Friday night might be a big night for the Hasbrouck Heights football team.
The last two seasons the Aviators have come out on the wrong end after losing back-to-back openers to Saddle Brook.
And the Aviators have finished with back-to-back 6-4 records while just missing out on the state playoffs.
The two losses to the Falcons ended a string of four straight years in winning the season opener.
A victory over the Panthers will get them off to a great start in terms of the power points for the new aligned Group 1 North 1 state playoffs.
"Our key game is the first game," said Hasbrouck Heights head coach Nick Delcalzo after the first scrimmage a couple weeks ago against New Milford. "We have to get better to be ready for them. They're (Glen Rock) a tough team."
Hasbrouck Heights might have gotten some help from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association as the organization added another group to the football postseason.
In the past there were four groups and for 2012 there will be five groups.
If you went by the postseason structure for this season, Hasbrouck Heights would have qualified last year for the playoffs.
The new aligned state sections does not have Glen Rock in Group 1 North 1 but has moved up to Group 2 North 1.
Despite the increase in groups, Delcalzo still believes it is a tough group sectional, Group 1 North 1. "You have the likes of Verona and Cedar Grove along with Cresskill, those are tough teams," said Delcalzo.
In addition, the NJIC realigned this season as Hasbrouck Heights moves from the Meadowlands B to the Liberty division. The lone team that is following the Aviators is rival Saddle Brook.
In addition, North Arlington, Waldwick/Midland Park, Palisades Park/Leonia and Queen of Peace are part of the Liberty division. The Aviators also have Emerson and Pompton Lakes on the schedule.
From last season's 6-4 team, Delcalzo graduates 11 players from the team, but does have a lot back for the 2012 season while still relatively young with nine seniors on the entire roster. "We got a lot of young kids and we're just looking to get back into the state playoffs after missing it the last two years," said Delcalzo.
He is bolstered with the return of his quarterback junior Darren Iurato who threw for 707 yards and 10 touchdowns. "I think he has improved in throwing the ball and has a chance to be a lot better," said Delcalzo about his junior quarterback and All NJIC second team player last season.
In addition the top runner returns in senior Anthony Seidel who ran for 867 yards and scored a dozen touchdowns while being a first team All NJIC back. "He's hard to take down and he keeps moving against defenses," said Delcalzo.
Along with Seidel in the backfield behind Iurato is A.J. Traina and junior Sage Scalvino.
According to Delcalzo, the 2013 version of the Aviators will divert from the usual ground and pound and spreading out the offense and take advantage of both Iurato and Seidel who can catch the ball out of the backfield.
The Aviators will have to replace senior graduate Mike Pikowski who collected 509 yards and four touchdowns as a slot receiver.
One of the top returning targets for Iurato is senior tight end James Fitzsimmons who had 180 receiving yards last season and two touchdowns. Fitzsimmons was first team All NJIC last season.
Picking up the slack with the graduation of Pikowski, Iurato's targets will include wide receivers in senior David Jackson, junior Alexander Kensik and sophomore Franklin Garcia along with slot receiver junior Robert Klenk.
One of the hardest hit areas in terms of graduation was the line for the Aviators with the loss of Dan Manigieri, Mike Pasqualone (a first team All NJIC lineman) and Chris Connors on the offensive line.
Delcalzo will be looking for improved play for the linemen who are back in senior center Matt DeSimone, who was All NJIC second team in 2011, along with juniors Ryan Paladino at guard and Justin Porzl at tackle. The newcomers on the line are sophomore guard Mauro Altamura and senior tackle Chris Golio who was a All NJIC honorable mention player in 2011.
With the 4-4 defense, Delcalzo will be rotating several players on the defensive line including senior Matteo Vilardi, junior Joseph Fadden, Porzl, Paladino and Golio at defensive tackle. Porzl was a second team All NJIC defensive lineman last season. At defensive end there is seniors Joe Crabbe, DeSimone, junior Pat Dowd and junior Chris Verdi.
