From the outside looking in, it’s difficult to grasp the impact 4th year coach Todd Callaghan is having on Whippany Park’s football team. To fully understand you have to know a little of the history of the school’s football program. First, the school has only made it to the postseason three times in the team’s forty-eight year existence. Secondly, they haven’t had a winning season since Jimmy Carter was in office. Thirdly, the three years prior to Callaghan the Wildcats went 4-25 and was shutout more times than not.
Don’t get me wrong, going 13-29 since taking over the program isn’t going to get a Disney movie made about this team. But consider this: Before Callaghan, viable players wouldn’t go out for the team. And, on game days, only a sparse crowd of a handful of parents dotted the stands. Even the marching band would sometimes not show up.
Now, things are shifting. The athletes in the school are joining the program. Fans go to the games. The marching band pumps out fight songs. And the administration is rewarding the program with a brand new turf field, press box and bleachers for the ‘15 season.
This change is not by chance. Callaghan and his loyal coaches are dedicating themselves to the development of football at Whippany Park. “When I took this program over I knew we had to pay attention to the little things.” Callaghan explained. “We had to start with focusing on the weight room in the offseason.”
Callaghan credits his coaching staff for the team’s progression. “My entire staff is incredible. Coaching has a lot of facets to it. I believe in allowing coaches to coach. I can’t do every single thing so I rely heavily on my assistants to do a lot. You need that in order to run a successful program.”
So let’s get into the meat of the 2015 Wildcats. This group will rely heavily on a core group of hard-working seniors and juniors. These guys will be strong right where you want them to be: at the line. Junior guard Dylan Hayduk (5-11, 175) and senior tackle Ryan Fields (5-10, 227) are hard working, leadership-kind-of- guys that set the tone for the offense.
Taking a lot of the snaps at runningback will be seniors Michael Lacitignola (5’5”, 140 lbs) and Joe Michalewsky (5-8, 140). Both combined for 600 yards and 6 touchdowns last year. Receiving will be the 6-1, 180-pound senior Robert Greenwald who was key in various spots as a junior.
Defensively, big junior linebacker Andrew Lake (5-11, 210) will control the middle. Lake was second in team tackles last season as a sophomore. Michalewsky, Lacitignola, Hayduk and Greenwald were also big defensive producers last season and will bring a ton of veteran leadership to that side of the ball.
Here are my thoughts on Whippany Park: Callaghan and his coaches literally give everything they have to this team but at the end of the day the players play the game. Players from the last four years sacrificed a lot to get this team to where it is.
Going .500 would be a wild success for this program. But if these players can stay focused and turn close games into victories the 2015 Wildcats could be a viable playoff contender.
Personally, I love the fact that this team has been fighting decades of losing and doing it with a ton of self respect. I think this group is scrappy enough and hungry enough to blow plast .500. Looking at their schedule and this roster of players it is not too far fetched for this team to finish 7-2 and with a first round playoff game at home. Take that Disney!
Whippany Park Wildcats
2014 Record: (4-6-0)
Head Coach: Todd Callaghan
Assistant Coaches: Brady Mahar, Dan Fulton, Nick Boccella, Colin Feeney, Nick Dillworth and Jeff Keating.
League: Northwest Jersey Athletic Conference
Section: North 2, Group 2
High Point: Overtime thriller against Pequannock. They lost by a questionable call, but it highlighted how far this program has come under Callaghan.
Low Point: Not going .500.
Season Breakdown & Prediction
Games to Watch: Week 1 against Hackettstown. A win could give them all the momentum in the world.
Position to Watch: Middle linebacker. Junior Andrew Lake, who was second in tackles last season to Michael Poulter, takes over at MLB and will be lots of fun to watch.
Young Guns to Watch: Junior guard Dylan Hayduk. He’s a true leader who will be one of this year’s captains.
In a Nutshell: The tide is clearly shifting in Wildcat Nation. If this team can stay even keeled through the highs and lows of the season, they could find themselves with a long awaited playoff bid.
Dream Season: Making it to the postseason.
Nightmare Season: Not going .500.
Playoff Appearances: 3
Finals Appearances: 1
State Titles: 1
Playoff Record: 2-2 (.500)
|9/19||Morris Catholic||01:00 pm|
|10/10||Wallkill Valley||01:00 pm|
|11/6||@Mountain Lakes||07:00 pm|