Valley football looks to return to form

Coming off postseason appearance, Indians hope to improve in 2018


Molly Heintze

James Della Pesca celebrates after a sack. Della Pesca will play key roles on both sides of the ball in 2018.

Josh DeLuca, Sports Editor

Head coach: Len Cusumano

Last year’s record: 2-8

Key returnees: Charlie Looes (Sr. T/DT), Andrew Demboski (Sr. OL/DL), Justin Nicita (Sr. OLB/TE), Jake DeMilia (Sr. WR/S), Stephen Begen (Jr. QB/DB), James Allmers (Jr. RB/DB), Stephen Soravilla (Sr. RB/CB), Jake Williams (Jr. RB/LB), Joe Cuti (Jr. OL/DL), James Della Pesca (Jr. TE/OLB), Jake Ciocca (Jr. WR/DB), Andrew Martinez (Jr. WR/DB), Jesse Lagrosa (Sr. OL/MLB)

Key losses: Brandon Lin (OL/LB), Matt Ziccarelli (WR/DB), Jerry Madden (G/DT), Matt Curcurato (C/DT), Austin Piorkowski (FB/MLB), Chuck Viteritti (FB/MLB), Greg Zoll (RB)

Key newcomers: Desmond Von Tobel (So. LB/FB)

Strengths of team:

Every football program has an identity.  For Pascack Valley, that has long meant playing hard-nosed football with a run-first offense.  This year promises to be no different. The Indians’ will lean heavily upon their ground game, lead by junior running back Jake Williams, who Cusumano described as “an absolute bull”.  Last season, Williams rushed for 495 yards and 4 touchdowns. Williams and the rest of the Valley rushing attack will run behind a strong offensive line that returns four starters, anchored by three-year starters Charlie Looes and Andrew Demboski.  Seniors Jesse Lagrosa and Dylan Driscoll will also start on the offensive line. On the defensive side of the ball, Valley will need to continue its success by putting pressure on the quarterback. Looes recorded seven sacks last season, while juniors James Della Pesca and Joe Cuti each had two.  On special teams, Jake Ciocca is “a tremendous weapon in the kicking game.” In 2017, Ciocca connected on 15 of 18 PAT attempts, while converting all four field goal tries. Williams, who Cusumano referred to as a “swiss army knife”, will handle the punting duties.

Areas that need improvement:

While the Indians will mostly look to pick up yards on the ground, Valley will need to improve its aerial attack if they hope to create a more dynamic offense.  “We know we need to improve in the pass game, and that’s one of our focuses this year,” Cusumano said. Pascack Valley returns junior quarterback Stephen Begen, who started six games under center in 2017, before an injury ended his sophomore season.  In those six games, Begen showed signs of promise, throwing for 247 yards and a touchdown.  However, he will need to limit his turnovers (10 interceptions last season), if Valley hopes to throw the football effectively on a consistent basis.  Tight-ends Della Pesca and Justin Nicita, along with wideouts Mike Garay, Ian Valdez, and Gio DeGiglio will be key targets for the junior signal caller. Defensively, PV will need to do a better job stopping opposing offenses and limiting big plays.  Last season, opponents scored an average of 31.5 points per game against the Indians. Seniors Stephen Soravilla and Jake DeMilia will be amongst the leaders in the secondary, tasked with shutting down opposing quarterbacks. Cusumano described Soravilla as “one of one of the toughest guys on [the] team,” and called DeMilia “one of the most unselfish guys.”

Outlook: Despite a 2-7 regular season, Pascack Valley eked into the North 1, Group playoffs in 2017, thanks to its strength of schedule.  Although they were bounced in the first round by No. 1 Ramapo, Cusumano believes that the opportunity to play postseason football has given “this rising group great confidence going into this season.”  Cusumano believes that his squad “can play with anybody out there.” They will have to do just that if they hope to have success in the 2018 campaign, as Pascack Valley will once again face a litany of strong programs.  The Indians will host No. 1 Ramapo and Connecticut powerhouse New Canaan, while road dates loom with No. 2 Old Tappan, No. 20 Paramus, and the defending North 1, Group 3 champ, No. 6 River Dell.

Coach’s comment: “We’re not living in the past, we’re moving forward,” Cusumano said. “I think the boys have done a great job all the way since December to accomplish that, and now we’re just taking it one week at a time, and our first focus is Englewood.”