CLARK – Following slow starts that saw the Crusaders not reach the victory column until their fourth game of the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Johnson did well to regroup and eventually qualify for playoff berths in Central Jersey, Group 2.
Johnson took it one step further last year, producing the program’s first playoff victory in seven years with a 40-6 triumph at New Providence.
The Crusaders also had their moments in the semifinal round before falling at Lincoln of Jersey City 40-26.
“First of all, we don’t have to start 0-3 all the time,” third-year head coach Anthony DelConte said. “When we reflect on the last two years we want to emphasize where we finished.
“Our two motivating factors this year are to not start 0-3 again and to not lose in the semifinals.”
Last year was the first time that Johnson advanced in the state playoffs since the Crusaders reached the 2008 CJ, G2 championship game following two home playoff victories.
“We take the experience from being in the type of situation we were in during the playoffs last year,” DelConte said. “The playoffs create a buzz.
“We will learn from our experience last year and fix it going forward.”
Leading Johnson’s triple option offense this year is first-year starting quarterback Vin Crisafi. A senior, Crisafi had brief moments under center during his sophomore and junior campaigns.
“Two years ago against GL he got us our first win and last year against Delaware Valley he played well,” DelConte said. “He’s been working hard and doing a good job so far.
“Vin’s a great leader who took the job with open arms. The kids gravitate towards him.”
Johnson scored two touchdowns in each of its first four games last year and then produced at least 21 points in each of its remaining seven games.
“We’re working on perfecting what we do,” DelConte said. “It’s the little things with us that will make a difference, such as technique, assignments and execution.
“We weren’t as good as we could have been in those areas last year.”
Perhaps Johnson’s most prominent returning player is four-year starter Brett Roessle, the right guard on offense and one of the tackles on defense.
“Brett’s a great kid who has come a long way since his freshman year,” DelConte said. “He’s a great role model who works hard and knows what he’s supposed to do. He’ll just as easily help the second- and third-string kids.”
“Brett is strong and physical and we’re lucky to have him on our team.”
DelConte said that Roessle is getting looks from Division 2 school Bentley University in Waltham, Mass. Former Johnson standout and 2014 ALJ graduate Vinny Banek is a junior linebacker for the Falcons, who saw his first action last season.
Leaders on defense include senior Jon Duffy at free safety and junior Joe Turek at middle linebacker.
“Duffy’s been awesome, a senior leader who makes sure the guys are lined up right,” DelConte said. “Turek moves from sideline to sideline, his motor never stops.
“They are examples of the high character all the guys on the team have. It’s appropriate to be nasty on the field, but also necessary to represent the program in the right manner off of it.”
Johnson gave up an even 19 points a game a year ago, a number DelConte feels has to be lowered if his Crusaders are to be successful in 2016.
“Our defense has to come up big this year, there’s no doubt, if we expect to be better,” DelConte said. “There’s no secret to succeeding on defense: be physical and fly to the football.
“Our players want to make a name for themselves.”
Johnson, now situated in the Mid-State 38 Conference’s Valley Division along with New Providence, Delaware Valley, Hillside, Bernards and Roselle, has two huge immediate challenges.
Johnson opens at New Providence Sept. 9, with the Pioneers sure to be hungry to erase last year’s five-TD playoff loss at home to the Crusaders.
This will be the first time the teams are facing each other in the regular season since 2009 and the first time in the regular season at New Providence since 2007.
“New Providence is notoriously tough and we know they are really going to come out fired up,” DelConte said. “They will be ready to go and we have to make sure that we are ready to go.”
Then Johnson takes on Bernards in its home-opener Sept. 16. The Crusaders lost to Bernards in their last two season-openers. Johnson last defeated Bernards in 2011.
JOHNSON’S TRIPLE OPTION OFFENSE:
LT Eddie Weingartner, junior, (5-10, 190)
LG Dan Olenick, junior, (6-0, 240)
C Michael Brennan, senior, (5-10, 180)
RG Brett Roessle, senior, (6-1, 250)
RT Franco Scalzulli, senior, (5-10, 190)
QB Vin Crisafi, senior, (5-9, 175)
FB Joe Turek, junior, (6-0, 185)
RB Jon Duffy, senior, (5-11, 165)
RB Nick Fischetti, senior, (5-11, 185)
TE Tom Bowen, junior, (6-0, 185)
WR Ryan Koppel, senior, (5-9, 170)
PK Mike Casalino, junior, (5-6, 150)
Returning starters (6): Brennan, Roessle,
Turek, Bowen, Koppel, Casalino.
JOHNSON’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E Tom Bowen, junior, (6-0, 185)
T Dan Olenick, junior, (6-0, 240)
T Brett Roessle, senior, (6-1, 250)
E Michael Brennan, senior, (5-10, 180)
SLB Eddie Weingartner, junior, (5-10, 190)
MLB Joe Turek, junior, (6-0, 185)
WLB Vin Campbell, senior, (5-10, 170)
CB Kevin Metz, junior, (5-9, 180)
CB Brandon Rapp, junior, (5-11, 170)
FS Jon Duffy, senior, (5-11, 165)
SS Nick Fischetti, senior, (5-11, 185)
P Jon Duffy, senior, (5-11, 165)
Returning starters (7): Olenick, Roessle,
Brennan, Turek, Campbell, Metz, