By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
In his second tenure as the head football coach at Lyndhurst High School, Joe Castagnetti guided the Golden Bears through a tumultuous time and a 4-6 overall record.
Now, in his ninth year overall as head coach and the second season since his return, Castagnettti knows his team will have a different look this season, now that standout starting quarterback Danny Kesack and most of his skilled players have graduated.
“I think it’s a retooling kind of year,” Castagnetti said. “We have so many seniors in the program (20 in all), so we’re not going back to the drawing board at all. We’re just going to use different things more, like the running game. We’ll get back to what I know best, namely running the ball. We definitely adapted to the personnel last year. This year, we’re going to run the ball.”
Castagnetti made a promise.
“It’s going to be good, old fashioned Lyndhurst football,” Castagnetti said.
Leading the way is senior Jonathan Hoff (6-foot-2, 210 pounds). Hoff got some playing time last year in relief of Kesack.
“We got Jonathan in the game in key spots, so we think he’s ready,” Castagnetti said. “He’s been under fire in some varsity games already. He doesn’t have to do everything like Danny did and we don’t want that. We want him to be under control.”
The running back contingent will be basically “by committee,” but senior Issam Hatahat (5-10, 170) will be the lead guy.
“Issam played a little last year, so we know what he can do,” Castagnetti said.
The others in the backfield include senior Jimmy Durkin (5-9, 175), juniors Derrick Dellafuerta (5-8, 170) and Rocco Russomano (5-9, 165) and promising sophomore Isiah Helmes (6-0, 185).
Seniors Jake Estevez (6-1, 175) and Kenny McMaster (6-2, 215) serve as excellent outside targets for Hoff to throw to.
Also in the wide receiver mix are seniors JoJo Morreale (5-7, 155) and Matt Wohlrab (5- 10, 180). Senior Frank Mezzina (6-1, 200) is the tight end.
The offensive line gained experience under fire last year, as three returning players were thrust into the lineup last year after injuries.
The tackle slots will be filled by seniors Tony Urgola (6-2, 250), Albert Saiti (6-3, 210) and Connor Clifford (6-4, 250). The guards are seniors Nick Antiorio (5-10, 210) and Denniz Akar (5-10, 215), both of whom saw action last year. The center is junior P.J. Urgola (5-9, 170), Tony’s cousin.
The Golden Bears will utilize a 4-3 defense, with Wohlrab and Kevin Castillo (6-1, 185) at defensive end.
Clifford and Saiti will both play defensive tackle slots.
Akar, who was a defensive lineman last season, has been moved to middle linebacker for this season. Hatahat and Durkin are the other two linebackers.
Chris Cosenza, a 5-9, 175-pound senior, will play one cornerback, while senior Eric Ferrara (5-7, 165) will be the other corner.
Estevez and McMaster will be the Golden Bears’ safeties.
The Golden Bears open the 2013 season Sept. 14 at Wood- Ridge, so they will be tested right away.
“We’re still learning the offense right now, but we’re showing signs every day,” Castagnetti said. “We have a good group of kids and they’re working very hard. They have a lot of motivation right now to earn playing time, so that has helped.”
Castagnetti likes the makeup of his team.
“I think so,” Castagnetti said. “I feel very confident with our progression. We want other teams to realize that they’ve faced Lyndhurst when we’re done playing. If we keep progressing, we should do fine.”