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State Championship Week: Rally Time!!!

Out of the thirty eight teams that make up Morris Sussex Football’s covering area, twenty one of them made it to the postseason with a chance to compete for a state title. We called these schools the “Top-Flight 21”. Then, after the first week of the playoffs, nine teams advanced to the semi-finals. We named these remaining schools the “Fine 9”. Then, after a tough week, those nine remaining schools were narrowed down to five teams that earned the chance to play in the championship game in their respective state sections. We are calling these remaining teams the “Fab 5”!

And now that the “Fab 5” have advanced out of our region and are battling for top honor on the state level, we at Morris Sussex Football feel it is our duty to rally our community for these teams. We, meaning anyone who lives, goes to school, works, was born in and is alumn of any school in Morris or Sussex County, have a responsibility to let Mendham, Par Hills, Sparta, Pope John and Mountain Lakes know we are behind all of them to provide all of the support in the world.

To do our part, Morris Sussex Football, dove into the heart of each of the “Fab 5’s” fan base to take the pulse of each school by interviewing their fans. We also wanted to give them a bull horn to shout a loud rallying cry before the first official whistle blows this coming Friday Night.

MSF arranged a round table of fans from each of the “Fab 5”. Below, you will get to know Sparta super fan John Romano, Par Hills student section leader Mitch Hohn, Mt. Lakes die harder Luke St. Lifer, Pope John chant pheonom Axel D’Addario and Mendham’s boo expert Austin Marconi as they discuss why they back their beloved teams, what a state title would mean for their schools and what they would say if they had a chance to give the pregame speech.

Mendham's fans cheering during Mendham's first playoff win at Colonia.

Mendham’s fans cheering during Mendham’s first playoff win at Colonia.

Morris Sussex Football: How excited is your school for this game?
John Romano – Sparta: Our school is so psyched up that it’s all what the students and teachers are talking about. The fans started planning the weekend’s events during the 4th quarter of the Ramapo game.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: Right now the feeling is unreal! It will start to kick in toward the end of this week.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: We’re amped! Everyone is so excited! Nobody is really thinking about anything else besides this game at Kean. I have found spy Kyle Allison, defender Matt Padula and Murat Bajdok who is a nightmare on the offensive line in the library watching film on more then one occasion.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Our school is so excited! Our school was always predominately referred to as Sussex counties elite education foundation and now our sports teams are rising above others and it’s amazing!
Austin Marconi – Mendham: We are very excited to have the Minuteman able to play for the State Championship! It has been awhile since we have had this opportunity and everyone knows these boys have worked hard for this.

Morris Sussex Football: What makes your team so special?
John Romano – Sparta: This team is so special because of how close all of the players are with each other! They also fool around more than anyone I know but when it is game time…it’s on!!!
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: The energy that the whole team has on the field and the bond that they all share.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: It is the tradition that makes this team so special! From walking down the path with the war chant to running through the signs with the spears. The Herd is one of a kind and no other team does it like we do it.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Our team is so special because we don’t lack talent on any side of the field. Our defense is just as dominating as our star studded offense.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: This team has great chemistry and unity! They really like playing for each other. The seniors do a great job of setting a positive example for the underclassmen.


Mt. Lakes Buffalo is a huge part of what rallies the Herd football team.

Mt. Lakes Buffalo is a huge part of what rallies the Herd football team.

Morris Sussex Football: At what point during the season did you realize that this team might actually be a state championship caliber team?
John Romano – Sparta: I knew this was a state championship team ever since we all played together in 8th grade. We kicked everyone’s butt! And the addition of Fabulous Faria makes us even better.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: The first game when we blew out Morris Hills!
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Every year the Herd know they have the ability to be a state championship team. The team, student body, and town knew that was not going to change this year. These kids are savage. There is unfinished business at Kean from last year and the Herd are about go finish it. Its poetic justice.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: We knew since the close last last year against Camden Catholic that our returning starters would make a huge impact.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: During the first round of states when they played Colonia. They really controlled the game on both sides of the ball and everyone played at a high level.

Morris Sussex Football: What makes your school’s fans so special?
John Romano – Sparta: Our fans are super special because of how hard we go! The school now has to have chaperones near the fan section to make sure we don’t get to rowdy.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: We carry on all the traditions from the years past. We might be a small group but we connect with the players and pump them up.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Dedication! Our fans are so dedicated and whether the game is right down the street at Wilkins Field or 45 minutes away, the players know that Laker Nation will be there. Kids are nuts for the Herd. They paint their faces, paint their chests, dye their hair, etc. We really go all out.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: We are not only into every game but every play as well. Our fan section is well educated with football knowledge and we know what’s going on and what to cheer for.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: We as a school take our sport events very seriously. Rain or shine you know we will show up with great enthusiasm. The fans are not only the students, but also the surrounding community. A perfect example of this is the most loyal Mendham fan we have, Geoffrey D’Aires. He is always on the sideline supporting the team.


