CEDAR GROVE, NJ — A season after reaching the State Section Championship Game, the Cedar Grove football team is looking to pick up the pieces and complete its goal of hoisting a trophy.

“Since day one and last season ended we’ve had the focus to finish the fight a little bit,” said Cedar Grove head football coach Rob Gogerty.

This season is a unique one in and of itself with the integration of new rules due to COVID-19. The group maximized their three-week preseason, leaning on veteran talent to point them in the right direction.

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“Honestly, I think having quite a bit of experience back at a time like this helps,” said Gogerty.

The squad had a three-week preparation period in July when they normally would be scrimmaging. After a two-week layoff, the Panthers returned on Sept. 11 to pick up where they left off as they prepare for Hoboken.

“As players and the leadership [from them] has helped us move a long and catch up quicker,” said Gogerty.

In the backfield the Panthers will return a number of starters among a stable of backs. Tyler Rummel and Patch McCarthy lead the way, with Mike Willis, Nick Coletta and Brian Catanzarite all seeing action. The quartet helped aid a ground game that produced nearly 2,000 yards last year. 

“As far as the running game we have some of those guys back [like Tyler Rummel, Mike Marinelli and Patch McCarthy]…we also have some newcomers who are going to see carries, and we’re going to lean on them,” said Gogerty.

Along the outside, Cedar Grove returns two key deep threats for quarterback Dario Bryant. George Slattery and Anthony Bilotta will be expected to continue their success in the up-tempo Panther offense that helped the duo combine for nearly 100 catches, over 1,700 yards and 23 touchdowns. Bryant passed for 2,400 yards and 24 touchdowns. 

“[Bryant, Bilotta, and Slattery] are a tight-knit group which helps, no one really [demanded] the ball it just goes wherever the defense dictates it goes,” said Gogerty. 

The key depth this year for Cedar Grove will be along the offensive and defensive lines, with two-way players being able to spell each other throughout each contest. Nick Christiano, Moe Guarino, Nick Bianco, Christian Morrice, Matt Duarte, Denham Ingalls and Joe Goergen will all see action in the trenches for the squad. Brian Catanzarite will also see significant action on the defensive side after producing 10 sacks last season at end. 

“That’s one area on the offensive and defensive line where we’ll try to get guys rest and play one way at times and that’s where it really helps,” said Gogerty.

In the linebacking corps Patch McCarthy will lead the way for the Panthers. Last year McCarthy totaled 113 tackles along with four sacks. A two-year starter McCarthy will help bring along Anthony D’Alessio to hopefully continue to be a strength of a unit that was ascending towards year-end 2019.

“We’re expecting [McCarthy] to be the quarterback of the defense,” said Gogerty.

Rounding out the defense is a secondary that is headed by Antonio Cuffari. Cuffari had team-high seven interceptions last season for the Panthers at cornerback opposite George Slattery. Michael Marinelli, and Chris Nicolette to round out the unit will join the duo of Cuffari and Slattery. 

“They are very capable of making plays back there,” said Gogerty. 

Cedar Grove will open its season on Friday, Oct. 2 when they host Hoboken, a team that has beaten them each of the last three years. 

“I think it’s always a battle against Hoboken, we battled them the last two years…we know they are going to come right at us, and we’re just getting ready to play our game and play mistake-free football,” said Gogerty.