By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
After ascending into the head football coaching role at Nutley High School, Tom Basile is getting comfortable with his new responsibilities.
“It is different than being an assistant coach,” said Basile, who spent the last eight years as an assistant to former coach Steve DiGregorio and was tabbed to replace his mentor after DiGregorio resigned to take care of family matters at the end of last season.
“Actually, it’s much easier if I was coming in new,” Basile said. “The kids know me and I know all the kids. In fact, they were the ones who motivated me to take the job. The coaching staff is virtually the same. Steve did a great job with this program. I was only worried with the football end for eight years. I didn’t have to deal with other situations. Now, I do.”
Basile likes the state of his program, which features 60 players, 27 of which are sophomores.
“I like the continuity that we have,” Basile said. “We have 12 seniors, but only four of them have seen action. We don’t have a lot of experience, so there has been a lot of teaching involved. We have a lot of new concepts.”
However, a lot of the things are the same, as the Maroon Raiders began the 2012 season much in the same fashion as the 2011 season ended. Nutley defeated archrival, Belleville, 17-12, in the season opener last Friday night at Doc Ellis Field in Belleville. Nutley defeated the Buccaneers, 49-14, last Thanksgiving Day to close out last season. The two rivals have decided to kick off the new season against each other, eliminating the Turkey Day showdown.
“We’re virtually the same team, but with a few new angles,” Basile said. “We put the option in this year and that may be the basis of our offense. We ran Steve’s offense as well, but now, there’s a little more freedom for the quarterback.”
Basile is using two players at quarterback, namely junior Mark Carnevale (5-11, 175) and sophomore Peter Russo (5-11, 145).
“Both offer different things,” Basile said. “Mark’s a little bigger and throws the ball better. Pete runs the option better.”
The Maroon Raiders have five different players in the backfield with the job of trying to replace standout runners Matt DelMauro and Lou Meggliolaro.
“They were both great players,” Basile said. “One’s playing at Bucknell (DelMauro) and the other (Meggliolaro) is at Kean. They’re going to be really hard to replace.”
Seniors John Milici (5- 9, 170) and Will Paro (5-8, 180), junior Joe Iannini (5-6, 165) and sophomores Vinnie Maniero (5-9, 180) and Kevin Goudie (5-9, 150) have all been sharing the duties, but Basile likes what he sees from Maniero.
“He seems to have a great knowledge of the game and can be our game-breaking threat,” Basile said.
The fullback is senior returning starter Nick Scherer (5-10, 200), who will get the chance to carry the ball a lot more this year with DelMauro and Meggliolaro gone.
The wide receivers are senior Sal Gabriele (5-10, 160) and junior Ryan McGlone (5-11, 170), with senior Alec Silverstein (6-1, 210) at tight end.
The offensive line is basically new, with senior Kevin Merkle (6-4, 245) the lone returning starter at tackle.
“He’s getting a lot of looks from (NCAA) Division II schools,” Basile said of Merkle, the younger brother of former standout Chris, who started his college career at Stony Brook and ended in 2009 at Montclair State.
The other tackle is junior Chris Palma (6-0, 250). Senior Peter Burbank (6-1, 245) and junior Randy Rauco (6-2, 235) are at guard. Rauco is the younger brother of former Observer Female Athlete of the Year Kelly Rauco.
Junior Brian Devine (5-9, 190) is the starter at center. Basile likes the way his line came along during the preseason scrimmages.
Defensively, the Maroon Raiders will use a 4-3 defensive set, with Merkle and Devine at defensive end and Burbank and Palma at defensive tackle.
Senior Lou Gallicchio (5- 10, 235) returns to his slot at middle linebacker, flanked by Scherer and sophomore Joe Iorio (5-9, 160) at the outside linebacker positions.
Milici and Gabriele are the cornerbacks, with Goudie and Iannini at safety.
The Maroon Raiders open the 2012 season with three straight road games, facing Newark Central this weekend and state-ranked Montclair on Sept. 21. They play their first game at Nutley Oval on Sept. 29 against Seton Hall Prep.
The Maroon Raiders have a tough stretch beginning with Montclair next week. They play host to the Pirates, travel to Livingston, then have home games against West Orange and neighboring rival Bloomfield.
“I think this is the type of team that will get better as the year goes on,” Basile said. “We’re young, but we’re hungry. These kids wanted to get the chance to play. They’re eager to experience varsity football.”
Basile said that he’s hoping to continue the winning ways this weekend.
“We really are hopeful to get off to a positive note,” Basile said. “We have games where we’ll be able to compete. We have to get off to a good start. That’s just my feeling.”
Basile was happy to start the season with Belleville.
“If we can’t play them in the last game, then it might as well be the first,” Basile said. “It was great to have our rivalry game right out of the bat. It made things exciting.”
In that respect, so did getting Basile his first victory as the head man with the Maroon Raiders.