QP grid team aims for possible state playoff berth
By Jim Hague
The Queen of Peace football team suffered through a 2-8 campaign in Steve Romano’s first year as head coach a year ago.
“I think of it as a disappointment,” Romano said. “I thought we could have competed at a higher level, but we lost six starters in the first few weeks of the season, all to injury and all at key positions. It was tough. It made for a bad situation all the way around.”
But things have changed as the 2011 season kicks off this weekend. The Golden Griffins have been bolstered by the addition of some key transfers. There is also a different feel and attitude.
“We have a great locker room presence,” Romano said. “The camaraderie of the players is terrific. We have a good, solid group that gets along very well. We’re also more talented and thanks to (former QP athletic director and current strength guru) Ed Abromaitis, we’re much stronger, no question.”
One of the key newcomers is sophomore quarterback Anthony Villano (6-2, 190), who comes to QP from Belleville, where he started every game last year as a freshman.
“He’s the best quarterback I’ve worked with in all my years of coaching high school football,” said Romano, who was previously the head coach at St. Joseph of the Palisades and Morristown-Beard before coming to QP and was a long-time assistant coach at several New Jersey schools.
“I’m still waiting to find out what he does wrong,” Romano said of Villano. “He’s making great plays for us. No doubt, he has a huge role with this team.”
The main running back will be senior Torre Johnson (5-11, 175), who saw some action last year.
Senior Malzim Lawrence (5-7, 180) and sophomore Tajier Jefferson (5-6, 180) are also in the mix in the backfield.
The main wide receiver is senior Marcel Lambert (5-10, 175), who had to fill in at quarterback for the final six games last season and did a remarkable job.
“He’s the best athlete on the field,” Romano said. “He’s absolutely a playmaker. We worked the entire offense around him, but when Villano came in, we had to move things around. Marcel is the kind of kid who only wants to win. He doesn’t care where he plays. I’m very comfortable with the idea that we have two proven and qualified quarterbacks.”
Junior Marquise Adams (6-1, 180) is another wide receiver. Roy Beckford (5-9, 165), a senior and a transfer from DePaul, will see time at receiver as well.
Junior Bobby Keegan (6-3, 230) moves from tackle to guard this season and he’s joined by senior Nasean Haskins (6-4, 330), a transfer from Hudson Catholic in Jersey City. Senior Brian Matias (6-2, 220) returns to his starting position at tackle, where he is joined by fellow senior Mike Ferrante (5-10, 220). Senior Luis Cordero (5-9, 215) is the starter at center.
Defensively, the Golden Griffins utilize a 3-4 set, with Matias and Keegan both returning at defensive end. Keegan has been a mainstay along the front for the Golden Griffins since he was a freshman and this may his year to really shine.
Haskins will see time at nose guard, along with Cordero. The linebackers are Johnson, Jefferson, Ferrante and sophomore Justin Thomas (6-1, 170).
Lambert returns to his slot at cornerback, where he’s joined by Beckford. Adams and Lawrence are the Griffins’ safeties.
The Griffins open their season Saturday, Sept. 10 against Park Ridge at home at Collins Field.
“We are already better than last year,” Romano said. “Whether that equates to wins remains to be seen. But we’re faster, stronger and more athletic than last year.”
And if it leads to four victories in the first eight games, then the Golden Griffins are bound to appear in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 playoffs come November.