Every week Morris Sussex Sports, along with co-sponsors Football University and Parisi Speed School of Morristown & Sparta, 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 Parisi Speed School.
Week 8 was loaded with amazing performances by Morris-Sussex football players. Montville sophomore QB Mike Burke was outstanding as he was a perfect 15 for 15 with 185-yards and three TDs passing in the Mustangs big 34-14 upset over Morris Hills. Butler QB Evan Smith was also near perfect as he went 16 of 20 for 258-yards and four touchdowns passing in the Bulldog’s 38-2 victory over Hopatcong. And Delbarton defender Anthony Siragusa was his amazingly versatile self has he had a touchdown, blocked a punt and had a big defensive stop as the Green Wave took down Mater Dei in a 28-26 thriller.
But players that we felt were the most deserving of the FBU Player of the Week Powered by Parisi for Week 8 were the Morristown-Beard offensive line. This group consisting of Patrick Salazar, Mike Dangler, Zach Lebovitz, Isaiah Aldea, Joey DePoalo and Will Watson were absolutely masterful in the Crimson’s 48-42 heart stopping victory over MKA. These six players pushed their opponent for 554-yards and 7 touchdowns from scrimmage, including a record breaking 427-yard, 6 touchdown performance by MoBeard senior runningback Tahj Valentine.
We caught up with this group of linemen to give them their day in the spotlight – something linemen rarely get – to talk about what win meant to them, which one of them is the biggest diva and who on the team does the best impression of Coach Fell.
Did you guys think your offense would have as must success as it did this Saturday?
Patrick Salazar: I thought we would have a good game because of how much film we watched and really understood their offense. But I don’t think anyone expected how dominant Tahj would be in shutting down their defense.
Mike Dangler: I definitely thought that we were gonna have a great game offensively, especially because our offense struggled the week before and we were due for a big game.
Zach Lebovitz: I knew we were going to do very well Saturday. However, all the yards and points we had as a team were very impressive, and definitely exceeded how I thought the offense was going to do. But I knew we would have a big day.
Isaiah Aldea: Yes, I thought it was going to be as successful as it was because we worked hard in practice and we have confidence in one another.
Joey DePoalo: I thought we would have a decent game but I was not expecting the success that Tahj achieved. But he is a great running back who has a big heart for the game.
Will Watson: Our offensive always tries to come out with the mentality that we are gonna beat up our opponent, but to break a school record? That was a little surprising!
Do you guys take pride that your runningback broke the single game rushing record at MoBeard with 427-yards and 5 TDs?
Patrick Salazar: Of course! Helping Tahj reaching his goals has always been a priority for the O-line as a whole.
Mike Dangler: I take pride that Tahj broke the Morristown-Beard single game rushing record. I couldn’t be happier for him since he is the hardest working person I have ever played with.
Zach Lebovitz: We take a lot of pride in knowing that we helped Tahj break the school record for single game rushing. Tahj is a very talented athlete who gives his line a lot of credit.
Isaiah Aldea: Yes I take pride as a linemen because it makes me feel like the job I did was done well. Of course, there are always improvements that can be made But Tahj is just an athlete and he has a lot of great things coming his way.
Joey DePoalo: Of course, it’s an honor to be apart of his achievement!
Will Watson: Absolutely. Tahj has worked hard since Day 1 with us. We have his back and he has ours.
Which one of you linemen is most likely to deliver the most pancakes against opposing defenses in a game?
Patrick Salazar: Me or Isaiah.
Mike Dangler: Pat is definitely the pancake machine on the line.
Zach Lebovitz: I would have to say Pat. He is very strong and aggressive, and I have already seen many pancakes from him both from the sideline, and even occasionally in practice against his us.
Isaiah Aldea: I would have to say Patrick. He is truly a problem for defensive linemen. He definitely would be most likely to deliver the most pancakes.
Joey DePoalo: Patrick Salazar.
Will Watson: I would like to think that I would be the one to pancake defenses the most, but Pat Salazar day-in and day-out delivers pancakes that not a lot of linemen are capable of.
Out of you linemen, who is most likely to win a pancake eating contest?
Patrick Salazar: Joey DePoalo!
Mike Dangler: Joe would eat the most pancakes!
Zach Lebovitz: That is a tough question. Our line has a lot of very hungry kids but, I do not know for sure who will win. If I had to guess, Joe would win, and I would definitely not.
Isaiah Aldea: Joe is most likely to win a pancake eating contest!
Joey DePoalo: Me!
Will Watson: Joe. Hands down!
Which one of you linemen is the biggest nerd?
Mike Dangler: I’m probably the biggest nerd out of the O-line because I’m a freshman and I’m in in the same math class as Joe, who is a Junior.
