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Senior Owen Fincher is one of the veteran leaders who will boost the fortunes of Glen Ridge at both tight end and middle linebacker as the Group 1 team eyes new season in National Red Division of NJSFC. (Photos by Doug Allen)

Junior Joe Marchesano (23) is a veteran tailback for the Glen Ridge Ridgers

Longtime head coach Duke Mendez (left) and senior leader Owen Fincher are ready to set the tone for promising Ridgers. (Photo by Gene Nann-nannphoto)

It’s Numbers Game For Ridgers
But Seniors Ready To Set Tone
By Steve Tober

GLEN RIDGE- In a day and age where many of the smaller football playing schools in New Jersey have to fight a numbers game almost as much as battling against formidable schedules, Glen Ridge is certainly a Group 1 gridiron program that faces both challenges head on, but with a determined vanguard of leadership to pave the way.

The Ridgers, members of the National Red Division of the new North Jersey Super Football Conference along with Hoboken, Shabazz, Cedar Grove and Weequahic, were down to 31 healthy players for the time being which means avoiding any more significant injuries will be a huge factor as 2016 campaign kicks of Friday night, Sept. 9, at Butler.

“We must stay healthy,” said 25th-year head coach Duke Mendez (105 career wins in two different stints at Glen Ridge). “As of now we are down to 31 players.

“We lost a player Tuesday in our scrimmage and he is out for the year. Another player got hurt Tuesday and he is out for one week so he will miss our next scrimmage. (Junior quarterback-tight end) Tyler Liddy is out until week 3 with a shoulder injury, which means we will enter our next scrimmage with 28 players.”

Still, the senior representation at the school where many of the athletes play two or three sports, is determined to make the new season a successful one.

“We have a very good senior class and a great group of guys who can do what we need to do against a tough schedule,” said Owen Fincher, a senior wide receiver and middle linebacker who also plays lacrosse for the Ridgers. “There are outstanding athletes on this team and we’re working extremely hard for what we know will be a challenging season and we’re focusing on our opener at Butler.”

As far as the strengths of the team are concerned, the Ridgers have three returning offensive linemen in senior tackle Ryan Liddy, senior center Mark Nyhuis and junior guard Max Auborn. Junior Kieran Moran (tackle) and senior Quinlan Hood (guard) round out the interior O-Line.

The quarterback position is solid with senior Matt Myles and Tyler Liddy, when he does return from his shoulder injury, although the ladder can also move to a receiver slot as well when he is back in a few weeks.

The tailback is veteran junior Joe Marchesano, while Fincher will line up at tight end with senior Nick Weber-Zazzu at the ‘H’ back, junior Avery Hackett and senior Jose McCallen-Villafane at the ‘Z’ back and senior Chris Harris or sophomore Simon Low at the ‘X.’

Defensively, Ryan Liddy, juniors Quinlan Hood and Phillip Meng are at the tackles, while senior Jon Bronander and junior Jake Kuhn are at the ends.

The linebackers are Fincher, Auborn and Moran. In the secondary a starting trio will emerge from a combination of Harris, Weber-Zazzu, Hackett, Myles and McCallen-Villafane. Tyler Grady will start at defensive back when he returns from his injury.

Hackett, Harris and Bronander have all been welcome additions to the varsity this season after not playing football last year.

“We are happy to have all of them out for the team this year,” added Mendez. “They have all done a great job picking up our offense and defense.”

Still, it will all come down to staying healthy for the most part and dealing with a schedule that includes Newark Collegiate, local rival Montclair Kimberley Academy, Verona and Montclair Immaculate in addition to the aforementioned foursome of high-profile, small school division foes.

“We have a good senior group, solid offensive linemen and talented skill kids,” said Mendez. “We like the makeup of this team and if we can remain healthy we like our chances to have a good season.”

Glen Ridge 2016 schedule:

Sept. 9: at Butler

Sept. 17: vs. Newark Collegiate

Sept. 24: vs. MKA

Sept. 30: at Cedar Grove

Oct. 8: at Verona

Oct. 15: vs. Weequahic

Oct. 22: vs. Shabazz

Oct. 29: at Montclair Immaculate

Nov. 4: at Hoboken

Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister

Duke Mendez is in 11th season of a second tour of duty guiding Glen Ridge football and has been school's head gridiron guru for total of 25 seasons as he looks ahead to 2016 campaign. (Photo by Doug Allen)

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