Every week Morris Sussex Sports, along with co-sponsors Football University and Athletic Republic of Randolph, identify one player out of the 37 teams we cover as our Player of the Week. We look beyond just stats. Our goal is to honor the best individual performance and how that effort was able to lift his team beyond its perceived boundaries. If you play varsity football in Morris Sussex next week just could quite possibly be your turn to be the FBU Player of the Week Powered by Athletic Republic of Randolph.
What a crazy opening week of football! After nine months of anticipation Week 1 delivered with some major upsets, big time performances and high scoring battles. When the Morris Sussex Sports staff went into their war room to figure out who would be the Week 1 FBU Player of the Week Powered by Athletic Republic of Randolph we had a lot of choices.
Lenape Valley’s QB Jay Pruden debuted in his senior season by going 9 for 13, 332-yards and 4 touchdowns in the air. In that same game, Madison QB Mike Kearney threw for 217-yards and 4 touchdowns himself and added another 187-yards and a TD on the ground as well. Then you got guys like Newton’s Chase Cramer, Morristown-Beard’s Tahj Valentine. Hanover Park’s Donato Casolaro and Butler’s Will Verrico, all of whom were players possessed last weekend.
The guy who we unanimously felt was the most deserving of this week’s honor was 5-7, 165-pound Cole Draghi of West Morris Central. The quick footed senior runningback kept the Wolfpack neck-and-neck with the Parsippany Vikings as he rushed for 218-yards and 3 touchdowns on the ground. His heroics were capped with the go ahead touchdown in double overtime to give his teams their first win of the season in a very tough away environment.
We caught up with Draghi to discuss this amazing game, who his childhood hero was and what NFL football player he resembles.
Morris Sussex Sports: Did you anticipate this game would be such an epic battle as it was?
Cole Draghi: Coming in we knew that coming out with a victory would be no easy feat. They have a big time player in Nick Verducci and a lot of talent surrounding him, and they always show up ready to play. It did not fall short of our expectations of the pure mental and physical battle we had prepared for, both teams deserve credit for such an amazing game.
MSS: Why do you think you had as much success as you did?
CD: My offensive line. They’re an extremely hard working group of veterans who have been doing a great job opening up running seams all pre-season. So there was no surprise to see so many big running lanes this past Friday night.
MSS: What kind of confidence does it give you and your teammates knowing Coach Hennelly has won so many championships?
CD: Everyone definitely has a lot of respect for him. Although we run such a predictable offense that often times would raise controversy, we all buy in because of the experience and success he has had.
MSS: Do you think your team has a bigger home field advantage than other teams?
CD: 100%. We have a student section that is pretty much unrivaled in the Morris Sussex area. When they really get into it, the energy they bring is what pushes us over the hump in big games.
MSS: Why do you think WMC is such tough place for other teams to play at?
CD: Every condition is against you at WMC. The drive out to “the middle of nowhere” to play on our beautiful sub-par grass field that is always somehow wet by the time Friday night rolls around. Is often times something that is tough for teams to be prepared for.
MSS: Did you have any personal goals coming into this season?
CD: Win a State Championship.
MSS: Is there any player on your team who is a different person when he gets on the field?
CD: Zach Meister. Off the football field he’s the kind of guy that would try to catch a fly in his house and set it free instead of killing it. When he gets on the football field he turns into somebody who you don’t want to square up with.
MSS: Who is finishing 1-2-3 in the forty?
CD: We have had races with different outcomes and are always arguing on who the fastest is, and I can’t face these guys with them thinking they have won the argument. So Answer: 1.) Me 2.) Peter Taylor 3.) Jake Congdon
MSS: Who can bench 225lbs the most times?
CD: Taylor Parkinson Gee. Him and Erik Henwood are always arguing about who lifts more, or who has more sacks, and just about every other thing you can imagine (kind of like a married couple). But Taylor’s pure love for picking objects up and putting them down is what makes him the clear winner in my mind.
MSS: What makes Coach Hennelly the angriest?
CD: Besides the obvious answers of messing up and being a “spaz” on the football field. If you want to make him have a heart attack, wear “sparkly” cleats, uniquely designed and colored socks, or a brightly colored non West Morris shirt.
MSS: What makes him the happiest?
CD: He holds a special place in his heart for the wedge breakers on kickoff. You will rarely see Coach Hennelly light up and express such positive emotion as when one of his beloved wedge breakers launches their body into a line of opponents.
MSS: Who was your childhood hero?
CD: I didn’t have any one true childhood hero growing up. However, when I was growing up my dream was to be a police officer, I would get all different cop accessories, and dress up as a cop for Halloween. So if i had to pick a childhood hero it would probably be any police officer.
MSS: If you weren’t an athlete what would you be doing right now?
CD: I would be probably be pursuing a failing DJ’ing career
MSS: Why do you wear the number you have?
CD: I wasn’t left much choice when I was moved to fullback. It is kind of THE fullback number in the program.
MSS: What’s your favorite off-day activity?
CD: On off days when I’m not sleeping and sports aren’t on. I enjoy to stay competitive and beat my friends in ultimate Frisbee, spike ball, or a game of madden.
MSS: Do you have any game day superstitions?
CD: Every game day I have to wear my lucky shirt. I have to do the same exact thing in pregame. I have to eat the same sandwich. Just about every little thing has to be consistent.
MSS: What current or past NFL player do you think you resemble on the field?
CD: Barry Sanders has always been my idol. I have watched just about every single one of his highlight tapes since I was little, and I try to emulate his elusiveness and ability to never give up on a play on the field.
MSS: What would people be surprised to know about this Wolfpack team?
CD: We enjoy to listening to and singing along with Christmas music in the middle of summer. As an example we sing All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey.
MSS: What would it mean for this team if you guys were walking through the tunnel onto the field of MetLife Stadium in December?
CD: It would mean all the hard work we put in this summer paid off. And the dream we had as peewee football players of one day making it to the biggest stage in high school football will have come true.
MSS: Congrats on being this week’s FBU Player of the Week Powered by Athletic Republic of Randolph and best of luck the rest of the way!
CD: Thank you, I am honored to have been chosen.