Zach Lebovitz: All of our linemen are smart. Mike, however, is a freshman and is already in Algebra 2 Honors, so I guess he must be the smartest.
Isaiah Aldea: I would have to say Patrick. I have two classes with him, and he constantly is on top of his work.
Joey DePoalo: Micheal Dangler because he in my Math class and he is a freshman and I am a Junior
Will Watson: Zach. He talks NON-STOP about anything football.
Who is the biggest diva?
Patrick Salazar: Isaiah because he always complaining and whining.
Mike Dangler: Joe is the biggest diva because he hates running the most out of all of us.
Zach Lebovitz: I would have to say Isaiah because of some of his fashion choices – he puts shorts over his practice pants.
Isaiah Aldea: I would consider myself the biggest diva. I care a lot about how I look and I constantly get haircuts.
Joey DePoalo: Isaiah Aldea because he always complaining about random stuff.
Will Watson: Isaiah. Kid was born with sass.
Which of you is finishing first in the forty?
Patrick Salazar: Will Watson.
Mike Dangler: Pat is finishing first in the forty.
Zach Lebovitz: I would say Pat. His size deceives how fast he really is.
Isaiah Aldea: I would have to say Will first and then Patrick after him.
Joey DePoalo: Will Watson.
Will Watson: Me by five seconds at the least.
Who’s finishing last?
Patrick Salazar: Joe DePoalo.
Mike Dangler: Joe is finishing last in the forty.
Zach Lebovitz: Joe.
Isaiah Aldea: Joe would no doubt in my mind finish in last place.
Joey DePoalo: Me.
Will Watson: Joe by five seconds at least.
Who can do the most chin-ups?
Patrick Salazar: Me
Mike Dangler: Will can do the most chin-ups.
Zach Lebovitz: That is a good question as I have not seen any of us do chin-ups. Probably Pat though. However, just like the pancake contest, I know I would not win.
Isaiah Aldea: This is an interesting question because honestly I am not sure.
Joey DePoalo: No one, we are lineman.
Will Watson: Hard choice to make, but I would say Pat.
Who can do the least?
Patrick Salazar: Joe DePoalo.
Mike Dangler: Zach can do the least chin-ups.
Zach Lebovitz: Most likely me.
Isaiah Aldea: I would just guess Joe.
Joey DePoalo: Isaiah Aldea.
Will Watson: Joe.
Which of you linemen secretly wishes he was a skill player?
Patrick Salazar: Isiah because he always wants to catch bombs from Declan in practice.
Mike Dangler: Isaiah because in practice whenever we do scout team for the JV, he always wants to be halfback. He also always lets coach know that he can play tight end.
Zach Lebovitz: I know Will would love to play tight-end as I have heard him say he would be great at it, and I would agree.
Isaiah Aldea: Patrick and I both wish to be skill players because we want to actually touch the ball and score touchdowns. I would love to play quarterback but I can’t throw past 10-yards.
Joey DePoalo: Every one of us does so we can get recognized.
Will Watson: Pat. Every time we have a scout kick return, he ALWAYS lines up in the back, hoping to catch the ball and break some ankles.
Which of you would actually be successful as a skill player?
Patrick Salazar: Me or Isaiah
Mike Dangler: I think Pat would be successful as a fullback because he is great at creating holes and when he gets the ball watch out for the hit-stick.
Zach Lebovitz: Most likely Will as a tight end.
Isaiah Aldea: I think none of us would. We are linemen for a reason and I think where we are now is best for our-selves and most importantly the team.
Joey DePoalo: Patrick Salazar as a fullback – just run up the gun with him.
Will Watson: I would be a nasty tight end. My plan to convince Coach Fell of my catching abilities hasn’t worked so well yet.
Who of you linemen would last the longest in a survival situation if he was lost in the forest?
Patrick Salazar: I would or maybe Mike Dangler because we both love the outdoors.
Mike Dangler: Pat would be most most successful in the forest because he is a firefighter and that training would help him.
Zach Levotiz: Pat. He went to the firefighter academy and I see him as a very resourceful and outdoorsy person.
Isaiah Aldea: We probably all could survive for a long time.
Joey DePoalo: Patrick Salazar because he is an Eagle Scout and a certified fire fighter
Will Watson: Pat or Zach. Both of them seem like they know what they’re doing.
Who would last the shortest amount of time?
Patrick Salazar: Joe, because he hates the outdoors.
Mike Dangler: Joe would spend the shortest amount of time in the forest because he’s Joe.
Zach Lebovitz: Me, because I am not a fan of the wilderness and activities like camping and hiking.
Isaiah Aldea: I feel like I might last the shortest amount of time.
Joey DePoalo: Isaiah Aldea because he doesn’t have common sense.
