SPRINGFIELD – Not many teams in Union County have as many returning starters as the Bulldogs do, with Dayton having seven back on offense and eight on defense.
However, since the total number for the program this year is 34, the number of total returning starters – 15 combined for offense and defense – is 11 kids.
The 34-player breakdown according to second-year head coach Dominic Cuniglio is 13 seniors, three juniors, six sophomores and 12 freshmen.
“Our biggest issue is depth,” Cuniglio said. “We lack depth. That’s what we’re trying to build here in our second year.”
Cuniglio also reported that he finished with only 22 players last year. It wasn’t because kids were quitting, rather it was because of injuries, some as serious as concussions.
However, the Bulldogs were one of three Union County teams that closed with a three-game winning streak last year – Governor Livingston and Roselle Park were the others – as Dayton will seek to continue that success providing most of their players remain healthy.
Dayton finished 4-6 last year, which was a two-game improvement from the year before.
“We were two plays away (in close losses to Hillside and New Providence) from being 6-4 and a playoff team,” Cuniglio said. “However, winning our last three games showed the heart of our players, who sustained injuries and a tough start.”
Taking over at quarterback is junior Joe Kastner, who has big shoes to fill, replacing since-graduated John Apicella, who passed for over 2,000 yards and then represented Dayton in this July’s Snapple Bowl at Kean University.
“Joe was hurt last year with a broken thumb and was away from the game for awhile,” Cuniglio said. “He did well to finish the season as the starting junior varsity quarterback.
“He throws the ball well and is a true leader on the field. He hits people in the right spots. I think he will do a very good job for us.”
Dayton’s entire line is back, an all-senior unit that includes Andrew Martin, Mike Evans, Billy Kastner, Saverio Salcfas and Andrew Leibowitz.
“Our offensive line looks good,” Cuniglio said. “We didn’t get sacked very often last year.”
A solid wide receivers corp is sparked by senior Noah Goldberg, who caught some 40 passes last year, with 10 of them going for touchdowns.
“Noah is a big target who is being looked at by some nice-sized schools,” Cuniglio said.
Cuniglio feels that experience is a key factor when discussing the ability of his defense.
“We return a lot,” Cuniglio said. “Last year we gave up too many big plays and that’s something we need to do a better job of, preventing them.
“That’s the focus. We weren’t good at ‘sudden change.’ We gave up a large amount of touchdowns after ‘sudden change,’ meaning turnovers or on special teams after we had the ball.”
Senior linebacker Saverio Salcfas, a two-year starter, leads the experienced unit with his constant communication and motivation.
“Saverio is the heartbeat of our defense,” Cuniglio said. “He’s a vocal leader who motivates the players around him.”
Cuniglio also spoke highly of senior Brian Martin.
“Brian is another leader who practices hard every second and leads by example,” Cuniglio said.
Dayton opens at home against Hillside, hoping to get out to a much better start this season. If the Bulldogs remain healthy and with the experience they have, there’s a great opportunity for them to achieve that initial goal.
LT Andrew Martin, senior, (5-9, 215)
LG Mike Evans, senior, (5-10, 225)
C Billy Kastner, senior, (5-10, 210)
RG Saverio Salcfas, senior, (5-10, 210)
RT Andrew Leibowitz, senior, (6-5, 300)
TE Justin Torain, junior, (6-0, 200)
WR Noah Goldberg, senior, (6-5, 195)
WR Brian Martin, senior, (5-10, 125)
WR Tyler Koref, senior, (5-10, 170)
WR Antonio Salcfas, sophomore, (6-1, 160)
QB Joe Kastner, junior, (5-11, 130)
RB Dave Manero, senior, (5-9, 175)
RB Logan Rosenfeld, senior, (5-5, 160)
RB Isaiah Bishop, freshman
PK Adam Wolgemuth, senior
Returning starters (7): Andrew Martin,
Evans, Billy Kastner, Saverio Salcfas,
Leibowitz, Goldberg, Brian Martin.
DAYTON’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Justin Torain, junior, (6-0, 200)
T Mike Evans, senior, (5-10, 225)
T Billy Kastner, senior, (5-10, 210)
E Andrew Leibowitz, senior, (6-5, 300)
LB Logan Rosenfeld, senior, (5-5, 160)
LB Anthony Rajoppi, sophomore, (6-0, 200)
LB Saverio Salcfas, senior, (5-10, 210)
CB Tyler Koref, senior, (5-10, 170)
CB Brian Martin, senior, (5-10, 125)
S Noah Goldberg, senior, (6-5, 195)
S Dave Manero, senior, (5-9, 175)
B Antonio Salcfas, sophomore, (6-1, 160)
P Goldberg and A. Salcfas
Returning starters (8): Torain, Evans,
Leibowitz, Rajoppi, Saverio Salcfas,
Koref, Brian Martin, Manero.
Head Coach: Dominic Cuniglio, since 2014.
A 1993 Steinert graduate.
Second season: 4-6 (.400).
Conference: Mid-State 38
Section: North 2, Group 1
Dayton’s last playoff season: 2012
2014: (4-6 and 3-5, tied for fifth in Valley Division)
Dayton‘s third-year complex: Field Turf.
Cuniglio guided Dayton to wins in its last three
games last year following a 1-6 start in which
the Bulldogs gave up at least 36 points four times
during a five-game losing streak. Cuniglio was the
interim head coach at Union in 2012 – leading the
Farmers to a 5-4 playoff season – after serving as
the offensive coordinator there in 2011. He was
then an assistant coach at Nottingham in 2013.
Last year, Cuniglio returned to coaching in
Union County as a full-fledged head coach
for the first time in his coaching career.
DAYTON BULLDOGS 2015
Sept. 11 Hillside, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Bound Brook, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Brearley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Belvidere, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 South Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 at Roselle Park, 7 p.m.
Oct. 30 Manville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 6 Pingry, 7 p.m.
Head coach: Dominic Cuniglio,
2014 BULLDOGS (4-6)
(A) Hillside 12, Dayton 7
(H) Dayton 16, Bound Brook 7
(H) Brearley 50, Dayton 41
(A) Belvidere 45, Dayton 13
(A) South Hunterdon 29, Dayton 7
(H) New Providence 36, Dayton 35
(H) Roselle Park 38, Dayton 20
(A) Dayton 22, Manville 0
(A) Dayton 20, Pingry 17
(H) Dayton 38, Newark Collegiate 12
Head coach: Dom Cuniglio,
Section: North 2, Group 1
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Valley 3-5
Points for: 219
Points against: 246