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Verona senior quarterback Frank Ferrari (12) looks for running room during this past Saturday's 21-13 SEC-Colonial Division victory over Shabazz. (Photos by Bob Thomas)
Verona's junior linebacker Nick DePaul (57) wraps up Shabazz QB Zaire Fogle (8) as the Hillbillies assert themselves defensively. Also closing in is junior D-lineman AJ Pengue. The Hillbillies have had lockdown unit of resistance so far this 2014 season.
Verona senior linebacker Jim Crawford (20) closes in on Shabazz' Tarik Haskins (1)
Verona's Frank Ferrari tries to get out of the grasp of a Shabazz defender as Hillbilly junior lineman Kyle Brennan (63) provides some solid blocking during recent action.
Verona senior running back Matt Intili (22) eyes a hole to run through vs. Shabazz
Veteran Verona head coach Lou Racioppe likes the look of his 2014 Hillbilly squad
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This will be the first Verona-Millburn football game since back in 1987 when both teams were members of the Northern Hills Conference. The Hillbillies won that contest, 7-6. Verona and Millburn also were rivals in the old Suburban Conference which had its heyday in the 1970s.
The next real test for the 2014 Verona squad is probably Orange (5-1, 2-0) at Bell Stadium on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 1, at 1 o’clock. The Tornadoes already own a win over Shabazz and appear ready to make a strong push along with Verona for an SEC-Colonial Division crown.
Just how good this Verona team may be hard to decipher from what it has done to date, but as Racioppe has pointed out, you can only play the schedule in front of you. Plus, as also has already been recounted here, the Hillbillies – outside of last year’s one-sided semifinal loss at Pompton Lakes – have a very good track record in the playoffs during the last decade and a half under Racioppe (including beating Cedar Grove with current NFL tight end Anthony Fasano for a playoff title in 2001), and just might be a legitimate threat for a title in this season’s always-competitive N1G1 playoff field with the likes of Cresskill, Bogota, Becton and Pompton Lakes among others.
According to gridironnewjersey.com the ‘Billies are currently eighth in the power point tabulations in N1G1; however, all seven teams above them have already played six games.
Racioppe, who has been around the block more than a few times as a head coach at Montclair Immaculate, Long Branch and Pascack Hills before his current tenure at Verona, is effusive in his confidence and praise for this current group which will certainly have its share of intriguing contests on tap from the Orange game on, what with local rival Cedar Grove – even in a rebuilding year – also on the horizon along with Thanksgiving Day rival Caldwell not to mention whatever awaits in N1G1.
“ This team can be outstanding,” said Racioppe. “We have a nice mix of experience and youth. We have several weapons on the offensive side of the ball and our defense has played well and we have performed well in all areas of special team play.
“Obviously (quarterback) Frank (Ferrara) is the guy who makes our offense click but it is not all him. Our line of seniors Mike Cifaretto, Matt Riccitelli and juniors Chris Luehs, Sam Cummings and Kyle Brennan have done a great job of opening up holes and protecting Frank. Senior Jimmy Crawford,and Matt Intili and junior Mark Riggio have been sharing the carries and are all running with a lot of authority. Our receivers have also stepped up after the loss of Bill Ferrari (to a broken arm). Senior Luke Connell and soph Collin Kiernan have some experience from last year and newcomers Junior John DeMartinis and frosh CJ Lavery have all had some big catches. Juniors Dave Gautieri and Mike Carlucci have filled in at TE.
“Defensively we have really come together. Inside linebacker, junior Nick DePaul and junior strong safety Sean Crawford have been our leading tacklers but others have helped quite a bit. Jimmy Crawford had his best game against Shabazz. Mark Riggio has been solid all year and our secondary of sophs Matt and Zack Zaccone, junior Chris Valentine and Frank Ferrari have done a good job of shutting down the passing game of our opponents. The defensive line has been a real strong point for us. We rotate seven guys into the game to keep players fresh. Senior Mike Cifaretto, and juniors Dave Gautieri, and Mike Carlucci have split time at DE and Sam Cummings, Matt Riccitelli, Kyle Brennan and AJ Pengue have all worked in at the DT spot.
“Our kicking game has been solid with Collin. We are not afraid to attempt field goals of up to 40 yards, Frank Ferrari is our returning punter.”
Not having Bill Ferrari the rest of the to the broken arm did take away an important component in the overall scheme of things for the ‘Billies and not just due to the fact he is a superb performer.
“Losing Bill has been tough for us not only for what he gives us on the field but for what he adds as a leader,” said Racioppe. “To his credit he is at every practice acting almost like an assistant coach. He has helped with the development of our receivers and our defensive ends.”
Bill’s twin, QB Frank Ferrari is drawing considerable college interest from some top-notch academic schools.
