Coach Tepper describes his players as “good kids.” Don’t get him wrong, though — this isn’t a coach trying to make the best of things. He likes his team, likes working with them — but that’s not why he’s excited. He’s fired up because his guys “can also play football.”
Ah, this must be a coach’s dream: players to believe in, both inside and out.
After eighteen years of coaching, and the recent induction into the NJ Coaches Association Hall of Fame as well as receiving the NJ Football Officials Association Coaching Staff Sportsmanship Award, Coach Tepper is clearly a man whose judgment we can trust.
Tepper believes in the returning talent in his senior class, and he also talks about a junior class of twenty-eight players. They were on the field last year, they’ll be on the field this year, and they’ll be back next year. And that means it’s all in for this band of brothers.
Sometimes the best way to drill into the heart and soul of a team—to learn about a team—is to watch them in their most brutal defeats. I saw the Vikings beat Montville, but it’s the Pope John loss I can’t stop thinking about. It went something like this:
First quarter: Pope John gets the ball, breaks a hundred tackles and runs for 65 yards, where the Division1-bound RB is stopped by a gang of dark helmets. Soon, Pope John is up 12-0, but the Vikings don’t quit. They get the ball, and move the pile—a big, five-man pile of beef— for a stunning 13 yards, and a first down. Still, by second quarter, PJ was up 26-0. Then, when the Vikings get the ball, following great blocks from the team, the Vikings RB breaks free for thirteen yards. Still, at the half it’s 33-0, Pope John. But the Vikings get the ball again, and plow it into the endzone making it 39-6. Final score: 52-6.
The New Yorker ran an article written by Malcolm Gladwell on present-day underdogs winning big against powerhouse teams.
The author’s theory went like this: sooner or later, with unrelenting pressure from a team that refuses to quit, that team might catch a break. Remember the Vernon/PJ game? At the whistle, there were Viking helmets all around that ball; Vernon never gave up, even moving a pile of six PJ players for thirteen yards; and Vernon plowed it in, putting points on the board, taking away that shut-out Pope John wanted.
Imagine a team that worked hard all game, all season, and refused to give up.
This is what Vernon is capable of doing.
Here’s the article link if you’re interested: How David Beats Goliath
Tyler Soltes is a third-year quarterback who’s going to lead the show. He can run or handoff, throw or even go out for a pass, and with all those years of reading the defense he’s also making good decisions.
Tim VanLenten is a strong runner that stays on his feet no matter who is diving at his legs. Van Lenten earned my respect in that Pope John game with this mid-game run.
Two-way linemen Nick Rapisardi and Morgan Murphy will anchor the big boys up front. Rapisardi had eight tackles and one sack in Vernon’s win against Montville.
Luke Venskus is the FB/TE that’ll “help everywhere,” according to Coach Tepper.
Cole Nagle and Nick Demattheis will be the lock-down corners, with help from Rapisardi and Van Lenten. Up front, look for Seamus Hughes and Joe Mccaffrey.
A Look Back at 2013
Last year, the Vikings lost four games by seven points or less. This team needs to do exactly what they are capable of: play four quarters, never let up, and they’ll turn those close games into wins. A new schedule, new teams to play, and I’m predicting a 2014 trip to the playoffs.
The Game to Watch
Coach Tepper’s must-see game is the season-opener against Mendham, where they will “lay out all their cards and see where they’re at.” At Mendham, 9/13, 2PM.
09-13 @ Mendham
09-19 Parsippany Hills
09-27 @ Morris Hills
10-02 High Point
10-18 @ Chatham
10-24 @ Montville
10-31 Pope John
11-07 @ Mount Olive