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Anyone who thinks Butler is going to have an off year because last year they went 1-8 in the regular season will be sadly mistaken. I can tell you Butler is one of the most complete teams in Morris-Sussex.  Yes, they got beat down last year–but mostly in fourth quarters, and mostly because they were sophomores and juniors who just ran out of stamina and lacked experience. But this year is much, much different.

This season EVERYONE has a ton of varsity experience.  And the lanky kids who took their lumps last season are now well built young men that are ready to dish out the lumps.  The worst part for their opponents is these Bulldogs remember every single heartbreaking game from last season and all they want to do is avenge their 2014 selves.  “Almost all of us started last season.  We’re all coming back and we know all that experience is a big advantage.”  Senior receiver Nick Guagliardi told me.

This year's varsity players feel this is the year for a run at the state title.

This year’s varsity players feel this is the year for a run at the state title.

When you look at this year’s Bulldog team, you have to first consider their line. This group is anchored by Cole Rhinesmith (6-1, 215), Cory Mack (6-2, 220) and Mike Warren (6-1, 235). These core guys are powerful and explosive, and have pinpoint technique.  What I like about this group is they are all power forward body types – no roly-poly linemen here.   And their athleticism is an asset in Coach Luciani’s high tempo offense.

You could throw a JV runningback behind those horses up front and he’ll have a successful season.  But lucky for Butler and unlucky for their opponents, the Bulldogs have a not-so secret weapon at runningback.  The 6, 190-pound senior Danny Castiglia is the monster who moved from receiver to runningback. Last season, Castiglia burned opponents for 590 yards and 6 touchdowns on 40 receptions. The move to ball carrier is going to be a natural progression.  His blazing speed is his trademark.

Opponents will be mistaken if they stack the box against Castiglia though. The problem in doing this will be their 6-2, 200-pound junior quarterback Dom Gentile who started every game as a sophomore and will be using Castiglia to ward off the pass rush with a lot of play-action. Gentile is a true quarterback prodigy who I predict will have a breakout season. The Gentile-Castiglia combo makes this offense extremely dynamic.

But wait, there’s more. It’s not like Gentile is throwing to himself. In fact, Butler is loaded with a ton of receivers, all with great height and size. Seniors Sean Mefford (5-10, 170), Andrew Zemaitis (6-1, 185) and Nick Guagliardi (6, 185) are all top-notch athletes who can cross over the middle or fade deep.

Speed and size are the theme of this team. Coach Luciani likes to play a basketball type of football.  These players have all the tools to create a lot of production through the air.  But having Castiglia carrying the ball will keep opponents on their heels because they’ll be flip flopping on how to defend these guys.

There is a lot to like about these Bulldogs.  As for my outlook, I am going to say this.  Whether they win or lose, Castiglia is going to have a great year.  He’s that kind of athlete.  With that said, I think the success of this team is going to rest upon how well QB Gentile leverages Castiglia.  A dominate back opens up a lot of things (i.e. play action, passing plays in short yardage situations, misdirection plays, etc) and the proper use of this weapon is going to be key.

Getting through the regular season is going to be tough.  I think it’s going to take five wins by the eight-game cutoff to get a spot in the tourney.  Winning close games is going to be key.  I predict the Bulldogs find themselves somewhere in a bracket come playoff time.

Butler Bulldogs

2014 Record: (2-8-0)
Head Coach: Jason Luciani
League: Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Section: North 1, Group 1

2014 Recap

High Point: The fact that many of this year’s starters got a lot of reps as varsity players.
Low Point: Going 1-8 in their division.

Season Breakdown & Prediction

Game to Watch: Week 7 against Hanover Park. The Hornets themselves have a highflying offense and by the time these teams play each other they both will need to rack up the Power Points so this game will have big time playoff consequences.
Position to Watch: Runningback with Danny Castiglia. I haven’t spoken enough of Castiglia’s speed. But this kid burns fire tracks into the turf on run plays. Put him behind that line and Castiglia coasts easily to a 1,500+ rushing season.
Young Guns to Watch: I am liking junior Davon Smith at defensive tackle. This kid is a force up the middle at 6-1, 205, and will be a big disruption to offenses this season.
In a Nutshell: Last season was purely a training session for this season. There is a buzz around Butler Nation that nothing less than winning a title will suffice.
Dream Season: Making it to the semi’s.
Nightmare Season: Not making the playoffs.

Postseason History

Playoff Appearances: 23
Finals Appearances: 13
State Titles: 7
Playoff Record: 26-16 (.619)


9/11Boonton High School7:00PM
9/18at Mountain Lakes Schools7:00PM
9/25Madison High School7:00PM
10/2at Morristown-Beard Athletics7:30PM
10/10at Morris Catholic High School1:00PM
10/16Hopatcong High School7:00PM
10/23Hanover Park High School7:00PM
10/30at Kinnelon High School7:00PM
11/5at North Warren Regional7:00PM


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What’s your prediction for the 2015 Bulldogs?  Comment below.

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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  1. Pingback: The Ultimate Preseason Guide to Football – Morris Sussex Sports

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