WEST ORANGE, NJ (corrected Wednesday Sept. 6, 10:35 a.m.) – Since moving from South Orange to West Orange in 1985, Seton Hall Prep has experienced some special moments on the gridiron.
The first came in the late fall of 1985 when Tony Verducci’s squad blanked St. Peter’s Prep to capture the North Jersey, Parochial A state championship with a 9-0-2 record. And in 1997, the Pirates went 10-1, sparked by the spectacular passing combination of Art Grutt to Jeff Miller. There have been other top seasons as well, even though the team hasn’t won a state crown since that initial year in West Orange.
This fall will be special for SHP because the team will be playing its first season at Brendan P. Tevlin Memorial Field at the Kelly Athletic Complex. The turf field is one of the finest facilities in New Jersey for scholastic sports. Over the past several years, SHP has played its home games at West Orange High. In the prior seasons, SHP competed at Verducci Field.
“We play a very tough schedule, but it will be nice to compete at a real home field,” said SHP head coach Vito Campanile, who is in his third season at the Pirate helm. “I think we have some talented kids on our roster, and we certainly can do better than last year’s 2-8 record. Don’t forget, we came very close to knocking off Don Bosco Prep in the state playoffs (falling 14-13).”
Campanile, who is one of four brothers in the coaching business, including Nunzio, the head man at Bergen Catholic, thinks his squad has a chance to upset Don Bosco in the Sept. 9 opener at home. Playing three of the first four games at home will be a plus for SHP.
“At least we don’t have to face Alabama and Ohio State,” cracked Campanile, who had great coaching success at Bergen Tech and Westwood, chalking up a 73-31 record with two state titles. His initial year at SHP produced a 6-3 mark. “I think five or six of the teams on our schedule are ranked in the Top 70 in the country.”
Seton Hall, which over the years has spotlighted strong defense and a solid running game, was led in 2016 by linebacker Paul Theobald, who averaged over 16 tackles a game. The talented youngster is now at Boston College, so some other kids will have to emerge as team leaders.
Campanile feels that senior QB Cameron Carti will do a nice job of leading the offense. And he’ll be backed up by a couple of other talented players.
“It never hurts to have several capable guys at the QB position,” remarked Campanile, whose father, Mike, coached at Paramus Catholic.
When the Pirates throw the ball, senior wide receiver Andrew Perez will be the prime target.
“He can just go up in the air to get the ball,” commented the coach. “At 6-foot-3 and around 200 pounds, he’s a tough kid to contain.”
On the ground, sophomore Kyle Monangai could have a breakout season. He didn’t carry the ball all that much in 2016, but the youngster is a tough customer at 5-9, 185. In 2010 Kevin Monangai dazzled for SHP on the ground.
Another top runner for the Pirates should be senior Charles Tabi.
At tight end, the Pirates will offer senior Quinn Nilan who has good size at 6-4, 225. Another top prospect at the position will be sophomore Dominic Busby, who goes 6-3, 195.
“I’m expecting a lot from both of those guys,” said Campanile, who was a big fan of Giants QB Phil Simms.
On defense, SHP also will have some quality performers on the field, though it’s doubtful a kid like Theobald will emerge.
On the defensive side, players such as senior end Johnathan Weir (6-1, 225), junior LB Jonathan Alvarado (6-1, 230), backs Jack Agnew, Quentin Phanord and Anthony Algieri, and linebacker Vincent Henrich will all contribute.
Players on the offensive line often don’t get much attention, but that won’t happen this season at SHP. The Pirates could have one of the best offensive linemen in the state with senior James Petrovcik, a 6-3, 280-pounder. The talented youngster already has college offers from such schools as Buffalo, William & Mary, Villanova, Maine, Central Florida, and Delaware.
Alvarado, though only a junior, has gotten the interest of such schools as Notre Dame and North Carolina. All he did in 2016 was come up with 81 tackles, four-and-one-half sacks, and a fumble recovery.
“We have some good weapons on both sides of the ball,” stated the coach, who was a top wrestler and football player at Paramus Catholic in the early 1990s. “We’ll be a work in progress, but we should be a very exciting team to watch.”
PIRATE PLANKS – Kids on the team from West Orange to watch are Henrich, defensive lineman Elie Maurice and fullback Kamau Rowe… Campanile’s brother Anthony is an assistant coach at Boston College, and another brother, Nick, is an assistant at DePaul High School… In 2010, SHP went 10-1 for the best mark in this century… Legendary coach Tony Verducci led SHP to playoff titles in 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1981 when the school was in South Orange.
Sept. 9, Don Bosco Prep, 2 p.m.
Sept. 15, at Paramus Catholic, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23, St. Peter’s Prep, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30, Pope John, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7, at Delbarton, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 14, Columbia, 2 p.m.
Oct. 20, at DePaul, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28, at Montclair, 1 p.m.
Nov. 4, Bergen Catholic, 2 p.m.
Records for past three years:
2016: 2-8 (Non-Public Group 4 playoffs, lost to Don Bosco Prep, first round)
2015: 6-3 (Non-Public Group 4 playoffs, lost to Bergen Catholic, first round)
2014: 6-4 (Non-Public Group 4 playoffs, lost to St. Peter’s Prep, first round)