Post 1,298 – Team Preview 2024: Northern Highlands Highlanders

Northern Highlands Highlanders  

July 9, 2024

2023: 

  • 9-3
  • Lost to Ramapo in the North Jersey Section 1 Group 4 finals, beat Ridge in the semifinals, and Randolph in the quarterfinals 
  • Wins included Willingboro, Wayne Valley, Ridgewood, Pascack Valley, and Clifton 
  • Losses were to Ramapo and Old Tappan 
  • Scored 338 points for a 28.17 average 
  • Allowed 194 points for a 16.17 average 

Graduation: 

  • WR/DB Danny Smiechowski – Fordham (NY) 
  • OL David Barrantes – Sain Anselm (NH) 
  • QB/LB JR Walley – Muhlenberg (Pa.) 
  • LB John Aboussleman – Muhlenberg (Pa.) 

Offense: 

  • Formation: Multiple Spread 
  • Returning Starters: 6 

Quarterback: 

  • Nate Johnson, Senior, 6-0, 200 – 3-year starter; passed for 2,054 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, and rushed for 748 yards per nj.com 

Running Back: 

  • Matt Boydell, Senior, 6-1, 205 – returning co-starter 
  • Chase Calarco, Junior, 5-11, 205 – returning co-starter 

Wide Receiver: 

  • Shane Hanlon, Senior, 5-11, 200 – returning starter; 34 receptions, 541 yards, and 6 touchdowns pre nj.com 
  • Will Prince, Senior, 6-0, 180 – projected starter; injured much of 2023 and would have started 
  • Drew Vandersnow, Junior, 6-3. 190 – projected starter; started first two games before an injury shortened his season 
  • Joe Francica, Senior, 5-10, 165 – competing 

Tight End: 

  • Aiden Reyes, Senior, 6-1, 205 – frontrunner  

Offensive Line: 

  • Carter Blattner, Sophomore, 6-5, 240 – projected starter at left tackle 
  • Joseph McDermott, Senior, 5-10, 200 – frontrunner at left guard 
  • John Durante, Senior, 6-11, 230 – returning starter at center 
  • Andrew Giordano, Junior, 6-0, 200 – frontrunner at right guard; started two games 
  • Moulik Gambhir, Senior, 6-2, 200 – returning starter at right tackle 

Defense: 

  • Formation: Multiple 3-4 
  • Returning Starters: 6 

Defensive Line: 

  • Jesse DeNobile, Senior, 6-4, 215 – returning starter at end 
  • Justin Barkan, Senior, 6-0, 210 – returning starter at end 
  • Joseph McDermott, Senior, 5-10, 200 – frontrunner at nose guard 
  • Carter Blattner, Sophomore, 6-5, 240 – part of the nose guard rotation 
  • Tyler Baelis, Junior, 5-11, 200 – part of the nose guard rotation 

Linebacker: 

  • Mike Pembroke, Senior, 5-10, 185 – returning starter on the inside 
  • Liam Soares, Junior, 6-0, 195 – competing at the other inside spot  
  • Jack Venn, Junior, 6-0, 210 – competing at the other inside spot  
  • Alex Friedland, Senior, 5-10, 180 – competing at the other inside spot  
  • Owen Stecker, Junior, 5-11, 190 – projected starter on the outside 
  • Dylan DeNobile, Junior, 6-2, 190 – competing at the other outside spot 
  • Zack Blacher, Junior, 6-0, 200 – competing at the other outside spot 

Secondary: 

  • Matt Boydell, Senior, 6-1, 205 – returning starter at safety 
  • Chase Calarco, Junior, 5-11, 205 – returning starter at safety 
  • Jeremiah Rivera, Senior, 6-2, 180 – returning starter at cornerback 
  • Charles Goebbert, Senior, 6-2, 180 – projected starter at cornerback; started two games before being injured 
  • Tucker Kanning, Sophomore, 6-0, 190 – part of the safety rotation 

Special Teams:  

  • Senior Peter Vafiadis returns as the kicker and he is battling senior Joe Francica at punter 
  • The return game will be d determined in the preseason 

Schedule: 

  • Friday, 8/30, Washington Township at Egg Harbor in the Battle of the Beach 
  • Friday, 9/6, Wayne Valley at home 
  • Friday, 9/13, at Hackensack 
  • Friday, 9/20, Pascack Valley at home 
  • Friday, 9/27, Union City at home 
  • Friday, 10/4, at Old Tappan 
  • 10/11-12, Bye Week 
  • Friday, 10/18, Ridgewood at home 
  • Friday, 10/25, at Ramapo 

Concerns: 

  • Up front on offense: two return and the other three need to fill a void 
  • Staying healthy – they lost numerous players to injury last year 

Recruiting: 

  • Boydell has offers from Navy, Monmouth, Colgate, and Bucknell 
  • Nate Johnson has Patriot League and NESCAC interest 
  • Hanlon has Patriot League and Villanova interest 
  • DeNobile has interest from Lafayette and other 1-AA schools 
  • Pembroke has D3 offers and NESCAC interest 
  • Gambhir, Rivera, and Goebbert have D3 interest 
  • Underclassmen: 
  • Calarco is a good player with a size issue and need a 40-time 
  • Blattner is a sophomore with interest from Rutgers and Syracuse  

Coach’s Comments: 

“We need to get over the hump. We had the ball deep in the other team’s territory late in the game when we were eliminated the past two years. Our expectations are high and we have talented players who want to work hard.” – Head Coach Dave Cord

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