SUMMIT – Last year Summit had only three returning starters on offense and just one on defense, in addition to being guided by a new head coach.
The Hilltoppers still proved to be good enough to go 12-0 again and repeat as North 2, Group 3 champions.
This year Summit has six returning starters back on both sides of the ball.
Whether the Hilltoppers have had a cast chock full of experience or one that was very green, they have managed to put together the best record of any public school in the state the past five seasons.
Since 2009 Summit is 56-2, including an overall winning streak of 24 games and a regular season winning streak of 45. The Hilltoppers have not lost a game in Mid-State 38 or 39 Conference competition and have not lost to a Union County opponent since November of 2008, which was also the same month that they lost their last regular season game, which was their final Iron Hills Conference-Hills Division clash.
“We don’t look at it as 56-2,” said second-year head coach Kevin Kostibos, who became only the third coach in Union County history to lead a team to a 12-0 record last season.
Summit has gone 9-0 in the regular season and won division championships in the Mid-State Conference each of the past five seasons.
“Our philosophy every year will always be taking it one game at a time,” said Kostibos, who was an assistant coach under head coach John Liberato the first four of those five seasons.
SUMMIT’S RECORD THE PAST 5 SEASONS:
2013: (12-0) – North 2, Group 3 champions
2012: (12-0) – North 2, Group 3 champions
2011: (11-1) – North 2, Group 2 finalists
2010: (9-1) – North 2, Group 2 quarterfinalists
2009: (12-0) – North 2, Group 2 champions
Summit’s only returning starter on both sides of the ball, senior Andrew Helmer, attributes the program’s success to several factors.
“I think you start with the coaching staff and then add the success of the youth program,” Helmer said. “We begin to have chemistry right away by being brought up together.”
While Charlie Terry was the new kid on the block last year under center as Summit’s quarterback, this year junior Ryan Richson is presently filling that role.
“Ryan is a little more of a runner and has looked good throwing on the run,” Kostibos said. “His biggest attribute, however, is his understanding of our offense. He is a smart kid who is good at managing the game.”
Returning at running back is senior Chris Zanelli, a shifty runner who can sneak right through the teeth of opposing defenses.
“Chris is explosive,” Kostibos said. “Anytime he touches the ball something good could happen. He’s tough to tackle in the open space.”
“I’ve got a good feeling about this team,” said Zanelli, who will play lacrosse next year at Providence. “We’ve got some talented players who can get out on the edges and do some dangerous things.”
Senior right tackle Stevie Rainero is a three-year starter on offense.
“It’s great to have the experience we have, but there are also some big shoes to fill,” Rainero said. “Our chemistry could be even better this year.”
When running the no-huddle offense, timing is always of the utmost importance.
“Bringing the offense together is what we work on the most,” Kostibos said. “Everyone really has to work well together.”
When asked if he ever thought of abandoning the no-huddle for a different scheme, this is what Kostibos said, “that’s our philosophy, we do what we do.
“Other programs have different offenses and that’s what they do. This is what we do and we will continue to challenge opposing defenses to stop us.”
In addition to being a fine receiver on offense, Helmer proved to be a standout last year on defense at cornerback.
“Andrew is a premier athlete and also an outstanding lacrosse defender,” Kostibos said.
Helmer will continue playing lacrosse in college at Syracuse.
“He never tires,” Kostibos said.
“With all the starters we have back this year that does a lot for our confidence,” Helmer said. “That’s nice to have because we didn’t have that last year.”
“We have a lot of guys on defense back including our entire secondary and our line,” Kostibos said. “We have a very good base now.
“We just have to be up to game speed and continue to get better as a unit.”
Summit’s captains – all seniors – include Helmer, Zanelli, Rainero, Colin Andrews and Peter McKinlay.
COACH KOSTIBOS, PLAYERS RAINERO, ZANELLI, HELMER REFLECT ON LAST YEAR’S TWO BIGGEST VICTORIES:
Here’s what Kostibos, Rainero, Zanelli and Helmer had to say about Summit’s come-from-behind 26-20 win at Rahway in a battle of 4-0 squads last year and then the holding on for a 16-13 victory over Parsippany Hills in the North 2, Group 3 championship game at Kean University.
Summit overcame a 20-6 halftime deficit against Rahway by scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter.
The Hilltoppers led Parsippany Hills 16-0 in the second quarter, which proved to be just enough.
