CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Benefiting from a team that has come out of the offseason prepared to play Cedar Grove Football Head Coach Robert Gogerty is confident in his teams outlook this season.
“Even going back to the spring really it seems like we have so much of a head start already just with our offseason workouts, with our summer plan, our summer workouts…when we started actual practice it was just a quick review and they know all our stuff now,” said Gogerty.
The Panthers will return seven starters on both offense and defense this year to help them build on a solid 5-5 season from last year. The team had a whirlwind of success early in 2016 going 3-1 before an unfortunate 2-4 finish that left them wanting more.
“We’re going to try and take it one game at a time, one week at a time…there are no off weeks so we’re focused on Hanover Park week one and after that our next opponent,” said Gogerty.
Senior Captain Sammy Ventola will be returning under center for the Panthers at the quarterback position. Last year the senior signal caller passed for over 1300 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“He’s like another coach on the field and that’s his biggest strength…I kind of throw the kitchen sink at him and we really work well because we kind of have the same mindset as to what’s coming,” said Gogerty.
Cedar Grove will also return a budding offensive line looking to maul opposing defenses. Four starters return on the line including seniors Gerard Monahan, Joe Kubu, Sean Dougan. and junior Joe Tanti. Kubu, Dougan and Tanti will secure the outside line spots while Kubu mans center and Monahan plays guard.
“It’s a new year and it’s getting them as many reps, getting them a little tougher and starting to get them some different looks now,” said Gogerty.
The backfield returns a trio of backs who all saw some action in 2016. Captains Joe Mccarthy, and Jake Ferrara join Ryan Turi to see significant play after combining for over a six yards-per-carry pace last season with a number of scores to boot.
“It really doesn’t matter what the play call is and who the ball is going to because they all have that basic skill set, they have their own kind of knack so I’m not really worried about who’s getting the ball,” said Gogerty.
The offense will also utilize junior Mike Lever in multiple positions at running back and wide receiver to maximize his ability. Lever, when not carrying the ball will split out wide alongside fellow pass catchers Mike Pronesti, Max Devito and John Guaimano. Devito was the most polished of the quartet boasting a 10 yards per catch average along with a pair of touchdowns last year.
“We’re expecting a big year out of them…they’re all going to help us, they’re all different sizes and different speeds and all that…I think we’re a little more balanced than last year,” said Gogerty.
Defensively the Panthers will utilize a multitude of different looks and not conform to one base defense in order to keep opposing teams guessing. Inside linebackers and Team Captains McCarthy and Pronesti are expected to continue to be tackle machines for the group.
“I’ve kind of been on both of those guys to be the quarterback in that defensive spot,” said Gogerty.
Jake Ferrara will round out the linebacking core for Cedar Grove at the outside linebacker position. Ferrara came on strong towards the end of 2016 with a sack and two interceptions from the position.
On the defensive line Gerard Monahan will pull double duty alongside Joe Tanti. The duo will look to control the line of scrimmage for a full 48 minutes. They will be joined in playing both sides of the ball by Mike Lever at the cornerback position
“They’re getting better and better each week,” said Gogerty.
Rounding out the defensive unit will be a number of up and comers looking to make an impact on the back side. Juniors Harry Dorman, Guaimano, and Mike Guarino will all see time opposite Lever at cornerback and defensive back respectively.
“We’re trying to piece together the rest of that secondary,” said Gogerty.
Cedar Grove is solely focused on the task at hand in getting ready for the season opener against Hanover Park. Stressing the impact of a strong start to the season Gogerty keeps his team’s eye on the prize of a week one victory.
“Our goal is September 8th at Hanover Park and we’re going to take it from there. I think if we take it one game at a time and do what we’re supposed to do I think we’ll be in those playoffs,” said Gogerty.