“Frank is looking to go to an Ivy League or a NESCAC type school,” said Racioppe. “Dartmouth, and Columbia have expressed interest as well as Middlebury, Williams and Johns Hopkins.”
In essence it’s a team with a wealth of potential to do some major damage this season. The action will heat up for the ‘Billies the rest of the way as the challenges increase and we find out much more about the 2014 edition of Verona football.
AROUND ESSEX- One of the eye-catching results from the SEC last weekend was West Essex edging East Orange Campus, 48-46, at Robeson Stadium in E.O. “ I’ve been in a lot of games as a player and coach but never one quite like Saturday at EO,” said West Essex coach Chris Benacquista. “The game had the feel of a track meet early on but I had hoped at some point we could slow down their offense. Unfortunately we never did really slow them down, but fortunately our offense played really well and we held on for an enormous win against an excellent team. This team is young but growing up by the day. We were all very disappointed after losing to West Orange (17-14, Oct. 10) but we treated the East Orange game as if it were a playoff game. We practiced with urgency and played liked our season depended on it. I was very proud of our coaches and players for the preparation and execution on Saturday. Now we adjust to life in the SEC American Division. It just keeps getting harder and harder. We are getting ready for a great SHP team and will hopefully be ready to give it our best shot on Friday night.” … Although his team has struggled, losing four games in a row, Livingston’s senior defensive end Zachary Marini continues to put up impressive numbers. In this past Saturday’s loss at Nutley, the standout DE had 12 tackles, including four for a loss and a quarterback sack despite being double teamed throughout the contest….Because Cardinal McCarrick has had to suspend its football season due to low numbers, Montclair Kimberley Academy has picked up Newark East Side as its opponent for this Saturday’s Homecoming Day game at Van Brunt Field. MKA AD Todd Smith worked his magic in terms of quickly contacting the Red Raiders who had an open date due to the fact that its regularly-scheduled opponent for this weekend, Montclair Immaculate, had dropped varsity football this past June….Caldwell’s standout running back John Mannion, who has been a Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week this season, suffered a fractured collarbone in the first half of this past Friday night’s SEC-Liberty win at Columbia. He underwent successful surgery with team orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Rob Masella, and the Chiefs hold out the possibility that their senior backfield star could return during the playoffs.
Super Essex Conference:
West Orange 2-0, 4-2
Montclair 1-0, 4-1
West Essex 1-1, 4-2
Seton Hall Prep 1-1, 3-3
Bloomfield 0-1, 1-4
East Orange 0-2, 1-4
Irvington 2-0, 5-1
Caldwell 2-0, 4-1
Nutley 1-1, 4-2
Weequahic 1-1, 2-3
Livingston 0-2, 2-4
Columbia 0-2, 0-6
Verona 2-0, 5-0
Orange 2-0, 5-1
Cedar Grove 2-0, 2-4
Shabazz 0-2, 2-3
Millburn 0-2, 1-4
West Side 0-2, 0-6
Barringer 2-0, 4-1
Glen Ridge 2-0, 3-3
Central 0-1, 3-2
Belleville 0-1, 1-5
East Side 0-2, 0-6
Independent Teams From Essex:
MKA 0-0, 3-3
Newark Academy 0-0, 4-2
Sideline Chatter’s Essex County Football Top 10:
2-Seton Hall Prep (3-3)
4-West Orange (4-2)
6-West Essex (4-2)
10-East Orange (1-4)
Friday night’s Schedule Involving Essex Teams (Pick To Win in Boldface, kickoff at 7):
Seton Hall Prep at West Essex
Nutley at Columbia
Belleville at Central
West Side at Shabazz
Orange at Cedar Grove
Bloomfield at East Orange Campus (Robeson Stadium), 1 p.m.
Livingston at Irvington, 2:30 p.m.
Harvey (N.Y.) School at Newark Academy, 2 p.m.
Newark East Side at MKA, 12:30 p.m.
Barringer at Glen Ridge, 1 p.m.
West Orange at Montclair, 2 p.m.
Millburn at Verona, 2:30 p.m.
Weequahic at Caldwell, 2 p.m.
Newark Collegiate at Sussex Tech
Last Week’s Record on Picks: 11-1, For The season: 68-22 (76%)
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
West Essex wide receiver Michael Panzarino hauls in pass vs. East Orange Campus in last Saturday's wild 48-46 Knights' SEC win. (Photos by Bill Allen-NJSportAction.NET)
West Essex running back Anthony Scaglia (2) wards off East Orange Jaguar defender
Caldwell junior running back A.J. Curtiss hits the end zone for touchdown during Chiefs' 33-17 SEC-Liberty Division victory over a stubborn Columbia squad last Friday evening.
Caldwell senior tight end Thomas Guiliano (34) makes important catch against Columbia
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