When you get to the third year of an unbeaten streak, the pressure starts heaping on. Coming into this season, the Mountain Lakes Herd have won twenty two straight games – including two state championships. Living up to the Herd’s expectations is hard enough, but being the team to have to keep up the momentum of years past makes it even harder.
“Everyone on this team has been hearing about the streak for so long we’ve just tuned it out.” Senior fullback Jake Spagnola told me in a tone that said the team is tired of the topic. “We literally don’t even think about it. The standards are much higher at Mountain Lakes without the streak. We are just focused on the day to day.”
Streak or not, Mountain Lakes is fielding yet another team of hard nosed, athletic players who are dedicated to helping Herd Nation continue it’s winning tradition. Coach Darrell Fusco will keep his way of rewarding his incoming seniors with the opportunity to step up into the roles left empty by the graduating class. “We’re a senior focused team every year. We have some key returning players, but we’ll have a lot of guys stepping up. They seem to be doing a good job at embracing the challenge so far.”
One of the key cogs coming back is senior quarterback Griffen Baker (6, 190). Baker has a really nice arm and has emerged as a true leader of the team. “I think Griffen will be a big surprise for opposing teams. He can do a lot and he can make all of the tough throws. He gives us an element that we don’t always have at Mountain Lakes.”
Getting most of the touches carrying the ball will be Spagnola (6-2, 210) and fellow senior halfback Dylan Gottesman (6-1, 200). As fullback Spagnola will open a lot of holes through blocking but can show finesse carrying the ball as well. Gottesman didn’t get a lot of carries last season but is a tough, every down kind of back. Fusco loves to control the ball so his foundation will be focused on these two players.
Up front, the Herd will feature its 6’4″, 210-pound senior tackle Felix Boerstoel. He’s is an athletic type of blocker who can power block or run ahead of ball carriers down field. “Boerstoel is returning for us and is a very good blocker.” Fusco said.
Rarely are the Herd known has a pass happy offense, but along with Griffen’s arm they have a nice big target who can run all the routes. Senior Jimmy Schicke (6-4, 215) gives Lakes a down-the-field threat. Together the Herd now has big-play ability and can be deadly in short yardage situations in which Schicke will be asked to out jump a cornerback – which he can do to most corners in this division.
Defensively, most of the guys above will contribute. They’ll be headlined by the super-talented Mike Aiello (6-3, 235) at nose tackle. Aiello is the anchor in which the entire defense is centered around. “Aiello is one of our key guys.” Fusco said. “He gives us an advantage because he is so disruptive. He’s just so big and fast that teams have a hard time containing him.”
As for my outlook, Mountain Lakes is always Mountain Lakes. I wouldn’t get all caught up with the whole streak thing. It’s inevitable it will end at some point. Fusco has lost four games in five years so it’s not like the football program is going to collapse if they do. Frankly, I feel it will probably take the pressure off these guys if they did end up losing one.
Looking too far ahead is never healthy, but the Herd hasn’t missed the playoffs since Carter so I think its okay if we make an exception this one time. What worries me about this season is their playoff section. Local teams Hanover Park, Madison and Dover are all strong this year and will be waiting for Lakes in the state tournament. All three of which matchup very well against the Herd. Yes, there is a lot of football yet to be played so we don’t have to get too carried away at who’s lurking in the distance. The point is, you can expect Mountain Lakes to be very much in the conversation come the end of November, beginning of December – whether the streak is intact or not.
Mountain Lakes Herd
2014 Record: (12-0-0)
Head Coach: Darrell Fusco
Assistant Coaches: Jeff Reid, Matt Stanzione (Defensive Coordinator), Dan Capriola, Nick Lane, Brian Capriola, Jason Doniloski, Mike Johnson, Steve Feltmann and Kevin Wallace.
League: Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Section: North 2, Group 2
High Point: The entire season was basically a high point.
Low Point: There literally wasn’t a low point during last season.
Season Breakdown & Prediction
Games to Watch: Week 1 against Madison. The Dodgers are loaded at every position and they want nothing more than to end the Herd’s streak.
Position to Watch: You have to key on wideout Jimmy Schicke. He’s a weapon that has all of the skills that could alter the Herd’s game plan.
In a Nutshell: Its been literally eons since Mountain Lakes wasn’t in the state finals or semi finals. There is no indication that this year won’t be any different.
Dream Season: Going 12-0, winning the state finals and keeping the streak alive.
Nightmare Season: Not making it to the semi finals.
Playoff Appearances: 32
Finals Appearances: 14
State Titles: 7
Playoff Record: 32-25 (.561)
|10/24||@Wallkill Valley||02:00 pm|
|11/6||Whippany Park||07:00 pm|
|25||MICHAEL HAMILL||10||6' / 165||HB/CB|
|27||ZACH DEXTER||12||6' / 155||CB|
|33||COLLIN POND||11||5'9" / 160||HB / LB|
|44||NAIM WEBB||11||5'8" / 160||FB / LB|
|45||JOEY GOODWIN||11||5'4" / 145||HB/LB|
|47||MATTHEW BARKAUSKAS||10||5'9" / 165||FB / LB|
|83||NICK WEXLER||10||6'2 / 165||SE/S|