BY JOSH LASHLEYWEST MILFORD — After an absence of over five years, the West Milford High School football program returned to the playoffs last season as they advanced to the NJSIAA North I Group III Sectional Tournament where they were defeated by top-seeded and eventual champion Sparta. The Highlanders also had some impressive victories with some tough setbacks on the way to an overall record of 4-6 in 2014.
There was no doubt some positive momentum built on the field last fall for West Milford and they are hoping that it carries over into not only the regular season, but the post-season as well.
“After making the playoffs for the first time since 2008 last season, our team goal is to be eligible to make the playoffs for the second straight season,” West Milford head coach Don Dougherty said. “If this were to occur, it will be only the second time in school history that the football program had back to back playoff appearances (last done in 2002 and 2003).
Members of the senior class for the Highlanders this year include Nick Lisa (middle linebacker/tackle), Stephen Steneck (outside linebacker/tackle), Kevin Gadomski (running back/corner back), Quinn Gridley (strong safety/wide receiver), Austin Hopler (wide receiver/free safety), Anthony Pellegrino (wide receiver/corner back), Matthew Perez (guard/defensive tackle), Tristan Plaisance (guard/defensve end), Kyle Vreeland (center/defensive end), Steve White (middle linebacker/guard) and Daniel Cummings (wide receiver/corner back).
Juniors on the roster include Anthony Hanratty (quarterback/wide receiver), Kenny Signoretti (wide receiver/defensive back), Gavin Pagano (offensive line/defensive line), Matthew Czulada (wide receiver/free safety), Nicholas Hoffman (guard/tackle), Drew Perucki (tackle/defensive end), James Batayiannis (running back/outside linebacker), Kyle Lepore (running back/corner back), Eric Lindstrom (center/long snapper), Steven Schwake (wide receiver/corner back), Antoni Seredyniecki (guard/tackle), Andrew Varriale (corner back/free safety), Chris Major (kicker), Ryan Halloran (wide receiver/corner back), Ryan Nelson (wide receiver/corner back), Robert Gorny (wide receiver/defensive end), Tyler Groth (wide receiver/free safety), Damian Van Riper (tackle/defensive tackle), Andy Sanchez (guard/defensive tackle), David DeMeo (wide receiver/free safety), Dan Cano (center/defensive tackle), Eric Lougheed (wide receiver/strong safety), Bobby Lavelle (wide receiver/corner back), Corey Otte (wide receiver/corner back) and Drew Kagdis (tight end/outside linebacker).
Sophomores for West Milford include Anthony Cecere (running back/corner back), Dean Montesano (quarterback/strong safety), Brendan Byrnes (tackle/defensive tackle), Vincent Montesano (wide receiver/outside linebacker), Tyler Principato (guard/nose guard), Tristan Bakalian (wide receiver/strong safety), Anthony Derin (middle linebacker/guard), Marc Dubois (corner back/wide receiver), Tre Wright (wide receiver/free safety), AJ Bakunas (tight end/middle linebacker), Vic Gaffney (tackle/defensive tackle), Noah Bauer (free safety/wide receiver), Mike Haggerty (outside linebacker), Brad Fredericks (running back/middle linebacker), Joey Sacks (wide receiver/middle linebacker), Ricardo Rivera (guard/nose guard), Dylan Purdy (wide receiver/outside linebacker), Jared Leibovic (guard/defensive tackle), Angelina Bosignore (defensive end/tackle), Bailey Justin (free safety/wide receiver), Kenny Ruiz (tackle/defensive tackle), Carlos Villeda (wide receiver/free safety) and Julian Webb (wide receiver/corner back).
“Austin Hopler and Stephen Steneck will be looked upon as leaders for this season,” Dougherty said. “They have been selected as captains for the 2015 season. Two more captains will be chosen by the team in the upcoming weeks of camp. Both Austin and Stephen have positive characteristics that make them great leaders. Both are excellent students and can lead by example with their work ethic.
“The recruiting of Nick Lisa and Stephen Steneck will be a great story to keep an eye on, as to where they end of playing their college ball. Austin Hopler is being recruited currently as well.”
On Saturday, Sept. 12, the Highlanders begin the regular season with a road game at Kennedy (Paterson). Last season, West Milford defeated Kennedy, 6-3.
The Highlanders play in the highly competitive Big North Conference Independence Division.
“We have one of the most competitive public school divisions within the Big North Conference,” Dougherty said. “Last season every member of the Independence Division including us, made the playoffs and one team (Pascack Valley) won a second straight State championship. We fall in the middle of the pack as the season begins, but look to play spoiler as the season progresses.”