UNION COUNTY FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: Roselle Park head coach Terry Hanratty played on one of the best Union County teams ever during the playoff era.
He was a senior and a key player on defense in the secondary on the 1989 Elizabeth team that became the first in program in history to finish 11-0. The Minuemen also repeated as North 2, Group 4 champions – winning their third state title in the playoff era – and finished as the No. 1 ranked team in the state by The Star-Ledger at season’s end.
Elizabeth, which was chock full of Division 1 players that season, was led by the likes of senior running back Malik Jackson – who went on to play at Rutgers – Tommy Orr, Semaj Blow and quarterback Bobby Drake.
Elizabeth was the only team to defeat 8-1 Union that year – beating the Farmers 14-0 at Union in the regular season – and then downed Bloomfield and Morris Knolls at home in the playoffs.
Elizabeth had its hands full with Bloomfield in the N2, G4 semifinals, eventually coming away with a very hard-fought 19-9 triumph at Williams Field.
Two weeks later on the same venue, Elizabeth handled Morris Knolls a bit easier, winning 25-0. Twelve months earlier in the 1988 N2, G4 final, Elizabeth won at Morris Knolls 13-12 to win the section for the first time in seven years and for the first time under head coach Jerry Moore.
Hanratty, who is wrapping up his third pre-season at Roselle Park which included a scrimmage at home last week against Glen Ridge, not only played for Moore in the late 1980s, but also coached under him.
Hanratty, whose Panthers will open at Pingry Sept. 13, was an assistant coach at his alma mater Elizabeth, Linden and Governor Livingston before becoming the head coach at GL in 2004.
“This is my 19th year as a coach in Union County and it’s been fun, but I think the talent is not what it was and the number of players has dropped in most programs,” Hanratty said.
Hanratty helped resurrect a Roselle Park program that had not had a winning season in some time. In the past two years not only did Roselle Park post winning seasons, but the Panthers also defeated arch rivals Brearley and New Providence for the first time in over a decade, made the playoffs, won playoff games, reached a state championship game and defeated Thanksgiving Day rival Roselle again.
The only drawback Roselle Park experienced was having to face Hoboken in the 2012 North 2, Group 1 final and Shabazz in the 2013 North 2, Group 1 semifinals, falling to both. Although the Panthers gave both teams all they could handle, it wasn’t the same as if they had gone up against a Brearley, a New Providence, a Cedar Grove or a Verona in that instance.
For most of their program lives Hoboken and Shabazz were firmly entrenched as Group 3 schools. Enrollment numbers dipped and both eventually dropped down to Group 1 status to the surprise of many.
“It becomes a safety issue,” Hanratty said. “You want to feel that your kids will be safe whoever they are playing.”
LINDEN’S CANDIA: THIS IS MOST TALENT I’VE HAD
Present Linden head coach Deon Candia, now in his seventh season at the helm, thinks this could be his team’s year.
Candia has guided Linden to sectional semifinal games the past two seasons, contests Linden had to play on the road and fell just short.
“I still think we’re under the radar, but I also think that his is the most talent I’ve had on one team – offensively and defensively – since I’ve been here,” said Candia, who took over as the head coach in 2008.
Linden went 7-4 last year, falling at eventual North 2, Group 5 champion Ridge 28-14 in that section’s semis. The Tigers are situated in N2, G5 for the second straight season.
Linden last reached a state championship game in 1985 when it captured North 2, Group 3 for the only time during the playoff era.
The only other time the Tigers were in a championship game since the playoffs began in 1974 was in 1983 when they fell in the North 2, Group 3 final to first-time winner Randolph.
“We just have to pull it all together,” said Candia, with senior Juwan Dolbrice moved to quarterback. “We have good leadership and experience and enough talent to take it as far as we can..”
JOHNSON’S NEW COACH CAN’T WAIT
FOR HIS FIRST OPENING GAME
With a new head coach and starting quarterback in place, the Crusaders hope to build upon last year’s season-ending three-game winning streak.
Last year’s special teams coordinator and also the coach of the defensive linemen, linebackers and fullbacks, Anthony DelConte – a 2006Johnson graduate – can’t wait for the opening game of his first season at the helm.
“I knew I wanted to come back and coach after college,” said DelConte, 26, who was an assistant coach on head coach Mike Mancino’s staff the past three seasons.
A fullback, defensive end and linebacker at Johnson and a defensive end and linebacker at FDU-Florham, DelConte is the middle of three brothers that played for the Crusaders.
Older brother Albert, a 2003 graduate, played fullback and linebacker and was a senior on the 2002 team that won at defending champion West Essex to capture the North 2, Group 2 championship.
Younger brother Joe, a 2008 graduate who was a running back, linebacker and kicker, played on the 2007 team, which was the firstto play on the new field turf at Nolan Field.
Entering his fourth year as a teacher of mathematics at Johnson and also an assistant coach for the winter and spring track teams, DelConte owes a lot to Mancino for his start in coaching football.
“Coach Mancino gave me an opportunity to bring me on his staff and everything worked out,” DelConte said. “I love the game and want to give the kids the same experience that I had when I played and went through the program.
“I want them to experience the same things I did, like having a great mentor and great memories with their football brothers.
“I always wanted to give back.”
Johnson opens at Bernards Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.
OPENING WEEKEND SCHEDULE
FOR UNION COUNTY TEAMS
Friday, Sept. 12 (8 games)
Union at Phillipsburg, 7 p.m.
Watchung Hills at Elizabeth, 7 p.m.
Linden at Immaculata, 7 p.m.
Warren Hills at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Voorhees at Gov. Livingston, 7 p.m.
Johnson at Bernards, 7 p.m.
Belvidere at Brearley, 7 p.m.
South Hunterdon at New Providence, 7
Saturday, Sept. 13 (6 games)
Roselle at Rahway, 1:30 p.m.
Scotch Plains at Plainfield, 2 p.m.
North Plainfield at Summit, 2 p.m.
Dayton at Hillside, 2 p.m.
Montgomery at Westfield, 2 p.m.
Roselle Park at Pingry, 2 p.m.