Nutley hopes for positive carryover from last year’s state title game appearance
By Jim Hague
The 2010 high school football season was one to remember for the Maroon Raiders of Nutley High School.
The Maroon Raiders tied a school record for wins in a season with eight and went all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III championship game at the New Meadowlands Stadium, before falling to Morristown. It was the school’s first appearance in a state title game since 1995.
But it’s a new year and the Maroon Raiders graduated 20 seniors from that stellar team.
“Last year was last year,” said veteran head coach Steve DiGregorio, entering his eighth season as the head coach at his alma mater. “Every team is different. We can use what happened last year as a fact. It was a good thing. It happened. You want to experience it again. But that’s it. This is a new team.”
It’s a new team with a very familiar, very talented backfield.
Returning for the Maroon Raiders is a pair of fine running backs in seniors Matt DelMauro (5-9, 175) and Lou Meggiolaro (5-11, 175).
Del Mauro and Meggiolaro, a former quarterback converted to running back last year, give the Maroon Raiders their best 1-2 rushing attack since Essex County scoring record holder Ray Cetrulo and Antonio Sibilia two years ago.
“Lou is a fast kid who does a lot of things for us,” DiGregorio said. “He’s the punter, the punt returner, a staple on defense. But with the ball, he can make a lot of big plays. We have scored a lot of points and made a lot of big plays over the last few years. Lou definitely can help us move the ball.
Meggiolaro rushed for 550 yards and four touchdowns last season, a year when he battled some injuries. He enters the 2011 season healthy and scored two touchdowns in the team’s intrasquad scrimmage last week.
DelMauro emerged as the Maroon Raiders’ leading rusher last year, collecting more than 1,200 yards and scoring 22 touchdowns. In the Maroon Raiders’ state playoff win over Colonia, DelMauro had 255 yard and six touchdowns. He also had 155 yards and two touchdowns in the state playoff win over Rahway, so he’s a proven winner.
“Matt is coming off a tremendous season for us,” DiGregorio said. “He runs hard and tough and now knows our system well. He’s already difficult to bring down, but he’s gotten much stronger. He’s so powerful. It’s a nice combination back there to have and a heck of a place to start.”
Both players will get their share of college attention and are already listed among the best running backs in the state.
The quarterback is senior Jordan Yuppa (6-1, 190), who has bided his time as the backup for the last two seasons to Billy McMillan and Nick Tedesco.
“Jordan learned a lot from two pretty good quarterbacks and now it’s his turn,” DiGregorio said. “He picked up a lot from those two guys and is doing a fine job. He throws the ball well.”
The fullback duties will be shared by senior Mike Hovan (5-10, 180) and junior Nick Scherer (5-11, 190).
“They shared the position last year and will do it again,” DiGregorio said.
The Maroon Raiders have a plethora of wide receivers that will all see playing time this season.
Leading the way is senior Pete Carissimo (6-0, 180), who had 30 receptions last season. Seniors Joe Drago (5-9, 195), a three-year varsity player, Nick Rodriguez (6-3, 200), Anthony Montanari (5-10, 175) and Matt Kelly (5-10, 165) will all fit nicely into the Nutley high-powered offensive attack.
“We will use all of them and we try to stress that to the kids,” DiGregorio said. “We don’t have a starting 11. It’s more like a starting 16 or 17. They all play. We change our personnel quite a lot.”
The tight end is senior Phil Condito (5-10, 185), who will also serve as the Nutley placekicker.
The offensive line features three returning starters in senior tackle Greg Palma (6-3, 245), senior guard Andre Hamlin (5-9, 225) and senior center Tyler Pugliese (6-0, 220). Junior Kevin Merkle (6-2, 215), from the long line of talented Merkle football players in Nutley, is at tackle, with senior Michael Goudie (6-1, 215) at guard.
Defensively, the Maroon Raiders will go with Palma, Rodriguez and senior Carlos Rosa (6-2, 220) at defensive end, with Pugliese and Hamlin at defensive tackle.
Hovan, Condito and Scherer will be the linebackers, with Drago, DelMauro and Montanari at cornerback and Carissimo, Meggiolaro and Kelly at safety.
The Maroon Raiders open the 2011 season Sept. 9 against Millburn at the Nutley Oval.
DiGregorio wants to get off to a solid start.
“For me, there’s never a more important game than the opener,” DiGregorio said. “You want to get off to a good start. All the work you put in through the summer, through June, July and August comes together for that first game. We want to make it a successful opener. That’s where our focus is right now, on Millburn.”
DiGregorio has high hopes for the season.
“I certainly hope we can get back to the playoffs,” DiGregorio said. “We certainly have guys who can make plays. Right now, we’re not clicking on all cylinders but we’re playing on our experience.”
And if that happens again, then the Maroon Raiders could once again be playing come December.