WEST ORANGE, NJ – Entering his second year as head coach at Seton Hall Prep, Vito Campanile is quick to point out his team’s daunting schedule.
Competing in the newly-formed North Jersey Super Football Conference, the Pirates are in the non-public-only United White Division. Of the nine regular-season games on the schedule, SHP has seven non-public opponents.
It’s no wonder Campanile half-jokingly says that it will feel like his team is playing in the SEC. No, not the Super Essex Conference, but instead, the Southeastern Conference with the likes of Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Georgia, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Florida, etc.
Campanile mentioned that his team’s first three opponents (Peddie, Paramus Catholic, St. Peter’s Prep) have more collegiate Division 1 scholarship players than most high school conferences combined.
But make no mistake, the Pirates will be up for the challenge.
“I think they are a pretty resilient group of kids,” said Campanile of his team. “We’ve been very accountable. We got a lot of experience and they are smart kids.
“The main thing we have to do is we have to match toughness with the toughest guys in New Jersey,” he added. “That’s what we really have to focus on.”
The Pirates have to replace several key graduated players from last year’s 6-3 team that qualified for the state Non-Public Group 4 playoffs, most notably quarterback Zach Keller, who set school career records for completions (368), passing attempts (610), passing yards (4,702) and touchdown passes (42) and TD passes in a game (five, vs. West Essex, last season) and is continuing his football career at Princeton University.
Cameron Carti, a 5-foot-10, 175-pound junior, will take over as the starting quarterback. The Pirates return other key offensive players such as senior receiver and Orange resident Dwayne Warren (6-3, 195) and senior running back Michael Mughetto (6-1, 175). Warren last season led the team in receptions (41), receiving yards (619) and touchdown receptions (seven). In last season’s 35-7 home win over West Essex, Warren set the school record for receptions (11) and tied the school mark for touchdown receptions (four) in a game. Defensively, Mughetto also was solid as a strong safety last year with 47 tackles.
Senior Sean Ryan (6-0, 180) joins Mughetto in the backfield. The other receivers are senior Justin Dodson (5-7, 140), who is an East Orange resident, and junior Andrew Perez (6-3, 195). The tight end will be junior Quinn Nilan (6-4, 215).
The offensive line consists of junior left tackle James Petrovcik (6-3, 275), junior right guard Bobby Burke (6-3, 215), senior center Thomas Cavanagh (5-11, 260), senior right tackle Michael Ferguson (6-2, 275) and senior left guard Brendan Burke (6-0, 235), no relation to Bobby.
The Pirates’ defense will be led by senior linebacker Paul Theobald (6-2, 215). The Boston College commit notched 111 tackles with 3 ½ sacks en route to being named the Worrall Media All-Area Defensive Player of the Year last season. Theobald will play strong-side linebacker, while sophomore Jonathon Alvarado (6-1, 220) of Bloomfield will play middle linebacker. Seniors John Lynch (5-9, 170) and Kyle Neve (6-0, 210) are the other linebackers.
Campanile has been impressed by junior defensive lineman Johnathon Weir (6-1, 220). Senior Matt Jones (6-2, 255) returns at nose guard. Seniors Vin Palma (5-11, 180) and Robert Ramsthaler (6-4, 195) are the defensive ends.
Senior Matt Durborow (5-11, 175) will start at free safety. Mughetto, junior Anthony Algieri (6-1, 175) of Nutley and junior Quentin Phanord (5-10, 170) of Bloomfield are other defensive backs.
Sophomore Zach Hoban (6-0, 150) is the place-kicker and punter. He has kicked a few 50-yard field goals this preseason, noted Campanile.
Playing hard consistently and taking a one-week-at-a-time approach will be the keys to another successful season.
“We’re trying to focus on a one-week block,” Campanile said. “You got to focus for six days and get better for six days and take a day to recharge and go again.”
NOTES – When the Pirates faced Bergen Catholic in last season’s Non-Public Group 4 playoff quarterfinals, it was dubbed the “Campanile Bowl.” Campanile’s brother, Nunzio, is the head coach of Bergen Catholic, which beat SHP, 49-20… Prior to coming to SHP, Vito Campanile was the head coach at Westwood where he guided the Bergen County team to back-to-back North Jersey Section 1, Group 2 titles in 2013 (11-1 record) and 2014 (12-0)… The Pirates once again will play their home games at West Orange High School’s Joe Suriano Stadium. The grass-surfaced football field at the Kelly Athletic Complex is being converted to TurfField. The project is expected to begin this month.
Sept. 10, at Peddie, 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 17, Paramus Catholic, 1 p.m.*
Sept. 24, at St. Peter’s Prep, noon
Oct. 1, at Pope John, 2 p.m.
Oct. 7, Delbarton, 7 p.m.*
Oct. 15, at Columbia, 1 p.m.
Oct. 22, DePaul, 1 p.m.*
Oct. 29, Montclair, 1 p.m.*
Nov. 5, at Bergen Catholic, 2:30 p.m.
*home games at West Orange HS