Coach: Bobby Leach
Year on the Job: 6th
Home Field: Grass
2015 Record: 4-6
2016 Nemesis: Bergen Tech
Freakishly Talented: Senior receiver Brandon Bendes is one of those players who can play every skill position. Which he will most likely will this season.
Where’s the Beef: Sometimes something happens between junior and senior year with a player that is unexplainable and this is the case with offensive tackle Rich Hamler. Coach Leach says he sees something in Hamler’s eyes that he didn’t see last year and now he’s become the leader of the guys up front. He’s 6-2, 250-pounds and moves around like a college tight end.
Emotional Leader: Brothers Richie and Frank Hofmann, who are a junior and senior respectively and who have been in the starting lineup since their freshman years
Will be a Household Name: Junior 6-3 quarterback Tyler Crum is poised to have a breakout season. This is his second year as field general and his left handed passes always catch defenses on their heels.
Beast Watch: If there is a guy who the switch seems to go off on, it’s senior receiver Kevin Utter. You better tackle him with five guys because he’s not going down otherwise.
Just so you know this is not your cute little ole Sussex Tech football team who barely fits into their shoulder pads of years past. Not even close. Last season the Mustangs made it to the playoffs for the first time in school history and in their minds they are just getting started.
Head coach Bobby Leach, who is entering his sixth year, has created a football culture that just didn’t exist as it does now. “We are getting more numbers coming out for the program and we are getting some good athletes. We have real football players on this team,” Leach says.
What I love about this team is as this program matures its players have gotten tons of experience. If you think about it, how many players have a team of guys who have four years of varsity playing experience? Not many. Now that this program has come along way these players bring a unique kind of leadership that is invaluable to the 2016 ‘Stangs.
As for this season, the most important game of the year is Week 1 versus Bergen Tech. Since they are a Group 5 team, a victory over them brings a lottery’s worth of Power Points.
However, a win or loss to them doesn’t decide their season one way or another. No matter what happens in that game they will still need get the W’s against a schedule that requires them to play at a high level.
Can Sussex Tech win a state championship? In my years of covering high school football I’ve learned one thing. Teams, not individuals, win titles. This band of brothers certainly has the cohesiveness it needs to make a run. Getting to the Dance will be the first challenge. Once there, the Mustang’s will need to dig deep. If any team can do that, its this group.
9/10 Bergen Tech
9/24 Pascack Hills
10/1 Academy of the New Church (PA)
10/7 @ Wallkill Valley
10/15 @ Keansburg
11/5 Morris Catholic
Edited by Sara Grier