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West Essex eighth-year head coach Chris Benacquista will guide the Knights into new season on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Nutley, as the North Caldwell school eyes another successful season (Photo by Doug Allen)
Young West Essex Has Talent On Hand
While Facing Another Challenging Slate
By Mark Tosh
NORTH CALDWELL- Chris Benacquista has known all the different types of West Essex teams, including the veteran-led squads such as his 2011 unit that copped top honors in North 1, Group 2, or the fairly inexperienced squad of last fall that still had a bevy of key seniors.
As the eighth-year head coach looks ahead to 2017, he knows that his Knights are still young, but there is still a good amount of talent on hand to go up against a challenging slate of foes.
West Essex, which finished 7-4 last fall, reaching the semifinals in North 2, Group 3, open the new season on Saturday, Sept. 9, at Nutley. The Knights are members of the North Jersey Super Football Conference’s Patriot B Division. The home opener is Friday night, Sept. 15, vs. an always challenging West Morris eleven.
“We are very young but we do return some experienced underclassmen,” said Benacquista (49-17), a West Essex grad and former longtime assistant to Dave Drozjock before taking over the reins of the program in 2011. “We lost a lot of great talent to graduation and our current senior class is very small, so we've been working very hard to get our young guys ready for week 1.”
“Right now we are focused solely on Nutley. We know how tough an opponent they can be and with such a young team, taking it one week at a time will be very important.”
Last year the Knights defeated Nutley twice, including in the first round of the N2G3 playoffs.
One area of the West Essex attack that is always formidable is the ground game, boosted by a number of strong running backs. Last fall the group was led by now Penn freshman Brian O’Neill, a bruising runner. Now, the unit is deep and potentially very dangerous behind some experienced blockers in the Knights Wing-T attack.
“Running the ball will always be a top priority for us and we have some talented halfbacks with (senior) Vin Scaglia, (junior) Will Perez, Nick Celentano and Luke Garcia,” continued Benacquista. “Our fullbacks Anthony Sangillo and Dorian Gashi will also get significant carries for us.
“We again have an undersized line, but we have worked all off-season on our strength and speed off the ball and hopefully that will be our biggest asset up front. (Junior) Eamon Morrissey, (senior) Frank Lagreca, Carmen Cucuzza and (junior) Mike Cuozzo are all great examples of that aggressive O-line mentality that we like to have.”
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