By Steve Sears
Kevin Hennelly, entering his 24th season as Head Coach of the West Morris Central Wolfpack High School Football team in Chester, pays no attention to preseason rankings, nor does he look beyond the current opponent to be faced on the gridiron.
“I’ll be honest. I don’t read the paper on it; I don’t follow social media or any of that. I don’t listen to any preseason stuff. I don’t pay attention to any of it.”
WMC finished the 2018 season a disappointing 5 – 5, which included a 28 – 16 loss in the state playoffs to Irvington. The Wolfpack had the game sealed, but two blocked punts, a rarity during Hennelly’s regime, enabled the host team to win. “It was a difficult season,” Hennelly confirms. “I thought we were in good shape. We were beating Irvington by a couple of scores with a couple of minutes left, and I’ve never had a punt blocked as a head coach until last year, and they blocked two. So, we didn’t do a good job finishing the last two games. Overall it was a disappointing season last year. The kids played hard, the coaches – we worked like we do every year. But the games that we usually win – and we usually win when we’re ahead by two scores; we run out the clock, slow the game down – so, those two or three games that West Morris (Central) wins that we didn’t last year, that was a little disappointing.”
The Wolfpack, who last won a state title in 2012 but lost in the semi-final rounds in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, compete in the North Jersey Super – Freedom Blue conference. A bright spot for 2019 is the fact that the Wolfpack were not hurt significantly by graduation. Safety Joe Vasquez and Jake Ligos, who played both defensive end and tight end (the latter is headed to University of Pennsylvania), have exited, but a strong nucleus returns. “We have our skill guys back,” says Hennelly, “so we have experience with a couple of guys (Damian Engle, Ryan Schilling) at receiver, our fullback (Adam Smith) is back, a couple of running backs (Schilling, Jack DiPietro, Mark Ward), and both quarterbacks (Ryan Spano and Kevin Finlay). We’ve just got to develop a line.” On the defensive side, Ward returns at defensive back, and all of the beforementioned also play on the defensive side of the ball. Possible starting lineman will be Mike Battaglino, Garrett Domaratzky, Filece Montella, Jorge Montenegro, Kevin Ramos, Ryan Brady, Eli Gutkin, Zach Brennan, Hunter Babinec, and Trey Tuminelli.
Once again, Hennelly never looks ahead at the schedule. “I don’t sneak a peek at two or three weeks down the line. Sometimes they (his other coaches) are breaking down film two weeks ahead of time to get a head start. I never do that. I always just worry about the team we’re playing that week, and my players know that, too.”
2019 marks just the second time that Hennelly has his entire coaching staff returning, something he view as important. “I have nine coaches; six of them played for me,” says Hennelly. “There’s a lot of alumni.” Hennelly is assisted by Henry Frayne, Barry Buchanan, Sean Morris, Kevin Karcich, Augie Meyer, Kevin Hennelly Jr., Tyler Bernsten, and Rob Goodwin, who coaches the freshmen.
As Hennelly seeks to add to his career win total of 155, the Wolfpack will be tested right away by facing New Dorp of Staten Island, New York in their Friday, September 6 home opener. In fact, WMC will start the season with three consecutive home games before venturing to Randolph on Friday, September 27. “It’s the first year we’re playing them. I don’t know much about them,” says Hennelly about New Dorp, “but the little I’ve seen of them they’re very athletic. You have to beat good teams to have a good season. And then we have (West Morris) Mendham.”
To follow all of the West Morris Central Wolfpack football action this season, visit www.wmcfootball.com.