NUTLEY, NJ – For the Nutley High School football team, the main goal for this season is to complete every aspect.
“We want to finish everything we do,” said Steve DiGregorio, a 1979 NHS graduate entering his second year in his second stint with the Raiders. His first stint was from 2004 to 2011. “We want to finish every first quarter, we want to finish the second quarter, we want to finish the game, we want to finish practice, we want to finish every drill. It’s all about finishing.”
Last season, the Raiders finished 5-5, including qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 3 state playoff, regrouping from an 0-3 start. Their first win of the season came in impressionable fashion as they stunned state-ranked Irvington, 34-12, at home.
The Raiders will kick off the 2018 season on Aug. 30 when they visit Bloomfield.
Offensively, the Raiders have a first-year starting quarterback in junior Justin Lucia.
“He’s learning the position and is coming along nicely. He’s improving every day,” said DiGregorio, who guided the Raiders to the 2010 North 2, Group 3 title game at MetLife Stadium.
Lucia will have excellent receiving targets. Indeed, DiGregorio has raved about the senior-laden receiving corps that has excellent length and experience. The receivers are 6-foot-4 Eli Acosta, 6-foot-2 Vin Russo, 5-11 Matt Durham, and Louis Conca. Senior tight end Tyler Genitempo will also figure in the passing game.
Last year’s leading rusher, Nick Mainiero, has graduated. But the ground game won’t miss a beat. The rushing attack will be powered by seniors Dominic Raffaelli and Matt Chimento, and junior Dante Contella. Dan Jennings, a junior, is the fullback.
The offensive line consists of juniors Matt Jaworski and Miguez Lopez at the tackle spots; sophomore Jordan DiFalco and Tyler Schoonmaker at the guard positions; and senior center Johnny Luberto, who is a converted fullback. Billy Searle, a sophomore lineman, also will see playing time.
On defense, the line consists of Luberto and senior Derrick Kurtzman at the end positions, and Jaworski and DiFalco at the tackle positions. The linebackers are Russo, Raffaelli, Schoonmaker, and Jennings. Russo in particular was a force last season.
The secondary boasts Durham and junior Danny DiAntonio as the cornerbacks; and Acosta and Contella as the safeties.
On special teams, Lucia will handle kickoffs and Acosta will be the punter, while sophomore Gennaro Lombardozzi will be a kick returner.
The Raiders want to take a one-game-at-a-time approach. But make no mistake, DiGregorio is confident his team will come ready to play each week.
“We’ll play hard, I know that,” he said.
NOTES – There are a few significant changes this season in high school football. First, the Raiders’ conference is now called the Super Football Conference, dropping “North Jersey” from its name. The conference also has realigned. Nutley is in the Patriot White Division, which includes Snyder, Lincoln, West Essex, Caldwell, Newark West Side, and Newark Central
Nutley HS Athletic Director Joe Piro has been the president of the conference since its inception in 2015. The conference is the biggest high school football conference in the nation, with 112 schools from seven counties.
Second, the state playoffs will now go beyond the sectional finals for public schools. Sectional champions will face other teams in so-called Bowl Games, which will consist of the North Jersey Section 1 vs. North Jersey Section 2 champs; and the Central Jersey vs. the South Jersey champs for each of the five public Groups.
Third, instant replay will be used for every game in the state. Instant replay will involve using video cameras to review touchdowns and turnovers. Each team will be given one challenge per half. If a challenge is successful, the team will receive another challenge for the half. If a challenge is unsuccessful, a team will be charged a timeout. In the last three minutes of the game, a challenge will be granted if all three timeouts were used. However, a 5-yard penalty will be accessed if a challenge is unsuccessful. There will be no challenges permitted in the last two minutes if a team is leading by 17 points or if a running clock – 35 points or more second-half differential – is in effect.
Aug. 30, at Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 8, at Montclair, 2 p.m.
Sept. 15, Wayne Valley, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21, at Central, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29, West Side, 1 p.m.
Oct. 6, West Essex, 1 p.m.
Oct. 13, at Lincoln, 1 p.m.
Oct. 19, at Snyder, 7 p.m.
Oct. 27, Caldwell, 1 p.m.