WEST ORANGE, NJ – Since taking over the Seton Hall Prep program back in February, first-year head coach Bill Fitzgerald has been quite impressed by the work ethic by the players and coaching staff.
That bodes well for the Pirates, who are looking to recover from back-to-back two-win seasons.
“I’m imploring everyone to ‘get on the ship,’ the way the culture needs to be bought into,” said Fitzgerald, who served as the offensive coordinator at his alma mater, St. Peter’s Prep, from 2008-17. He is a 1999 St. Peter’s Prep graduate. “Obviously, they haven’t had a lot of success in the (recent) past, but I tell you what, the work ethic and the spirit is there. They’re willing to put in the time in the film room; they are doing things academically that they are supposed to do, and they come out here in the field and they work. They had a great, great winter and spring in the weight room, so now it’s time to kind of see the fruits of their labor. (The goal is) getting them to buy into the way that a Non-Public Group 4 is supposed to work and go about their business every day. That’s the goal.”
In addition to success on the field, Fitzgerald’s goal is to develop a strong bond with his team.
“Number one, I want to create great relationships with the players,” said Fitzgerald, replacing Vito Campanile, who stepped down after three seasons to become the head coach at Bergen Catholic in which he is succeeding his brother, Nunzio Campanile, now an assistant at Rutgers University. “Everything that we do on the field is going to go beyond just this season. There’s got to be something besides football in it for them and in it for me. I have great coaches here and great teachers who care about the kids. I teach class from 8 (a.m.) to 3 (p.m.) and then I coach football from 3 to 5. Teaching is coaching, and coaching is teaching, so we’ll learn a lot of life lessons along the way and I want that to be a part of our program here.”
Directing the offense will be Aidan Gilman, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior quarterback who saw significant time under center as a sophomore. Gilman has committed to Brown University.
Fitzgerald has raved about Gilman.
“We got a hungry quarterback who played a ton as a sophomore and not as much last year, who’s had a great offseason and has had a great camp so far,” he said. “He’s driving the bus for us unquestionably.”
The offensive line will be led by senior co-captain Tom Callahan (6-‘3, 225) and junior Lucas Giordano (6-4, 280).
Fitzgerald said Giordano “is a gifted athlete for a big man who will be a pivotal player for us on both sides of the ball.”
Other notable returning players on offense include junior wide receivers Ryan Monteleone and Matt Colantuono; junior tight end Dominic Busby, who had 37 catches, including six touchdowns last year.
Fitzgerald likes the Pirates’ potential to light up the scoreboard.
“We have a bunch of playmakers on the outside who have done some things in the past in Matt Colantuono and Dominic Busby in particular, and then you are going to see some people who we haven’t showcased yet, (such as) Ryan Monteleone, (senior running back) Luca D’Emilio, and there are going to be other guys as well who are going to make a name for themselves.”
The returning defensive standouts are senior linemen Niko Diakides, who also is a standout wrestler; Callahan, and Caseem Akinruli Dewitt; senior linebacker Vincent Henrich, who racked up 102 tackles a year ago; and junior Tyler Cook. Monteleone also is a returning defensive back.
Newcomers to watch are senior defensive back Foster Bryant, junior WR/DB Nicholas Gullace; sophomore wide receiver PJ Penders, junior offensive linemen Thomas Grippo (6-2, 265), Matthew Siegel (6-0, 245), Jack Michelotti (5-11, 240); and Anthony Liebig (6-2, 265).
On special teams, the Pirates return a strong weapon in senior place-kicker Zach Hoban, who holds the school records for field goals in a game with three; FGs in a season with seven; and longest field goal, which he tied at 42 yards. Hoban, a Rice University commit, was 7-of-11 on FG attempts and 27-of-28 on extra points. Hoban also has been invited to the Blue – Grey All-American Bowl on Dec. 17 at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
Fitzgerald has seen signs that the Pirates will see strong improvement by season’s end.
“I think it’s a team that is going to get better every single week, I can see already in camp,” Fitzgerald said. “The development part of this whole thing is the key. We have a lot of hungry guys that have waited their turn. I think it’s imperative that they stay together, that they listen and learn and they’re listening and they’re learning, and at the end of the year, we’ll be a better football team than we are right now. That’s really the most important thing.”
August 31, vs. Archbishop Carroll, at Cardinal O’Hara HS in Springfield, Pa., noon
Sept. 8, DePaul, 2 p.m.
Sept. 14, at Passaic County Tech, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22, Paramus Catholic, 2 p.m.
Sept. 29, at East Orange Campus, 1 p.m.
Oct. 6, Montclair, 2 p.m.
Oct. 13, at Delbarton, 1 p.m.
Oct. 20, at St. Joseph (Montvale), 1 p.m.
Oct. 27, Pope John, 2 p.m.