By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Four weeks of the high school football season had passed and the Lyndhurst Golden Bears were saddled with a tough 1-3 record.
It was not the way Danny Kesack envisioned his senior year to be like.
“Once we were 1-3, I knew I had to get my game up,” said Kesack, the Golden Bears’ talented senior quarterback. “Whatever it was going to take to get us back on track, I was going to do. I knew we couldn’t lose another game. We just had to come together as a team and play together as a team. We had some injuries to overcome, but I knew we could all come together as a team.”
Lyndhurst head football coach Joe Castagnetti knew that desperate times had come.
“We needed all the seniors to rally the troops,” Castagnetti said. “We had some injuries that put us in a bind. We had to move some people around and had kids in different positions that they weren’t comfortable with. We basically had no backfield for the Cresskill game. I sat the team down and told them that there were still wins out there, that we could get some things done.”
As long as the guy leading the way, namely the signal caller and field general, was calling the shots and making the plays.
“I knew a lot of it was up to me,” Kesack said. “But it definitely helps to have more than one person who could make plays. It makes things a lot easier.”
Kesack said that he always counts on his receivers, namely Marcus Brandon and Kyle Pollio.
“The three of us hang out together every day,” Kesack said. “I’m glad that I have a connection with them. They know what I’m thinking. We’re all on the same page. We all know what we’re doing at all times.”
Ever since the Golden Bears fell to 1-3, Kesack has been on a mission, playing better than ever before, leading Lyndhurst to three straight victories over Ridgefield, Harrison and Garfield.
In the win over Harrison, Kesack completed 7-of-9 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, three to Brandon and one to Pollio.
In the 35-20 win over Garfield last Friday night, Kesack rushed for 135 yards and scored three touchdowns, while passing for 202 yards and another TD strike to Brandon.
For his efforts, Kesack has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
It’s the second time Kesack has been featured as an Athlete of the Week, having also received the honor in September of 2011 as well.
Kesack believes that he’s become a better football player, now that he’s been a varsity starter for the last three seasons.
“I’m getting better looks when I throw,” Kesack said. “I’m a smarter player. If I see someone keying on one of our other players, it opens up things for me and I take advantage of it. I’m a better passer now. I have been getting better reads. I have been studying a lot more film, in school, out of school.”
Castagnetti has instituted a program where he e-mails the prior game to his players so that they can review the game.
“I get the films on my IPad,” Kesack said. “It makes things easier to see the films. We can then sit together and talk about what we liked, what we did right, what we did wrong. We talk all week about what’s coming up.”
Kesack just feels more comfortable this season, which is probably the reason for the recent surge.
“I feel a lot better with the way I’m playing,” Kesack said. “It’s getting so much easier for me. It helps when everyone else has my back. We all have each other’s backs.”
Castagnetti knows that Kesack has become a more proficient passer.
“We now have a very healthy combination with Brandon becoming Danny’s number one target,” Castagnetti said. “The others are doing a nice job as well. You can see the comfort zone now in Danny. He’s settling in. You can also see the maturity level kicking in.”
Castagnetti said that the maturity showed last week, when the Bears were trailing Garfield, 14-7, at the half.
“He just stepped up his game and started to run the ball more,” Castagnetti said. “That opened up the pass and we were able to get the win. Danny is also playing well for us defensively at safety. He hits like a truck. He has good size and runs well.”
Although a return trip to the NJSIAA state playoffs looks doubtful, the Golden Bears still have a lot to play for.
“We play Secaucus and we haven’t beaten them since 2003,” Castagnetti said. “We also face Becton (Regional) for annual trophy game. So there is a lot to play for, other than pride. There’s tradition. That’s our rallying cry right now and Danny’s leading the way.”
“I’d love to beat Secaucus, because we haven’t beaten them in my four years,” Kesack said. “So that means I’ll play a little harder. Hopefully good things will happen.”
Kesack hasn’t received any concrete offers from college recruiters. He’s been contacted by schools such as Temple, Rhode Island, Albany, Monmouth and New Hampshire, but no firm deals on the table to date.
“I definitely know I’ll be playing football somewhere next fall,” Kesack said. “I’ll figure it all out after the season.”
“He’s willing to be a defensive player in college, if need be,” Castagnetti said. “I think that speaks levels about what kind of kid he is.”
Kesack isn’t overly concerned right now about his college plans. He has one thing in mind.
“I just want to keep winning,” Kesack said. “We have to win.”
Just like he’s done the last three weeks.