Kostibos: “The Rahway game was a case of the game is never over. Rahway got us out of our game plan early. You can’t wait any later than the fourth quarter, but we made some adjustments and were able to do it.
“Beating Parsippany Hills and going 12-0 is a memory I will have for life. We want to be consistently tough and it begins with the level of excellence at all three levels. The kids last year believed that they could step in and do what was needed to be done.”
Rainero: “We learned in the Rahway game that we had the ability to overcome adversity. In order to stop Rahway our defense had to be a brick wall in the second half. That day we didn’t want to be the team that ended the (winning) streak.
“Parsippany Hills had the best defense that we went up against. We were able to hold them off in the end.”
Zanelli: “The Rahway game was such a highly-anticipated game. I think we had some jitters in the first half, playing on the road and on grass. That was the first time we were down by that many points, but we were able to settle down in the second half and come back.”
Helmer: “The atmosphere for the Rahway game was out of this world. Rahway hit hard. In the second half Colm Dougherty (2014 Summit graduate) was outstanding for us. You have to give him credit. If it wasn’t for him we wouldn’t have won that game.
“The outcome of the Parsippany Hills game was very gratifying. It made all the hard work from the pre-season on worth it.”
RT Stevie Rainero, senior, (6-0, 240)
RG Teddy Cranley, junior, (5-9, 175)
C Donovan Cahill, junior, (6-1, 215)
LG Matt Greenstein, senior, (6-3, 245)
LT Matteo DiMayorca, junior, (6-5, 235)
WR Andrew Helmer, senior, (6-2, 195)
WR Sean Andrews, senior, (6-3, 185)
SLOT Matt Newman, junior (5-10, 180)
SLOT Drew Mulholland, senior, (5-11, 170)
QB Ryan Richson, junior, (5-10, 170)
RB Chris Zanelli, senior, (5-9, 165)
Returning starters (6): Rainero, Greenstein,
Helmer, Andrews, Mulholland, Zanelli.
SUMMIT’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Michael Maldonado, senior, (6-6, 235)
E Pat Maloney, senior, (6-5, 230)
NG Will Cassin, senior, (6-2, 230)
T Colin Andrews, senior, (6-2, 250)
MLB Spencer Sink, senior, (5-11, 220)
SLB Vinny Bonomo, senior, (5-11, 220)
WLB Anthony Campanelli, senior, (5-10, 215)
C Will Huck, senior, (6-0, 185)
C Andrew Helmer, (senior, (6-2, 195)
SS Peter McKinlay, senior, (5-11, 180)
FS Robby Faris, junior, (5-9, 170)
Returning starters (6): Maldonado, Maloney,
Andrews, Huck, Helmer, McKinlay.
Head Coach: Kevin Kostibos, since 2013.
A 1999 Hanover Park graduate.
Second season: 12-0 (1.000)
Conference: Mid-State 38
Section: North 2, Group 3
Summit’s last sectional title: 2013
2013: (12-0 and 6-0, first in Raritan Division)
Tatlock Field: Field Turf.
Kostibos became a head coach for the first time
last year and then became only the third coach
in Union County history to lead a team to a
12-0 record. He was previously an assistant coach
at Summit under the coach he played for in
high school, John Liberato at Hanover Park.
SUMMIT HILLTOPPERS 2014
Sept. 13 North Plainfield, 2 p.m.
Sept. 20 at Gov. Livingston, 1 p.m.
Sept. 27 Warren Hills, 1 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 at Roselle, 1 p.m.
Oct. 17 Somerville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 at Voorhees, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 Rahway, 2 p.m.
Nov. 8 at Hillside, 2 p.m.
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos,
2013 HILLTOPPERS (12-0)
(A) Summit 29, Somerville 7
(A) Summit 48, Johnson 23
(H) Summit 48, Cranford 14
(H) Summit 35, North Plainfield 12
(A) Summit 26, Rahway 20
(H) Summit 33, Roselle 8
(A) Summit 49, Warren Hills 28
(H) Summit 46, Delaware Valley 13
(A) Summit 39, Hillside 25
(H) Summit 34, Gov. Livingston 14
(H) Summit 35, Cranford 14
(N) Summit 16, Parsippany Hills 13
Head coach: Kevin Kostibos,
Section: North 2, Group 3
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Raritan 6-0, first
Points for: 438
Points against: 181