WEST ORANGE, NJ - Parents and guardians of prospective football players at West Orange High School met Jim Matsakis, the new head football coach, who outlined some of his plans for the program. Matsakis, former Butler High School Coach and a long time math teacher, told parents he would be meeting with their children next Thursday afternoon, where he hoped to introduce most, if not all, of his coaching team.

Principal Hayden Moore greeted the crowd and asked parents to remind their children that they should play for the love of the game. He encouraged them to support the new coach and have open hearts and minds.

Athletic Director Ron Bligh also welcomed parents and introduced Matsakis. He notified parents that school sports physicals would be held June 4 and 13 from 2:30 p.m. at the Tarnoff Gym. Sports packets will be available in the nurse's office.

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He also reminded parents to take copies of the ASAP (Athletic Students for Academic Proficiency) Program Guidelines home. Bligh said he was "proud and happy" to introduce parents/guardians to Matsakis, who he said would bring his in-depth college level and successful high school experience, along with strong goals for college recruitment and a running shoot offense, to WOHS.

Matsakis, who has coached college and high school football for years and has brothers that are college football coaches, was enthusiastic and focused as he outlined some of his plans and coaching philosophy. He brought with him two of his coaches, Coach London from East Orange and Coach DePascale from Don Bosco. He told parents he taught AP Calculus, Stats, and Honors Geometry.

Matsakis acknowledged that he tended to be old school in some of his philosophy. He wanted the "community to love the football team" and the "team love the community," noting that "football players are not above everyone else" and that football should be "school centered." He said team members should be treated equally, from "number 1 to number 100."  He said he wants the kids to have a great experience as part of the team, and believed that freshman should play freshman ball, sophomores, JV, and Juniors and Seniors Varsity, unless someone exhibited extraordinary talent. He would distribute a reading assignment to the team in June, usually a book that related to character building.  

His hope is to play most varsity games on Friday nights "under the lights" unless the team was playing an away game where the school did not have lights, and that game would be played on Saturday. Lights will be installed and ready for the fall season at WOHS Suriano Stadium.

He also has expectations for the team: on game day, all players would be expected to wear khakis, polo sports shirt, and a pullover. Players will need to wear West Orange or "Mountaineer related" practice gear, and he hopes to get long sleeved tees for the entire high school to encourage team support and spirit. He said he wanted his players to attend high school and even cheerleading competitions together to support their school community.  He wants to provide as much of a "college football experience" as possible.

He plans fun events for the team; will select a special "team song," and will reward players and even West Orange High School student Mountaineer Football Fans with perks. He told parents they were integral to the success of the team: "We'll get the kids ready, but we need the support of their families."

Matsakis distributed preliminary calendars to parents and highlighted some important points. From June 26-28, a "Run and Shoot Camp" will be held at WOHS where the coaching team will begin to install offensive strategies in players.  Conditioning, weight training, throwing  and practice drills will be combined with a weekly Varsity trip to Parsippany Hills, where WOHS will work with Parsippany Hills players and begin developing defensive strategies in 7 on 7's.

With fundraising efforts, Matsakis hopes to bring all players to Lycoming College in Williamsport, Penn. for five days of testing, practice, drills and team building the first week of August.

After a question and answer period, Matsakis noted that "if you don't see it you won't believe it."  He said he hopes to see the football team at WOHS achieve great things this year.

(Editor's Note: The meeting with interested students will be held next Wednesday, March 20, at 2:30 pm in Room 2341.  The date was changed from Thursday to Wednesday after this article was published.)