HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Expectations.
With success comes expectations. Hasbrouck Heights, ranked eighth nationally at season’s end by the High School Football America in the small school division, can’t be any more successful than it has been the past three years.
Three league titles, two NJIC titles (with a loss in the final the other year). Three Group I titles, including the first ever Group I bowl championship game. A 32-1 record the past three years.
A historic run through the playoffs a season ago which saw, starting in the NJIC Bowl series, the Aviators beat an undefeated Park Ridge team and an undefeated Rutherford team (who would become the Group II Bowl Series champions) to capture a second NJIC title.
The state playoffs brought a shift from North 1, Group 1 to North 2, and a path through an unbeaten New Providence team, an unbeaten Weequahic team, and a Shabazz team that was seeded first in the power rankings in Group 1, causing the Aviators to head on the road in Sectional Final. Two decisive wins, and a classic game against Shabazz that saw the Aviators pull out a victory on the road.
By year’s end, the Aviators were ranked by High School Football America as the eighth best small school team in the country. Four seniors from the offensive line graduated. So did two All-County players in defensive back/wide receiver Ian Rinke and do-everything slot back/linebacker Jasiah Purdie.
On June 30, High School Football America rankings came out, the Aviators were sixth in the small school pre-season top 25. Expectations.
Hasbrouck Heights head coach Nick Delcalzo treats that with a grain of salt. He also acknowledges he understands why the expectations are there, and why they don’t mean anything.
“I am just looking at Cresskill,” Delcalzo said. “Well they gave us the label, forget about the label, you gotta work hard to stay where we are. You gotta earn it, and I think we earned it the last three years.
“But you can’t live in the past,” Delcalzo said. “Each team is different. They need to be their own group, and they need to get their own accomplishments, and try to better than the opponents each week.”
Quarterback: Spencer Lee (Senior)
Lee is one of the main reasons that everyone believes that the Aviators will repeat as champions. Taking over as a junior a year ago, and as the third starting quarterback in three years, he led the team on their championship run. Sure he had Purdie to throw the ball to, but he was able to make those plays.
Lee completed 71 percent of his passes last year (71-100) for 1289 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also rushed for 273 yards and five touchdowns, often picking up big first downs to keep drives alive in the post-season. Lee also caught two passes for 41 yards for good measure.
Lee was an NJIC All-Meadowlands First Team a season ago.
Running back: Michael Robertson (Senior)
Robertson was almost the forgotten man of the Aviators a season ago. Almost, but, when he rushed for 1011 yards in a season, people eventually remember that there was someone else in the backfield. The touchdowns showed the folly in that. He and Lee are the reasons, on paper, that outsiders have high expectations on the Aviators in 2019. A First Team All-Selection, the Aviators are counting on him to increase his production as a senior.
Slot Back: Rocco Minchiello (Junior), Steven Faussette (Junior)
Minichiello is a lightning fast back who can run around you, away from you, or through you if need be. He will move to tailback when Robertson needs a breather. As a reserve a year ago, Minichiello carried 34 times for 340 yards and four touchdowns and will be the Aviators kick returner.
Faussette will be the other slot back. Small, and shifty, he has good hands and ability to make people miss. He also doubles as the back-up quarterback.
Wide Receivers; Zai’here Jenkins (Senior), Daniel Viola (Junior), Jake Diaz (Sophomore)
A completely new position group, Viola is the only one of the three who has caught a pass in varsity action before, and it was for six yards. Still, Jenkins is the deep speed in the group. Diaz will be one of the first receivers off the bench, either at wide receiver or slot back.
Tight End: Indiana Stone (Senior)
At 6-3, 220 lbs, Stone is an imposing figure who will help in the Aviators running and passing game when he is in the lineup.
Offensive Line: T- Matteo Ochoa (Senior), T - John Sedlmeir (Senior) C - Will Koukoutsis (Senior), G - Chris Lohrmann (Junior), Peter Garifalos (Junior), Hector Tavaras (Senior)
An area of turnover once again for the Aviators as only Ochoa returns from a season ago. Sedlmeir becomes a two-way starter at tackle and defensive end. Chris Lohrmann steps up in one of the guard spots his brother Michael anchored last season. Garifalos will provide size up front. Koukoutsis rejoins football, and is a three sport standout, and will handle the center duties. Tavaras, a transfer, will provide depth when he returns after sitting out the first four games after transferring in from Paramus Catholic.
Defensive Line - Stone (Senior) Sedlmeir (Senior), Andre Brown (Senior), Max Powers (Senior), Lohrmann (Junior), Garifalos (Junior)
Stone and and Sedlmeir will handle the end positions. Sedlmeir was second team All-Meadowlands a year ago, and is bigger and looks ready to step up a notch. Stone is impressive on the defensive side of the ball, using his size to his utmost advantage.
At the tackle spot the Aviators rotate four players , with seniors Powers and Brown sharing time with Lohrmann and Garifalos up the middle. Powers and Brown are huge run stopping tackles whose presence inside will force teams outside.
Linebacker Minichiello (Junior) Ochoa (Senior), Hunter Freschi (Sophomore) , Robertson (Senior)
Ochoa, a First Team All-Meadowlands selection will anchor in the inside of the second line, with Freschi stepping in alongside of him. Freschi lettered as a wrestler a season ago, and is ready to take control of a spot for a few years.
Minichiello and Robertson playing outside linebacker provide the speed and quickness to get to the ball and make plays.
Defensieve Back: Viola (Junior) Jenkins (Senior), Faussette (Junior) , Diaz (Sophomore)
Jenkins was one of the standouts of the post-season a year ago, finishing the season with five interceptions. He has the tools to be a shutdown corner this season. Viola will play the other corner spot, with Faussette playing safety. Diaz will be the man, when Hasbrouck Heights needs a sub, and will play safety, with Faussette sliding up to corner.
Kicking Game: Connor Friedel (PK), Lee (P)
Lee takes over from Purdie at the punting spot and still gives the Aviators a threat back there while punting. Friedel takes over for All-Meadowlands kicker Matt Gwzscz and has shown a good leg so far in his first year of kicking.
TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro is Hasbrouck Heights, Wood-Ridge and Teterboro’s free daily news source, and is the official newspaper of the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education and Hasbrouck Heights Borough Council.
Sign up for our FREE daily eNews.
Got a news tip? Email us at email@example.com
Market Your Business through TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro
TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro will help you build your brand, improve your online presence and reach thousands of people in these three towns and beyond. Packages include social media promotion, clickable banner ads and D.I.Y. publication of events, press releases and more. Become a TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro advertiser. Call (908) 279-0303, x268, or click here.