WESTFIELD, NJ — After capturing a state championship last season, the Westfield varsity football team faced the dilemma of replacing the many graduating seniors, especially at linebacker, where they lost all of their starters.

In their first game last Friday night at Linden, it was junior linebacker Drew Ortiz who stepped up and in a big way. He led the team in tackles with six solo and six assisted and also nabbed an interception. His performance helped the Blue Devils shut out Linden 30-0.

Ortiz is this week’s Ron Bansky and Associates Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week.

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“I thought our team played a great game against a tough opponent,” Ortiz said. “Shutting them out was a great feeling and our offense did what it was supposed to do and put a lot of points on the board. I didn't expect to do much in my first game, but leading the team in tackles and grabbing an interception was a great feeling.”

The performance was more than a welcome sight for head coach Jim DeSarno.

“Drew was great on Friday night,” DeSarno said. “He read his keys, played very physical and fast.  He has been getting better and better each week.  I hope he builds a lot of confidence from his performance last week.”

Stepping in for last year’s excellent senior linebackers is no easy task.

“There's a lot of pressure,” Ortiz said. “Not just because the team won the state championship last year, but also because the senior linebackers left big shoes to fill.”

DeSarno acknowledged the tall task for his four new linebackers, but said that all of them have been do a great job learning and growing at the position.

“Drew has worked very hard to earn his spot on the defense,” he said.  “As long as he continues to do the little things, he's going to have a great year.”

Ortiz has always enjoyed playing football, particularly at linebacker, he said.

“I like the physicality that comes with playing football and I like the contact that comes with playing linebacker,” Ortiz said. “You have to be tough and physical to play there. Also, being with my teammates and playing on the field with them is a great feeling.”

Looking forward, Ortiz wants to help the team find the success they had last year.

“My hope for the team this season is to go back to MetLife and repeat as state champions,” he said. “For me personally, I just want to help this team win.”

Eric Storms is a student at Westfield High School participating in a journalism program with TAP into Westfield.

The Allstate Westfield Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Ron Bansky & Associates Allstate Agency. Located on the South Avenue Circle in Westfield, the agency has been protecting local families and business owners for over 15 years. Call them at 908-301-0711 for a new auto, home or life insurance quote this week and if you mention the Allstate WHS Athlete of the Week they will make a $25 contribution to the Westfield Boosters Association! To learn more, visit ronbansky.com.