CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Having a new cast of characters with something to prove the Cedar Grove Panthers football team has its sights set on continuing the progression of excellence set forth by the program in years past.
“I want to compete for a State Championship I think that’s how our program is set and that’s how these guys work out in the offseason and I think that’s our goal,” said Head Coach Rob Gogerty.
To date the Panthers have had several scrimmages including a quad scrimmage to prepare for the season. Having a roster with just five seniors it’s been a trial by fire for the youngsters who have held their own thus far.
“We’re getting a lot of experience, they are getting thrown into the fire with a lot of different situations,” said Gogerty.
Perhaps more than the normal amount at this time of year Gogerty has pushed his group of inexperienced starters with extra reps to get ready for the year.
“I think that’s the biggest thing -- getting them that live, up to speed game football action because it’s hard to simulate in practice,” said Gogerty.
At quarterback Cedar Grove will turn to junior Dario Bryant. Bryant has matured over the last several years and earned the right to take the helm for the Panthers.
“[Bryant] has come a long way since his freshman year. He’s grown, he’s learned from our past quarterbacks and grasped the offense to take the leadership of it,” said Gogerty.
At running back and fullback the Panthers will use a host of players to grind down opposing defenses. Junior Tyler Rummel is expected to take the lion’s share of the carries with supplements from captain Peter Johnson, Anthony D’Alessio and Nick Coletta. Senior captain Gerard Dente and Patch McCarthy will factor in as well from the fullback position.
“We have a plethora of players who are going to factor into those positions…guys have really stepped up,” said Gogerty.
Paving the way for the committee will be an offensive line balanced with experience and youth. Seniors Sebastiano Locascio and Alex Faieta will head up the unit with aid from juniors Nick Bianco, and sophomores Matt Duarte and Nick Christiano.
“We’ve pieced together a nice group of young and old,” said Gogerty.
On the outside for Cedar Grove will be a group of hungry juniors looking to make an impact. Anthony Bilotta, George Slattery and tight end Brian Catanzarite will constitute the key weapons on the outside to balance out the offenses air attack.
“[Slattery and Bilotta] made some really big plays for us last year, we’re going to rely on those two guys a lot. I think they are two large, speed guys out there and Brian Catanzarite has stepped up as a junior and he’s our do-it-all guy,” said Gogerty.
All of the previously mentioned players will factor in as two-way players on the defensive side of the ball. Locascio, Faieta, Bianco and Catanzarite will all play along the defensive line for the Panthers. In the back seven Dente, Rummel and McCarthy will play linebacker while Johnson, Bilotta, and Slattery will play defensive back. Junior Antonio Cuffari will be the lone defensive starter that will play exclusively on that side of the ball.
Cedar Grove will open their season on September 6 away at David Brearley High School.
TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.