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Head Coach Pete Pascarella and his Irvington Blue Knights will seek a third straight playoff berth plus play the majority of their games at home on Matthews Field for a change this fall. (Photo by Doug Allen)
A Third Straight Trip To The Playoffs
Paramount In Irvington's 2014 Outlook
By Steve Tober
IRVINGTON- Pete Pascarella has already wiped the memory banks concerning the daily grind in 2013, when his Irvington players and assistant coaches had to walk a mile each day to the dirt-filled Union Avenue Field and get in what would amount to a short practice before washing off all the grime in the shower.
And, there were the weekly road games as the massive overhaul of Matthews Field was completed.
Oh, how the outlook has changed as the Blue Knights’ home turf is available on a regular basis, and with six of this season’s nine regular-season games scheduled at home, smiles are ever present and the football team appears to have the makings of a legitimate contender for a third straight trip to the North 2, Group 4 playoffs.
“We haven’t had what you would call a ‘normal’ year since I’ve been the head coach,” said Pascarella, who took over the reins of the program when Darnell Grant left for Shabazz in 2010, and has guided Irvington to a 12-9 record the past two campaigns. “The biggest plus is we have great kids who have remained dedicated to what we’re trying to do here, even when times were tough, and we really like the talent we have on this team heading into the fall.”
Irvington boasts two veteran players in slot receiver-cornerback Salaam Rogers (6-1, 180) and running back Willie Barr (5-6, 165), who are on talent evaluator Dennis McCarthy’s “Super 16” for Essex County seniors on hand in 2014. Plus, there are plenty of other experienced players to turn to, including 6-0, 270-pound strong man Garland Barham, an Essex County heavyweight wrestling champion, who returns to anchor the line at guard and nose tackle.
The Blue Knights, who are in the Super Essex Conference-Liberty Division, open the new season on Friday night, Sept. 12, at West Essex, and then have four straight home Friday night games with Orange (Sept. 19), West Side (Sept. 26), Bloomfield (Oct. 3) and Nutley (Oct. 10) all scheduled to come to beautiful Matthews Field for notable SEC contests.
Irvington will rely on a promising sophomore quarterback in Jayvon Brown (6-4, 180), who earned a starting role as a freshman last season for the 5-5 squad and showed considerable potential.
He can pass to the sure-handed Rogers or 6-4 wide receiver Derrick Rivera, who missed much of last fall with a groin injury, but is back now stronger than ever, and 6-5 Raheem Johnson.