minichiello had 29 in just 9 games and is expected to be one of the top linebackers in north Jersey.

Freschi, who had 62 tackles as a sophomore, leads all returnees, and will man one inside spot.  Nelson, who the coaches have been impressed with in camp, adds size to the middle at the other spot.  

Senior Mohammed Assaf returns to provide experienced depth at linebacker, and will be the first person off the bench to place a starter.  DiLascio, juniors Blake Freschi and Trey Armonaitis will be the next group at linebacker.  

Defensive Backs: Faussette, four interceptions in 2019, is the Aviators best cover cornerback, and will be allowed to do double-duty in the secondary.   He will be joined by Viola (1 interception) on the other side, where he started in 2019.  Diaz (39 tackles) will start at safety. Boscarino has impressed the coaching staff, and he will be the first defensive back off the bench.    

Additional depth will come from senior Justin Torres and sophomore Chris Condon. 

Kickers:  Freshman George Kouletas will handle the kicking chores for the Aviators this season.   Diaz will handle the punting. 

Friday, Oct 2, 2020 7:00PM  Cresskill  Hasbrouck Heights- Depken Stadium
Friday, Oct 9, 2020 7:00PM  Park Ridge  Park Ridge High School
Friday, Oct 16, 2020 7:00PM  Secaucus  Secaucus High School
Friday, Oct 23, 2020 7:00PM   North Arlington  North Arlington:Rip Collins Field
Friday, Oct 30, 2020 7:00PM  Becton  Hasbrouck Heights- Depken Stadium
Friday, Nov 6, 2020 7:00PM  NJIC Playoff Rd 1 Hasbrouck Heights- Depken Stadium
Friday, Nov 13, 2020 7:00PM  NJSIAA Post Season TBA
Friday, Nov 20, 2020 7:00PM  NJSIAA Post Season TBA
Friday, Nov 27, 2020 7:00PM  NJIC Playoff Rd 2 TBA


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