Valley football ready to fight
Indians look to build on experience in 2018
September 7, 2018
Valley football looks to return to form
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 NorthJersey.com 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.”
Indians hope to start 2018 campaign on the right foot
Pascack Valley vs Dwight Morrow of Englewood
When: Friday Sep. 7, 6 p.m.
Location: Pascack Valley High School
Pascack Valley: 2-8
Dwight Morrow: 5-5
Pascack Valley will open its 2018 season with a matchup against Dwight Morrow on Friday night at home. The Indians made the North 1, Group 3 Playoffs as the No. 8 seed last year despite recording just two wins, and now enter coach Len Cusumano’s third year at the helm of the program. Meanwhile, Dwight Morrow obtained the No. 6 seed in the N1, G3 playoffs last year and lost its first round matchup to Demarest.
Last year, PV relied heavily on its running game in order to pick up first downs and score points. Expect a similar gameplan in the season opener, with Jake Williams, who ran for nearly 500 yards and 4 touchdowns a year ago, leading the charge. “He’s the epitome of a football player,” Cusumano said of his junior tailback.
Valley will rely on Stephen Soravilla and James Allmers in the backfield as well. They will all run behind a strong, experienced offensive line that brings back four starters, including senior Andrew Demboski, a first team all-league nominee in 2017.
At quarterback, PV will likely have junior Stephen Begen start for the second straight season. While the passing game probably takes a backseat to the rushing attack against Dwight Morrow, Begen has a number of viable targets to throw to, including James Della Pesca, Mike Garay, Ian Valdez, and Jake Ciocca.
Defensively, PV looks to slow down a Dwight Morrow offense that averaged 27.4 points per game a year ago, albeit with a much more experienced roster. This year’s iteration of the Maroon Raiders will be much younger than the playoff team from last season. While Dwight Morrow does have a number of starters returning in 2018, many sophomores and juniors will see the field and play significant roles. That includes sophomore QB Jalen Hoyle, whose next varsity pass attempt will be his first after he only played running back and defense a year ago.
The most accomplished player on the Maroon Raider roster is senior Jihad Edmond. Edmond, a two-way player at tight end and defensive end, racked up 294 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns on offense last year, while he also compiled 62 tackles and 6 sacks on defense. He has received multiple scholarship offers from Division 1 FCS schools, including Bryant University and LIU Post.
“[They have] a lot of speed on the field,” Cusumano said of the Maroon Raiders. “They’re going to try and hit big plays when they have that opportunity to hit them. We’ve got to make sure we limit their playmaking ability.”