New faces, experienced starters to help Valley build on successful 2019 season

PV to participate in six-game regular season

Coach+Len+Cusumano+watches+the+Pascack+Valley+football+team.+PV+plans+to+build+on+a+2019+season+in+which+it+reached+the+North+1%2C+Group+3+state+sectional+final.

Matt Austin

Coach Len Cusumano watches the Pascack Valley football team. PV plans to build on a 2019 season in which it reached the North 1, Group 3 state sectional final.

BJ McGrane, Sports Editor

Coach: Len Cusumano (5th year)

Last Year’s Record: 8-3

Due to COVID-19, Valley’s 2020 football season consists of just a six-game regular season, followed by an additional one-to-two games against teams in its four-team group that will be determined as the regular season comes to a close. No champions and no titles will be awarded to any teams in 2020. Following a North 1, Group 3 state sectional final berth in 2019, Valley will attempt to achieve success – albeit not in the playoffs – in this shortened season.

Key Returners: Desmond Von Tobel (Sr. FB/LB), Steven Demboski (Jr. OL/DL), Nick Mazza (Sr. OL/DL), Jared Cohen (Sr. TE/DE), Daniel Haag (Sr. TE/DE), Mike Solazzo (Sr. RB/LB), Sean Cuffe (Sr. RB/S), Nick Messina (Jr. RB/LB), Chris Cole (Sr. CB)

Von Tobel headlines Pascack Valley’s returning players as a third-year starter and as a force on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Von Tobel is joined by a pair of returning starting linemen in Demboski and Mazza, both receiving high praise from Cusumano.

“[Demboski and Mazza are] two of the best linemen in the league,” Cusumano said. “[They] really proved themselves on the field last year.”

Cohen and Haag aim to build on their experiences from 2019 after receiving snaps at the tight end position throughout the season.

“[Cohen and Haag] are going to be crucial again this year,” Cusumano said.

Valley has a plethora of returning running backs this year in Solazzo, Sean Cuffe, and Messina. After receiving some snaps behind Jake Williams in 2019, Solazzo looks to lead PV’s backfield with Cuffe and Messina offering a change of pace when needed.

“Solazzo did split time with Jake Williams, in kind of a one-two punch. Now, this is [Solazzo’s] show,” Cusumano said. “Sean Cuffe and Messina have great skill sets and each offer a different perspective as far as the run game is concerned.”

Due to COVID-19, the 2020 high school football season features just six regular season games. Pascack Valley plays its season opener on the road against Ramapo on Friday. (BJ McGrane)

Defensively, Pascack Valley will go to many of its two-way players to get the job done, with Von Tobel, Demboski, Mazza, Cohen, and Haag all having roles on the defensive side of the ball in addition to their offensive responsibilities.

“[There are] a lot of guys that are two-way starters.” Cusumano said. “Guys that we’re going to rely on to play not just two ways, but three ways on special teams as well.”

Key Newcomers: Anthony Velasco (Sr. OL/DL), Anthony DeGiglio (Sr. OL), Matt Bell (Jr. OL), Justin Amato (Jr. OL/DL), John Supple (Sr. WR/S), Mike Supple (Sr. WR/CB), Kevin Cuffe (Sr. CB), David Jones (Sr. S), Zach Traina (Sr. QB), Paul Deady (Sr. QB)

With the loss of three-year starting quarterback Stephen Begen to graduation, PV has two seniors in Traina and Deady who will be able to step in to play quarterback. Valley’s opening matchup against Ramapo on the road Friday night will mark the beginning of a new era, as it will be the first time since 2017 that PV’s starting quarterback is not named Stephen Begen.

After losing three starting lineman from Valley’s 2019 Patriot Gold League championship team to graduation, PV will look to some new faces to take charge at the line of scrimmage. Between Velasco, DeGiglio, Bell, and Amato, there is no shortage of options to fill the void.

“Velasco is a guy that we can put at different spots on the line,” Cusumano said. “Bell transitioned from the fullback position to the guard position to help us out on the offensive line. Amato got bigger, stronger, and is really going to be a force.”

Valley will not only rely on newcomers to step up in the trenches, but will also need new playmakers to rise to the occasion. Whether these playmakers have seen some playing time in big games, or will be stepping on the field for the first time, they will have the chance to make an impact.

“John and Mike Supple are doing a great job both offensively at the wide receiver spot and defensively at the defensive back position,” Cusumano said. “[There are] guys that are seniors that didn’t necessarily get a lot of time last year, but are getting a chance to really showcase their skills.”

Key Losses: Stephen Begen (QB/S), Jake Williams (RB/LB), Sean Deady (OL), Joe Cuti (DL), Jake Ciocca (WR/S), Andrew Martinez (WR/CB), Sean Duffy (OL)

Obviously we’re going to miss those guys, [but] just like any program, the next guy has to step up and fill those roles.”

— Len Cusumano

The loss of three-year starters Begen and Williams will certainly be felt, as much of PV’s offense ran through its backfield duo in the past. Valley has the pieces to fill its opening in the backfield, in addition to its openings on the offensive line, wide receiver, and defensive back positions.

“All of our seniors last year did an excellent job gelling with our [current seniors],” Cusumano said. “All guys that really played a significant role in all our games. Obviously we’re going to miss those guys, [but] just like any program, the next guy has to step up and fill those roles.”

Strength of team:

At any point, the rug can be taken out from underneath us, and we can not be playing football.”

— Len Cusumano

Last season, Pascack Valley not only won the Patriot Gold League, but also reached the North 1, Group 3 state sectional final. Returning players have the “big time game experience” that can help the team capitalize on opportunities in big games.

“[We have] guys that really rose up in those games and made big plays in big time situations,” Cusumano said.

Cusumano stresses the importance of having a “tough, physical defensive and offensive front”, noting Valley’s presence up front as one of the team’s strengths, along with its experience.

“In any game, [it] is going to be won up front, on the offensive and defensive line and the linebacker position,” Cusumano said.

Outlook:

Even though schools reopened and sports resumed, COVID-19 did not disappear, and it remains a concern. Cusumano is prioritizing the safety and well-being of the team above all else.

“At any point, the rug can be taken out from underneath us, and we can not be playing football,” Cusumano said. “We’re just taking it day-to-day, week-to-week, making sure we take [COVID-19] seriously, and take all the necessary precautions and following guidelines the best we can.”

Coach’s Comment: “[We’re making] sure the guys have the best experience possible, [enjoying] their time on the field together every single week, and [being] thankful and appreciative that we’re getting out there to play football,” Cusumano said.