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Since last Saturday, August 1st, our entire staff has been working their tail off gearing up for the football season. We are having a blast been conducting interviews, writing articles and publishing our preseason previews. This week, Laura Byrne, Georgi Muha and myself also have been visiting training camps to get a first hand look at the teams in Morris-Sussex. Along the way, there are a lot of things we are observing (some of them flat out hysterical) so I thought our readers would enjoy knowing about some of the highlights.
One player that surprised me during our camp visits was Dover’s Dwayne Brown. Brown looks like he’s in incredible shape and he was much bigger than last season. But what impressed me the most was watching him interact with his teammates. He’s like a coach on the field. It is apparent that he knows the entire playbook and is working hard to make sure his fellow players get on the same page with some on-field instruction. Trust me, Dover is going to be very relevant this season behind Brown’s leadership.
I’ve been covering football for a long time and I don’t remember if ever felt like so much of an inferior human being as I did when I interviewed Pope John junior DT Dalyn Wade-Perry this week. It’s not just that he’s big, because he must be 6-6, 300-pounds. He’s just so visibly strong that he’s an impending figure. However, he has an incredible gregarious personality and its no wonder that Alabama, Stamford, Miami and everyone else wants him to play for their college.
The Johnnies have it all going on this year with Wade-Perry, fourth year quarterback Sonny Abramson and big veteran center Sam Howson (who is similarly physically scary like Wade-Perry). But what I thought was intriguing about this Lions team is they have over 40 sophomore players on their roster. There are a lot of really talented players in this group. I happened to have met Nick Denucci, Ryan Greenhagen, Ty Hranicka and Berrell Neal, all of whom would be the varsity featured player if they stayed in their sending public district. Neal is actually a transfer from Don Bosco and was a varsity contributor there as a freshman. You won’t have to bother remembering these four names – everyone will know them soon enough.
The Smolyn Report
We also spent some time at a Lenape Valley workout. It’s always fun talking to head coach Don Smolyn. He’s literally has forgotten more football than anyone reading this every knew. He’s got so many connections and ties in the football community from high school all the way to the pros its not even funny. I could just listen to him rattle off stuff all day. But the one thing I noticed while at Lenape’s workout was senior fullback/linebacker Brandon Reis. The kid just looks like a football player and Smolyn was very high on him too. I know we talked about Reis in our preview a little but he deserves another mention.
I was actually a little taken back by Kittatinny’s size. They were young last year and have a lot of starters coming back. There are a lot of 6′ and bigger seniors on the roster. They also have a lot of confidence coming into this season. They are a team that could monkey wrench some things for some teams.
I brought my 12-year old son Ben for the ride up for our Hopatcong visit. On the way up in the car I noticed he was wearing a North Warren football t-shirt (a shirt NW’s Coach Parzero gave me earlier in the summer). I started busting his chops, letting him know that Hopatcong’s big rival is North Warren. By the time we got to Hopatcong’s practice Ben didn’t want to leave the car, fearful that the Chief’s players would be angry at him. I told Coach Venturino about the situation and he promptly had player Andrew Nee run up to the football office to grab my son a Hopatcong tee. Quarterback Vince Giordano told Ben that he looked “raw”. I don’t think Ben actually knows what that meant but he thought it was so cool that Giordano said that to him and from time to time says to me, “Dad, I look raw!” His Hopatcong shirt is now the most worn shirt in his drawer. Good marketing by Venturino!
Hilarious Moment in Sparta
Me and photographer Georgi visited Sparta to snap some photos of the players doing drills. We weren’t there long but took a lot of photos of the guys hitting blocking sleds, catching passes, practicing three-step drops, etc. As always when taking photos, we work hard not to interfere with practice. So we weren’t even sure if we were noticed – that was until we were back at our office downloading the pictures. We literally busted out laughing because picture after picture had Sparta players photo bombing our shots. Thanks Spartans, you made for an enjoyable couple of hours! Here’s one of our favorite pictures from that day.
Last season Roxbury’s Craig Roumes killed the competition in the best hair department. The brown locks flowing out of his helmet surely scored him some endorsement opportunities from shampoo companies over the offseason. However, Hopatcong’s Desmond Lugo is on his Roumes’ tail this season with his well manicured hi-top fade. Lugo is getting major points by not shaving the sides and keeping it a little longer. Well played my friend!
Don’t Mess With Him
While visiting Roxbury’s workout this week I had the pleasure of having a catch with quarterback Grant Dixon. We chatted a little bit about his progression from winning the starting job as a sophomore to taking his Gaels to the semi’s as a junior and all the expectations coming into the 2015 season. This guy has a quiet a confidence (NOT cockiness) that makes it hard not to put your money on him. Plus he’s got all the physical tools. Big time colleges need to be paying attention.
I’m apparently a smiling fool when I take pictures with Sonny Abramson. I’ve been covering him since he started as a freshman quarterback four years ago, so I asked him to take a picture with me for posterity sakes. I thought I could play it cool but instead I had a silly grin from ear to ear that I couldn’t even control. Even our photographer said, “Why are you so happy!” Sorry Sonny, I guess I got a little star struck!
Morris Sussex Sport is also proud to announce our new partnership with Football University that was sealed this week. Football University runs the top football training camps, scouting combines and youth tournaments in the country. They are also the people that host the Army All American Bowl game for the nation’s top football players. This partnership will directly impact our readers and players through giveaways, scholarships to their camps and a co-branded weekly player of the week special.
Lastly, I’d like to share a really cool success story. One of my first interns, James Kratch, is climbing the ranks of sports journalism and just got a huge promotion. As of last week, James was named the New York Giants beat writer for the New Jersey Star Ledger. James started with us in 2007 when he was an underclassmen at West Morris Central. He then went on to the University of South Carolina where he regularly interviewed Steve Spurrier for the school paper. James’ career has been on an upward trajectory ever since and is making us all proud. Check out James’ testimonial on our Internship page.
Next week Morris Sussex Sports will be at a lot more training camps and looks forward to talking to more players and coaches. Make sure you tell you friends to subscribe so nobody misses all the preseason action. See you around campus!