Will Watson: Joe, the guy couldn’t last an hour without some Italian food.
Who does the best impression of Coach Fell?
Patrick Salazar: George Burke
Mike Dangler: Will Watson probably does the best impression of Coach Fell. I don’t think I have seen him do one of Coach Fell, but he does a lot of funny impressions so he would probably do the best one.
Zach Lebovitz: Pat.
Isaiah Aldea: George Burke by far,does the best impression of Coach Fell. He’s got the voice and body language down pat.
Joey DePoalo: George Burke.
Will Watson: Shoutout to the heat-seeking missile George Burke. Best impression of coach, period.
What do you see each of your other Player of the Week linemen doing in 20 years?
Patrick Salazar: I could see everyone in business.
Mike Dangler: In 20 years Joe will an artist, Pat will be a rugby player/ fire fighter, Will Watson will definitely be a comedian, Zach will be a lawyer and Isaiah will be a doctor.
Zach Lebovitz: Pat will be a fire chief, Joe an artist, Isaiah I’d be interested to find out because I cannot think of anything, Mike a professional point guard for a team overseas and Will a successful businessman and comedian on the side.
Isaiah Aldea: I see Joey being an artist, and I don’t know where I see everyone else but I see them being successful in whatever they decide to in life.
Will Watson: Joe will be an artist, Pat a fireman, Isaiah an eyebrow specialist, me the president or CEO of a company, Mike a coach of a football team and Zach a fantasy football analyst.
What was your “welcome to varsity football” moment?
Patrick Salazar: When I was a freshmen one of our linemen Alex Motley blew out his knee and I was called to fill his place. I was decked on the line in pre-season by veteran Markel Titus and he said, “If you want to play varsity you’re gonna have to get hit like varsity.”
Mike Dangler: Getting cut-blocked multiple times in my first practice was definitely my “welcome to varsity” moment.
Zach Lebovitz: I had short spurts of action last and this year up until this past week. I see Joe, our starting center, go down towards the end of the second quarter, and I immediately started to get some practice snaps. Then I stepped right in and did my job for the next quarter plus a few minutes, I started to feel more comfortable at the varsity level.
Isaiah Aldea: It was against Hackley last year, where I made my first start on defense. It was my first year playing football and their line was pretty big up front.
Joey DePoalo: Freshman year against Hopatcong, coach put me on kick return and I went to block a senior and he just drilled me back about 5-yards – my friends still remind me of that moment.
Will Watson: Second game of my freshman season, senior Garret Ryan goes out of the game with a terrible concussion. I go in and on the first play we run and I get knocked on my butt.
Who was the best player you ever played against during your HS career?
Patrick Salazar: Hanover park offensive line freshmen year.
Mike Dangler: I’m not sure since this is my first year, but probably Hackley’s QB.
Zach Lebovitz: I am still very new to actually playing varsity, so I have not really faced any lineman on either side of the ball that was really outstanding yet, but some players on some teams we faced that were really good. Number 10 on Riverdale and number 7 from MKA were two very good players who gave our team as well as others some trouble.
Isaiah Aldea: Best line I probably played against was MKA line last year. But the best linemen I went up against was in practice against Pat. Pat constantly pushes me to get better, and that’s how our relationship has grown closer on and off the field.
Joey DePoalo: Number 67 on Hackley. I don’t know his name but he was hell of a nose guard.
Will Watson: There have definitely been a lot of football players we’ve played against that have given us a hard time, but #67 on Hackley (nose guard) was a very physical player.
What will it mean to you if this team is walking through the tunnel of MetLife Stadium at the beginning of December?
Patrick Salazar: I would feel such a sense of pride considering the last two seasons were losing seasons. We have been through a lot and it would mean the world to this program.
Mike Dangler: It would mean the world to me. MetLife or death!
Zach Lebovitz: It will be my dream come true. Yes, I have been on that field before but, this time it would be different. I am one of the biggest Giants fans around and I would be proud to say that after ten years of playing football, and many more years just loving the game and going to many Giants games, I could proudly say that I get to play a game of football that matters on the same field that many of my childhood heroes have played on.
Isaiah Aldea: It would mean a lot more then words could describe. I mean going from a 2-7 team to making it to MetLife would be an accomplishment itself. Chances of that happening are still there, but a lot of work still needs to get done. With the leadership of Ryan Russo, Declan Kelly and Tahj Valentine, I feel we are on the right path to get to MetLife.
Joey DePoalo: The world! I couldn’t even image it after my freshman year going 0-9. Then 2-7 my sophomore.
Will Watson: The whole team has worked incredibly hard this season and this past off-season. Going through that tunnel would be an honor and a privilege, knowing that everything that the team has done, even the little things like running after practice or getting that one extra rep in on a drill, has meant all the difference.