The linebacking corps is solid with the return of Seidel and Fitzsimmons, both seniors along with Altamura, sophomore Steven Salerno and Traina. Traina and Seidel are outside linebackers and Fitzsimmons, Altamura and Salerno are middle linebackers.
The defensive backfield is led by Iurato and senior Nico Waters at cornerback while Klenk is slated for safety and Scalvino for cornerback.
For the Aviators the key games to get back into the state playoffs could be the first two weeks with Glen Rock and a road game against Queen of Peace on Sept. 15.
If Heights can pass the test the first two weeks, it will give them a cushion and give the Aviators possibly plenty of power points to push them into the state playoffs and maybe a high seed in Group 1 North 1.
For Hasbrouck Heights to grab the NJIC Liberty title, it might come down to the Oct. 12 battle with Saddle Brook. Queen of Peace could also be an obstacle in winning the division.
The one noticeable subtraction from the Aviators division and its schedule is neighborhood rival Wood-Ridge. Area school officials and coaches were trying to recall a year where the two schools were not playing football.
The absence of the Blue Devils on the schedule continued to deemphasize of the rivalry that Heights had dominated. The game between the two schools was the annual Thanksgiving Day tradition between the two schools for several decades before it ended with the new NJIC and the last Thanksgiving Day game was held in 2009, won by the Aviators, Thanksgiving football rivals saw the holiday tradition end after the 2009 season, 49-12 at Depken Field.
Hasbrouck Heights Football
(All games at 7 p.m. unless noted)
Sept. 7 Glen Rock
Sept. 15 Queen of Peace at Harrison, 1 p.m.
Sept. 21 at North Arlington
Sept. 28 Becton
Oct. 5 at Emerson
Oct. 12 Saddle Brook
Oct. 19 at Waldwick/Midland Park
Oct. 26 Palisades Park/Leonia
Nov. 2 Pompton Lakes
Hasbrouck Heights Football roster
No. Name Position, Year, Height, Weight
1 Anthony Seidel RB, OLB Sr. 5-11 185
3 Sage Scalvino HB, CB Jr. 5-7 145
5 AJ Traina RB, OLB Sr. 5-9 185
7 David Jackson SE, DB Sr. 5-7 145
9 Alex Kensik WR, CB Jr. 5-11 160
10 Darren Iurato QB, S Jr. 5-11 185
11 Joey Crabbe QB, DE Sr. 6-2 200
13 Nico Waters WR, DB Sr. 5-10 155
21 Franklin Garcia SE, CB So. 6-1 165
24 Victor Arias RB, LB Jr. 5-6 140
25 Anthony Tolentino SE, CB So. 5-6 140
26 Matt Fausette QB, CB So. 5-7 130
27 Robert Klenk RB, FS Jr. 5-11 170
32 Patrick Dowd FB, ILB Jr. 6-2 185
40 James Fitzsimmons TE, MLB Sr. 6-0 205
45 Steven Salerno FB, ILB So. 5-7 180
47 Jushua Paulino RB, CB Jr. 5-11 170
50 Frank Altamura OL, DL Sr. 5-8 190
51 Nate Onorato T, LB So. 5-8 170
54 Matt DeSimone C, DE Sr. 6-1 185
55 Forde Dimitri OL, DL Jr. 5-8 185
56 Chris Tattoli C, DE So. 6-0 175
58 Mauro Altamura G, MLB So. 6-1 200
59 Mark Hofmann OL, DL Jr. 5-11 260
60 Chris Verdi G, DT Jr. 6-0 195
61 Chris Golio T, DE Sr. 6-2 195
62 Matteo Vilardi T, DT Sr. 5-11 280
63 Elwin Miranda G, DL So. 5-7 150
67 Justin Porzl T, DE Jr. 6-4 240
70 Ryan Palladino OL, DT Jr. 6-2 205
78 Joseph Fadden DT, OL Jr. 6-1 240
79 Jack Lako G, DL So. 5-8 165
81 Jawan Carew SE, DB So. 5-7 140
83 Anthony Stefanelli SE, CB So. 5-8 140
84 Marquise Perez WR, CB Jr. 6-5 170