QP’s Villano adapts well to his new surroundings


Photo by Jim Hague/ Queen of Peace sophomore quarterback Anthony Villano.


By Jim Hague

After spending his freshman year as the starting quarterback at Belleville High School, Anthony Villano was faced with a tough decision.
Young Villano had to decide whether to stick it out at Belleville with a new coach or transfer to a different school and start anew.
“I guess it was a little tough leaving my friends,” Villano said. “But I was confident that it would all work out for the best.”
Villano chose to leave Belleville and transfer to Queen of Peace.
“I was fortunate to make new friends at my new school,” Villano said.
But there were no guarantees of being the starting signal caller with the Golden Griffins, especially since the team had its starting quarterback from last year, Marcel Lambert, returning.
“I was worried a little bit at first,” Villano said. “But I knew Marcel wasn’t exactly a quarterback and that he was playing out of position.  I figured that if I went in there and worked hard, if I showed what I could do, then Marcel could go back to his natural position.”
QP head coach Steve Romano admitted that it was a tough call to determine who would be the quarterback, either the incumbent Lambert or the newcomer Villano.
“It was a hard decision for us,” Romano said. “It was hard, especially since Marcel put in so much time and effort to be the quarterback. But we could see right away that Anthony was more of a pure pocket presence as a quarterback. We could see that Anthony could throw the ball. We also thought that he would be our quarterback, today and into the future. Once we put him in there, he was very comfortable and I knew that we made the right decision.”
But Villano didn’t exactly have instant success with his new team.
“Truthfully, he struggled a little the first week,” Romano said of Villano’s performance in the Golden Griffins’ 34-20 loss to Park Ridge to open the season. “It was a new school, a new team. He obviously had a lot of pressure on him. But then we got to see what he’s really made of.”
Villano progressively got better and more comfortable with his new high school home.
“I was really upset with the way I played in the first game, but I got over it and came back and played better,” Villano said.
“He really made some big strides the second two games,” Romano said.
However, those games ended with poor results as well, as the Golden Griffins lost to both Lodi and Emerson Borough. At 0-3, the Griffins were staring at the rest of their season. Another loss and they could pretty much end all hope of qualifying for the NJSIAA Non-Public state playoffs and would have to play solely for pride.
So as the Golden Griffins faced Bogota last Saturday, it was basically a must-win situation.
“It played a big part in getting ready for the game,” Villano said. “I knew I had to go out and play my best game.”
That Villano did.
He completed 14 of 24 passes for 257 yards and four touchdowns, leading the Griffins to a crucial 27-20 victory, saving the season for another week.
And for his efforts, Villano has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Romano had an inkling that Villano was poised to come up big against Bogota.
“I could see there was a little more edge in the way he was practicing,” Romano said. “He had more focus. His passes were sharper. He had it going all week in practice. All we had to do was hope for drier weather.”
The rain held off and Villano led the way.
“The coaching staff all knew that for us to win games, we needed to have big games from Anthony,” Romano said. “Without an effort from him like this, we don’t come back and win this game.”
“I felt a lot more confident,” said the talented sophomore. “I felt like I’ve been throwing the ball well and felt great Saturday. I played three games and had only one touchdown pass. Now, I get four in one game. I was beginning to feel a little discouraged, but not anymore.”
Both Romano and Villano agree that this breakthrough performance is just the start.
“I feel like there are many more bigger and better games in front of me,” Villano said.
“His best days are definitely ahead of him,” Romano said. “I knew what he could do. I wasn’t sure about his leadership, his personality and his demeanor on the field, but he’s been all that and more. On the field, he’s very mature and a leader. Off the field, I can’t get him to say a word.”
‘Added Romano, “But if he continues in this manner and has the tools around him, he’s going to open up a lot of eyes. The sky’s the limit on his potential.”
Villano knows now that opponents are going to be targeting him, trying to stop him and his pinpoint passing prowess.
“I feel that there’s a little bit of pressure on me now, but it’s going to help me to work harder,” Villano said.
And although he’s only a sophomore, he’s already drawing some attention from the college recruiters.
“I like that a lot,” Villano said. “I guess things are definitely working out for me so far. I’m liking it.”
As well Villano should.

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