2017 in Review: The Spartans were 8-3, winning the Non-Public Group 3 championship by beating St. Joe’s (Montvale) after beating St. John Vianney. They scored 367 points for a 33.36 average, while allowing 188 for a 17.09 average. Wins included Pope John, Don Bosco, and Paramus Catholic, while their losses were to Bergen Catholic, St. Joe’s (Montvale), and St. Peter’s Prep.
Graduation Losses: LB/FB Vinny DePalma – Boston College, OL/DL Khris Banks – Temple, TE Liam Cabri – Sacred Heart, OL/DL Anthony Marinelli – Fordham, OL/DL Joe Bastante – Stonehill (Mass.), C Rick Denboske – RPI, DB Aziyah Lora – Assumption, DL Jamie Mann – SUNY Cortland, RB Chase Hebron – Ithaca, DB Nysere Nunn – ASA JC (NY), WR Manny Oliver – ASA JC (NY), WR Teddy Harper – Milford Academy (NY) prep, LB Shayvon Hamilton – Delaware Valley
Offense: DePaul runs a multiple spread, returning three starters and a couple of others who saw quality time. Senior Taquan Roberson (6-1, 192) returns for his third year at quarterback, while junior Sean Kelly (6-0, 188) saw time at running back. Also in the mix will be senior Chazz Bryant (5-9, 180), who missed time being injured last year. Also playing will be junior James Westry (5-9, 160), who will also be starting at slot receiver. Backing Roberson up at quarterback is sophomore Andrew Butler (6-3, 185).
Returning at wide receiver is senior three-year starter Ronnie Hickman (6-2, 215). The other wide receivers will be Westry in the slot, junior TeddyAfful (5-11, 175), senior John Amodeo (6-0, 185), and senior Shaye McKenna (5-8, 160). Tight end has junior Don Bosco transfer Charlie Finley (6-3, 210) and sophomore Nuccio Lisitano (6-1, 190).
The lone returnee on the line is senior Blerim Rustemi (6-4, 285), where he will be stationed at left tackle. The rest of the line has a tentative look where the positions can change – Rustemi at left tackle is the one certainty. For now, it will be senior CJ Hanson(6-5, 300) at left guard, junior Zach Najem (6-0, 255) at center, junior Eddie Bierals(6-2, 265) at right guard, and either junior Monsignor Farrell (NY) transfer Nick Bagishuli (6-2, 255) or sophomore Skylar DiFabio (6-1, 305) at right tackle.
Defense: The Spartans play a multiple 3-4 and return three starters. The nose guard will probably be junior Lee Turner (6-1, 265) and he will be pushed by DiFabio. The ends are a committee of Rustemi, Hanson, Bagishuli, and Bierals, with Bierals seeing action last year.
Returning at linebacker is senior Chris Conti, who will play inside as a mike this year. Joining him inside is junior Elijah Calautti (5-11, 195) at the buck. The outside has competition from senior Don Bosco transfer Aree Booker (6-1, 215), senior North Bergen transfer David Drouet (6-1, 210), and sophomore Zach Relovsky (5-10, 180). Both Booker and Drouet started at their former schools.
In the secondary, Hickman returns at cornerback and Kelly is back at safety. Westry will be the corner opposite Hickman, while Amodeo is the leading candidate at the other safety.
Special Teams: Amodeo returns as both the kicker and the punter, but he will have competition at kicker from sophomore Matt Wilderson. The return men will feature Westry and other players.
Saturday, 9/1, at Pope John, 1 PM
Saturday, 9/8, at Seton Hall Prep, 2 PM
Friday, 9/14, St. Joe’s (Montvale), 7 PM
Friday, 9/21, Delbarton at home, 7 PM
Saturday, 9/29, at St. Peter’s Prep, TBA
Friday, 10/5, Paramus Catholic, 7 PM
Saturday, 10/13, at Hudson Catholic, 4 PM
Friday, 10/19, Don Bosco, 7 PM
Friday, 10/26, Bergen Catholic at home, 7 PM
Recruits: Roberson verballed to Penn State, Hickman to Ohio State, Rustemi to Boston College, Conti to Rutgers, and Hanson to Holy Cross. Others will play college football with a good senior year.
The top juniors at this point appear to be Kelly and Finley. Afful, Westry, and Bierals could take big steps forward with good years.
Concerns: Replacing tremendous players, especially up front, where four of the linemen are playing college football this fall. They will also have to replace Vinny DePalma, the heart and soul of the defense, along with Banks and Nunn on defense. They do have talented players up front, but they have to be cohesive.
Comments: “We’re excited; it’s a different situation where we’re the champs and teams are gunning for us. Our challenge is to stave off complacency and so far, it’s been good.” – Offensive Coordinator Nick Campanile