ORANGE, NJ — It was a sunny afternoon on Tuesday, Aug. 25, as the Tornadoes of Orange High School trickled into Bell Stadium in Orange for their daily strength and conditioning sessions. With head coach Randy Daniel and Assistant Principal of Athletics and Academics Anthony Frantantoni leading the way, Orange football is poised to make a sprint to the postseason.
Frantantoni and Daniel confirmed that they’ve been running strength and conditioning practices since the beginning of the return-to-play protocol period, which was set by the NJSIAA and began July 13.
“We are nearing the end of the strength and conditioning period, which concludes Friday, Aug. 28,” Frantantoni said, “and I can honestly say that we are among the few schools who actually have been out here since the beginning.”
Daniel said he has been sticking to all the staging protocols set by the NJSIAA as he took the temperatures of each of his players as they signed in with him and checked in via the mandated online portal before they began their workout and drills.
With the current pandemic environment, neither Daniel nor Frantantoni are pleased with the way things shook out this past winter and spring. Most importantly, their Class of 2020 seniors weren’t able to enjoy the full benefits that were to be afforded to them.
“Most of our players participate in multiple sports and it was hard to keep telling them that we had to wait two weeks. Before you know it, we had to close our doors to the school and the whole spring season as well,” Frantantoni said.
“Our goal is to get every one of our players the exposure they need in order to get them to the schools of their choices next year,” Daniel said, adding that he has a couple of players who are ready for the Power 5 next year. But ultimately he wants his players to go where they can play right away. Among his players leading the way is rising senior running back Montez Boswell, who is looking at Long Island University or Villanova University as his top choices. “We have a pair of rising junior linemen that are looking to have a breakout season and are already attracting top schools,” Daniel said.
When asked about their feelings toward the abbreviated season, neither man was happy with the outcome, but each said he would rather have this format than not play at all.
“I hope we won’t have to do this again ever in the future. But, given the circumstances, we are prepared to do what is needed going forward,” Daniel said.
Since the season will now open Oct. 2, the Tornadoes will begin their hunt for a title on the road against the Blue Bears of Barringer High School, followed by their home opener against West Side High School, before heading to Nutley.
“We are ready no matter the outcome,” Daniel said. “I would like to participate in the postseason in order to give our kids the needed exposure to help with their recruiting,” he reiterated when asked about the possible two-week postseason play.
NJSIAA has limited the postseason to take place immediately after the season for those who qualify or schools who wish to schedule extra games and limit travel to immediate surrounding areas. This year’s NJSIAA Regional Bowl will not be played and the traditional power points will not be a factor. Orange, who will be playing in the Freedom White Division of the New Jersey Super Football Conference, will remain on the road to play Columbia before coming home for a two-game home stand against Millburn and Belleville respectively. All games are subject to change based on NJSIAA protocols for social distancing.
“We are currently looking at solutions to help us meet the social-distancing guidelines and protocols for our games this fall,” Frantantoni said. Although he won’t go into detail as to what extent those solutions are, he did say that a ticketing system is among the solutions.
With schools opening Sept. 8 in the Orange School District, both Frantantoni and Daniel remain upbeat as they head into the mandatory two-week noncontact online-only dead period. First day of practice in full pads will be Sept. 14.
Photos Courtesy of Kerry Porter