Highlanders look to better themselves on the gridiron

| 06 Sep 2012 | 01:04

— Just before stepping onto the field for the first game of the regular season this weekend, members of high school football teams across the Garden State are likely to be experiencing a wide range of emotions-not the least of which is anticipation.
West Milford High School could very well be anticipating their first game at home versus Wayne Valley tonight to a high degree.
Not only is it the first regular season contest for the student-athletes on the roster, but it’s also the initial game for head coach Donald Dougherty. Dougherty replaces Jim Dransfield at the helm and is ready to make his own impression on the program.
“The main goal for our team is to learn the value of tradition,” Dougherty said. “I am a firm believer in traditions within a football program. This allows our players to feel a sense of ownership to the program and it allows them to have a bond with the players that will come after they are gone. Our players also set goals for this season which included making the playoffs and improving on last year's record (4-6 overall) to have a record of 6-4 or better.”
Key returning players for the Highlanders this fall include Jimmy Dygos (senior, center/defensive line), Thomas Gillespe (senior, wide receiver/outside linebacker), Wesley Pierce (senior, wide receiver/defensive back), Patrick VanDuyne (senior, running back/linebacker), Andrew Vigorita (senior, wide receive/defensive back) and Anthony Battinelli (junior, fullback/linebacker).
Among the promising newcomers to varsity from the sophomore class are quarterback Aaron Furnbach, wide receiver/outside linebacker Mark Hendry, running back/linebacker Erik Ostlund, wide receiver/free safety Noah Provenzano, offensive/defensive lineman Jadrien Travesio and running back/outside linebacker David Zeppitelli.
“In all honesty I am looking for every player to be a leader,” Dougherty said. “I mainly want our four captains- Pierce, Dygos, VanDuyne and Vigorita - to be our main leaders. They need to lead not only by the words they say, but by example as well. This includes on the field in practice, games and off the field in the classroom and hallways as well.”
West Milford competes in the Big North Conference Independence Division along with Bergenfield, Pascack Valley, Passaic Valley and Ramapo.
“I feel as of right now we are in the middle of the pack,” Dougherty said. “We have the opportunity to do well this season if we put all the pieces together. Our schedule is very difficult, but that can only make our team better each week.”
Dougherty would like to see the program have a positive impact beyond the big plays that they make on the football field.
“We have begun to bridge the camp between the high school football program and our youth program in town,” Dougherty said. “We will be hosting a youth program night on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. at our home game versus Passaic Valley. All football players and cheerleaders who wear their uniforms will be admitted free of charge during the game.
“We are also starting a new tradition within our district called Punt, Pass and Read. In conjunction with the administration and the elementary schools, our senior football players will volunteer their time to read to the third and fourth grade students. It will be a time for our players to give back to the school and the community that has supported them throughout the years.”

Tonight's game is scheduled for 7 p.m. against Wayne Valley High School at the turf field.