WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School Football team has been hard at work gearing up for another competitive season in the North I, Group 5 Division.
The players have spent the summer lifting weights, attending an intensive football camp at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and starting daily practices that have culminated in several successful scrimmages.
“The team is progressing very nicely throughout the preseason and will attempt to make the playoffs for the third consecutive season,” said Head Coach Jim Matsakis.
“With key losses from last year’s squad (Jared Vyent (Fordham), Chris Morgan (West Point), Danielo Francois (William Paterson) and Quarterback Eric Oden (Muhlenburg), it will be tough to fill those shoes and replace their overall production,” he said.
The coaching team is comprised of Matsakis; Offensive Coach Steve Osborne; Running Back Coach Rich Robo; Receiver Coaches Joe Cena and Dave Strong; Defensive Back Coach Rob LaMoriello; Rushing Coach Eddie Jackson; and Quarterback Coach Billy Bock.
“Offensively, we will be led by Senior QB Marshall Lipsey with returning starter Malik Allen as his primary weapon,” said Matsakis. “Also helping offensively, will be the dynamic duo of Senior Dylan Ryan and Junior Michael Osuji, who combined for over 1,800 yards last season.”
Matsakis said that the team needs to improve defensively to compete in the Super Essex Coference.
“Leading the way will be Junior Linebacker Christian Oneychi along with senior Ibn Dawes, who will attempt to replace graduating two-year all conference performer Chris Morgan up front.
Co-Captains Brian Crann (senior, Guard) and Malik Allen (senior, Receiver and Safety) have been encouraged as the team has stepped up to improve on defense.
“The defense was surprisingly strong in our last scrimmage,” said Crann.
Allen described the offense as “pretty even.”
The Special Teams will look to improve with the return of John Hamilton (Kicker) to lead the way after a very successful junior season, and Vincent DeSantis will handle the punting duties again for the Mountaineers.
Crann and Allen said they felt that it was important to address team culture and interaction.
“We don’t want the players pointing fingers at each other if a play doesn’t go as planned,” stated Crann. “The team is stronger than one person, and we want team behavior to represent West Orange on and off the field.”
“We will lead by example,” said Allen.
The Mountaineers have also instituted a mentoring program for students placed in ASAP (Athletic Scholars for Academic Proficiency). Upperclassmen who have previously been in ASAP and successfully raised their grades, will work with underclassmen to support them as they focus not only on athletic skill, but on academic proficiency as well.
“You get better by rotating positions,” Matsakis told players during the August 24 practice. “If you’re tired from playing, don’t get off the field…stay on and work on what you need to improve.”
The season begins on Sept. 4, with a 7 p.m. away game at Paterson Eastside. The first scheduled home game is on Sept. 18, at 4 p.m., with the third annual Mountaineer Fanfest, followed by opening game at 7 p.m., in Suriano Stadium.
The following is the starting lineup for the Mountaineers:
- QB Marshall Lipsey
- SB Dylan Ryan
- WR Malik Allen
- WR Jamall Dryden
- WR Mike Giovine
- WR Renitho Philemon
- OL Richard Lindsay
- OL Brian Crann
- OL Josh Strauss
- OL Ibn Dawes
- OL CJ Oneychi
- DL Dael Ceneus
- DL IBN Dawes
- DL Elias Gerimano
- DL Nate Ferguson
- LB CJ Oneychi
- LB Michael Osuji
- LB Noah Tandy
- DB Osyande Soyande
- DB D’Andre Hull
- DB Malik Allen
- DB Sean Middleton