Coach: Frank Marchiano
Year on the Job: 7th
Home Field: Grass
2015 Record: 7-4
2016 Nemesis: Roxbury
Freakishly Talented: Senior Alex Milliken (6, 194) has been the workhorse at the runningback postion since his sophomore year. Now a senior and in the best shape of his life, he is poised to break some Sparta rushing records.
Where’s the Beef: Senior Zach Herbert (6-1, 240) is a wrecking ball from the defensive tackle position and looks to better his 43 tackle, 2 sacks campaign he had as a junior.
Emotional Leader: Linebacker Mike Rossiter (5-11, 220) and brother defensive back Ryan Rossiter (5-11, 200) are tackling machines who everyone else feeds off of.
Will be a Household Name: I was hanging out with some of my Football Univeristy friends at the FBU camp this summer in Dover. Joe Bouffard, the Northeast scout grabbed me and said check out this kid. Standing in the center of the field was 6-5, 180-pound Sparta QB Matt Maute. Maute was passing repetitions to an array of receivers and he was making every single throw look effortless. “He might be the best kid in this camp right now,” Joe told me. Trust me, we are all going to know about this kid very soon.
Beast Watch: Senior receiver Rich McDonald (6, 196) was a pass catching machine last season with 27 receptions and 6 TDs. He and Maute gel incredibly well and he’s poised to be All Everything in 2016.
Coach Frank Marchiano and I talked about a lot of things about this Sparta team during our preseason sit down. But it was this little, seemingly benign sentence he said to me so softly, almost intentionally inaudible, that I almost missed it: “I feel as though I have the most talented team I have ever had this season.”
Wait a second, put on the breaks! You feel as though you have the most talented team as you have ever had??? Let’s take a step back. This is the guy who took three separate teams to the state finals over three years and won two titles in just six years of head coach. And he’s saying this is the best one talent-wise?
When you look over the lineup you realize he is right. Above and beyond the guys mentioned above you have guys like seniors receiver Andrew Pondiscio (6, 160) and tight end Jonathan Byers (6-2, 180) both of whom will certainly be 25 reception guys for Maute this season. Even junior Eric Castorina (5-6, 140) looks like another one of those guys who will go from obscurity to fame over night. There is no doubt this team is loaded.
However, they don’t just hand you a state championship for looking good on paper. You still have to go out and win games. And this schedule has its fair share of booby traps.
Right out of the gate, Sparta will face two hard hitting teams in Randolph and Montville. Win or lose, both of those games are going to take their toll on the Spartans. They’ll also have to face West Essex, Roxbury and Jefferson who all are slated to go deep into the playoffs. Teams like Vernon, High Point and Morris Hills can also jump up and sting them if they don’t stay focused through their nine game schedule.
Can this team win a state championship? They certainly have all of the pieces in place. But I have seen my fair share of talented squads get left out and I have also seen less talented teams win it all on sheer will and good chemistry. Keeping the eye on the prize and staying true to themselves will pay handsome dividends for the Spartans in 2016.
9/16 @ Montville
10/1 @ Morris Hills
10/8 West Essex
10/14 @ Roxbury
10/22 West Milford
10/4 @ High Point
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