Par Hill's fans hope to motivate their team to their first state championship in school history.

Par Hill’s fans hope to motivate their team to their first state championship in school history.

Morris Sussex Football: What is it that your student section does that psyches the team up the most?
John Romano – Sparta: We cheer for a certain player when they make a good play and we are definitely the loudest fan section in the state!
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: From the beginning of the game when we go crazy when the team comes out to Turbulence, to the end of the game when we wish the other team a farewell.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Definitely the war chant. Once our players hear the war chant they know it’s time to crack somebody. They turn into different people when that beat comes on. Other teams like Caldwell fear that chant. Eli “Meat” Mehl taps the war chant for 45 minutes during Economics class. This week, a student named Nina asked what it meant. Eli replied “It means war Nina. Come to Kean on Saturday and you’ll see.”
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: We cheer for individual players when they make a huge play. Giving individuals confidence boosts the team morale.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: I cannot say that there is one thing we do in particular, but we like to keep it loud and creative at all times.

Morris Sussex Football: What is your student section’s trade mark?
John Romano – Sparta: Our trade mark is definitly the kids who dress up like Spartans. But we all go by the rule of the more paint the better and the less clothes the better!

Mendham fans look to rally their Minutemen for their first state title since the mid-70s.

Mendham fans look to rally their Minutemen for their first state title since the mid-70s.

Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: We do a human roller coaster at the end of half time, and an “I Believe that We Will Win” chant.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: The Buffalo mascot is definitely the student section’s trade mark! Everyone loves Beasty the Buffalo and expects him to be at every home game. Students volunteer to be Beasty and he will also be at Kean on Saturday. He is a big Buffalo too, but not as big as Herd tackle Jack “Big Siddies” Siddron…but still pretty big.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: We don’t take our shirts off or blow horns. We just all dress the same whether it’s black, blue, red, pink, etc. Against Delbarton everyone in the stands wore a classy suit.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: Our trademark would be that we always wear our schools colors; red, white and blue. But for this big game coming up I would expect something crazy and exotic from all.

Morris Sussex Football: What were some funny moments from the bleachers this season?
John Romano – Sparta: Definitly the most funny moment of the season was when a couple fans parties too hard before the first game.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: When we stormed the field at West Essex after the win, and got kicked off by every authoritative figure there.
Luke St Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Watching the band do the dance they do is always interesting. James Wittig lives for that dance; he pretty much trade marked it. Also, the Oom Papa chant is a classic.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Definately rushing the field was.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: A moment that I will never forget, along with the many other fans is when Central’s visitors bleachers collapsed because we overloaded them with supporters and school spirit.


Rooting for the Herd is a way of life in Mt. Lakes.

Rooting for the Herd is a way of life in Mt. Lakes.

Morris Sussex Football: Who would you nominate as the MVP of all fans for your team?
John Romano – Sparta: I would nominate John Puszcz and Dylan Pannicucci as the MVPs of our fan section.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: Our best fan is Shane O’Connor, a student from Brooklawn who plays in the little Vikings. He comes to all of our games, and even though he is not from our school he brings the most energy and pumps up the crowd and the team.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Definitely MVP of all fans goes to Jason Wolpov. Together we make groups and events for the Herd for people to join. You can find Jason at every Herd game wearing a Michigan beanie hat and his sweet Mt. Lakes soccer jacket. You can also find Jason featured on the Star Ledger for Mt. Lakes soccer “Player of the Week.” Just an all-around chill kid.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Chris Curran
Austin Marconi – Mendham: This is a tough one because Geoffrey D’Aires is definitely a big supporter but I would also have to add the entire senior class, especially Mike Sinzer.

Morris Sussex Football: What player parent do you think secretly would love join in on the student section mayhem for games?

Sparta's fans look to avenge last year's Sparta team who lost in last year's state final.

Sparta’s fans look to avenge last year’s Spartan team who lost in last year’s state final.

