VERONA, NJ - Coming off of a tough 4-6 season the Verona Football Team is looking to grow in 2017 with a squad filled with youth.
“We want to try and bounce back a little bit. We’re used to winning, we’ve been in the playoffs many many years. Last year was a little bit of an aberration we just want to get back to where we’re used to being,” said Hillbillies Head Coach Lou Racioppe.
Senior quarterback and Captain CJ Lavery will lead Verona this season. Last year Lavery was used primarily as a wide out who averaged over 11 yards per catch. Lavery’s athleticism will be on display at the helm for Verona in 2017 as Racioppe will utilize his elusive ability to create points.
“He’s a leader, he’s a kid who’s been playing with us for four years so he’s been through some pretty tough battles with us. He runs the ball well and he’s actually a pretty good thrower for us too so he’s a dual threat,” said Racioppe.
Having a quarterback with such speed and elusiveness will be magnified through the line he will play behind, which also projects to be a strength for the Hillbillies. Three of five starters will be returning as senior captain and tackle Nick Galluccio heads up the unit. Returning center Andrew Luehs and interior guards Brandon Cariani and sophomore Isaac Skrivanic join together on the interior line. The final tackle position will be an open competition between sophomore Nick Algieri and senior Billy Fauerbach.
“The whole game is your line. If you’ve got that big strong line that works well together and can overpower people you’re going to be successful and that’s what we’re hoping for,” said Racioppe.
The backfield for Verona will be a tandem duo of returning letterman looking to build on a solid 2016 campaign. Nick Riggio and Matt Aldiero each were efficient in posting more than a five yards per carry average in limited playing time last year. The backs are similar in style allowing for the offense to not alter any plans if one is on the field opposed to the other.
“They’re both strong, they’re both fast, they’re both good runners and we expect a lot out of both of them,” said Racioppe.
On the outside senior Rob Coppola will be the primary deep threat for the squad. Coppola will be moved around as a chess piece to create mismatches in the defense as a pass target.
“He’ll play a little bit of split end, he’ll play a little bit of inside slot for us. We have the flexibility in our offense to move him to create some matchups.
PJ Jordan and Jake McConnachie will also factor into the passing game for Verona when the matchup dictates such. The duo have raised eyebrows in the preseason with their hands and speed.
Defensively Verona expects to be very aggressive in their base 4-4 defense.
The defensive line will see a strong rotation of players in order to keep the unit fresh. Galluccio and Nick Algieri will see significant action at the defensive end position. Fauerbach, Skrivanic and Cariani and Cade Byrne will rotate through the defensive tackle position for the unit when not playing on the offensive line.
“We try to get them in and out so that they’re not playing a full game, we want to get them a little break,” said Racioppe.
In the linebacking corps Aldiero and Riggio will pull double duty on the inside and outside linebacker spot respectively. Joining Aldiero on the inside will be Rich DiGeronimo, Christian Dionisio and Griffin Jordon, while Jake Maisano will play outside linebacker.
The wide receiving corps will also pull double duty playing the remaining three defensive back positions. Coppola, Jordan and Jake McConohey will look to keep opposing air attacks in check for the Hillbillies this season.
Heading into the season opener against Hoboken, Verona has set their sights on merely improving every day on their game. The team hopes that by increasing their conditioning and fundamentals they will take steps towards greatness.
“It’s really one game at a time and we’re taking the approach that we just want to get better everyday in practice. If we keep getting good effort and getting better we’ll see the effects on the win-loss record,” said Racioppe.