Fall Sports Preview: Football

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photo by Rachel Lambert

As the preseason comes to a close, Raiders football looks like it is in for an excellent, exciting, and team-oriented autumn. The group has been practicing and lifting weights together since last December and have not been apart, excluding a one-week break in August. After a successful tri-scrimmage against North Brunswick and Lawrence, the team is ready to get out there and play.
Varsity Coach Jonathan Stack has a new strategy in mind for these players. Instead of making full-field passes, he sees the group working together to make short 5-yard passes all the way down the field. He thinks the success of this technique will be reliant on the team’s powerful dynamic. Stack claims that he has never seen such solid chemistry between teammates. Beyond that the senior players demonstrate leadership and the underclassmen are key contributors as well. Above all, this year’s Raiders are a dedicated, hard-working bunch. As Stack spiritedly said, “We can’t make predictions on wins and losses; what we want is that these guys –  every time they line up – they go out and play, and they compete, and they fight.”
We spoke with three of the team captains: Giancarlo Lorusso, Ed DePaola, and Jalen Bryant, and quarterback Marquel Taylor.
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graphic by Haley Nakonechny

How long have you been playing football?
Giancarlo Lorusso: I’ve been playing since I was in third grade. I found how much I love it and I just had to keep going with it.
Marquel Taylor: I’ve been playing football since I was three years old.
Ed DePaola: I’ve been playing all of high school. So four years.
Jalen Bryant: Since I was six man, I love this sport!
 
How have practices and the preseason been going? You scrimmaged already?
GL: We scrimmaged a few times. Pre-season’s good. Of the three years I’ve been on varsity this is easily the closest team that we’ve ever had. We all want to play for each other.
MT: Practice has been going well.
ED: You know, we had a tri-scrimmage and we did well against both teams, but our practices have been about getting better.
JB: It’s been hot! I mean it’s been going really good, I think we are really a team and we have been coming together.  We have no breakout stars, it’s just us working together for something and I like that a lot.
 
What would you say is a really strong strength of the team and a weakness to work on?

GL: Our strengths are obviously just teamwork, unselfishness, everyone being there for each other. Not really caring about what the numbers or newspapers say.
MT: I think we have stronger, faster players compared to last year’s team, because we have been in the weight room together since December.
ED: The closeness we have to each other so if it turns out badly, we won’t turn on each other.
JB: I think that our offensive line is really strong so I think that’s going to be really good.  
GL: I guess our weakness is we’re a little inexperienced. We have a lot of people who don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but that’s something that’ll get fixed throughout the season and it’s just something we grow off of.
ED: The weakness is probably that we don’t have a lot of returning guys who played last year.
JB: Our weaknesses might be that since we are a young team this year, we have a lot of junior varsity and sophomores coming in, so there’s a big ‘if’, you know like if they can grasp it or not.  I don’t know but I guess we’ll find out!
 
The dynamic of the team is really strong?
GL: Very, very strong dynamic. There’s not one person that has the ego, like, “I want to go play college here,” or do this, it’s very team-oriented and it’s just a good team.
MT: It is still early, but so far there has been a good team dynamic.
ED: Yeah.
JB: Definitely!  I think that we are a smarter team, faster team, stronger team, and like I said we are more of a team than we have been in past years.

And if you had to predict, how do you think this season’s going to go?
GL: I think it’s going to go really well. Like I said before, it’s just a better team. My first year we weren’t a close team, we were clique-y. Last year it was a little less, but this year we just want to play for each other. So the wins will come, it’s just a matter of working hard.
ED: I think we’re going to surprise some people. We’ve been lifting together since December so we’re going to be a stronger team. A lot faster too.
JB: I think we are going to surprise some people!  Last year we were underdogs, and this year we are even more of underdogs because we lost a strong senior class.  I think we are actually going to be better than a lot of people expect.  I’m excited!

photos by Rachel Lambert

Check out the Raiders football schedule for the 2015 season.
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