John Romano – Sparta: The entire May family without a doubt
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: Mrs. McGinley and both Nickels are with us for most of the games and would definitely jump in and paint their faces and go wild with us.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: The parents are already a part of Laker Nation. They contribute so much and they do a lot for the players, pre game activities and student body. The Herd moms need to get a lot of credit for what goes on behind the scenes and for the noise at the games. If I had to pick one though it would definitely go to Mrs. Spagnola. She is a huge part of Laker Nation and would do anything for the Herd.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Austin Bailey’s mom.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: This is a no brainer with the winner being Mr. Abramski. He really goes all out to support the team, whether its having a tailgate with a DJ and food or making t-shirts for our white out games.

Morris Sussex Football: What can we expect from your student section this weekend?
John Romano – Sparta: This weekend our fan section is gonna be great we have a fan bus for the lower classman and all the upper classman are driving there. We have our cardboard cutouts made by Drew Garger of a lot of the seniors faces. As always the fighting Spartans, John Puszcz and Dylan Pannicucci, will be attending.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: To not be able to hear the announcers over our crazy cheers.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Like I said, we are all about tradition. Laker Nation is going to bring the same intensity that we do for every other game because clearly it works.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Noise and a bunch of memorable chants.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: You can expect a fan section full of loud, rowdy, and supportive Mendham fans. There will definitely be some face paint and full body paint to show our support along with the legendary chants.


Mendham will assemble a mix of students, parents and dedicated alumni to support their Minutemen this Sunday.

Mendham will assemble a mix of students, parents and dedicated alumni to support their Minutemen this Sunday.

Morris Sussex Football: What are your plans for the pregame of the state championship game?
John Romano – Sparta: Our pregame will go like this. Me and a couple of other hardcore spartan fans are meeting at our highschool at 6:30 am and heading up to MetLife. We are bringing speakers a grill burgers and lawn chairs for a tailgate in the MetLife! Anyone from Sparta is welcome to join us
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: Paint my body, tailgate with the fans and make sure that we all get rowdy enough for the game.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: My plans for pre game of the state championship are probably going to include tailgating and throwing a football around with some friends before watching the Herd do what they do best.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Tailgate in parking lot of MetLife.
Austin Marconi – Mendham: We are holding a bon fire to rally the community around the team. Additionally, we always a full tailgate before the games so I would expect this one to be amped up a bit more.

Morris Sussex Football: What would a state title mean for your school?

Sparta's fans can usually be seen marching around with cardboard cut outs of their beloved seniors.

Sparta’s fans can usually be seen marching around with cardboard cut outs of their beloved seniors.

John Romano – Sparta: A state title would be awesome for our school! The boys have worked so hard this entire season and they are definitely the most deserving team!
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: It would be history! It will be our first state title in school history and would set the tone for the rest of the teams in years to come
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: It would mean everything! This would be Fusco’s first ring and he really deserves it. Coach Fusco and the rest of the coaching staff do an unreal job of keeping the Herd prepared for every single game. These kids will die to get that ring. Quinn Peacock said, “Yeah I’m not leaving without a win. I’ll sleep at Kean for the rest of my life if I have to.” Quinn is not the only one with that mentality. Half back John “Reu” Reuben said, “To be able to take a snap chat with that trophy in my hands would be amazing.” Reuben isn’t messing around at halfback. I feel bad for the Chief who has to try to tackle him on Saturday. The kid runs with a meaning.

Axel D’Addario – Pope John: It’ll mean the world!
Austin Marconi – Mendham: A state title would obviously mean a lot to the school and community! But these guys have already accomplished a lot and have proved themselves as winners. I expect them to finish the season strong and continue to shock the state.

Morris Sussex Football: If you could give your team the pre-game speech, what would you tell them?
John Romano – Sparta: My speech would be all about how much fun we’ll have after we’ve won the game and about the certain bet I’ve made with my boy C-Nugz and what I have to do if we win.
Mitch Hohn – Par Hills: That this is their last chance and last game. Put your bodies on the line to win. Leave your blood, sweat and everything else you have on the field.
Luke St. Lifer – Mt. Lakes: Great question (laughs)! Everyone on the team knows I love pre-game speeches. I live for the pre-game hype. Ask the animal at full back Christian Cuccinello. I have almost every class with him and all I do for nine periods straight is pump up speeches. He acts like it doesn’t pump him up, but I know he gets juiced inside. They know this is it, the last time putting on those pads so go get it done.
Axel D’Addario – Pope John: Leave it all on the field!
Austin Marconi – Mendham: I would tell them to continue playing with unity, have each others back no matter what, and remember to always play with Mendham PRIDE.

George Muha has been covering high school sports since 2006. He feels high school scholar-athletes are the most important part of the community and highlighting their achievements on the field, in the classroom and within the community is his personal mission.



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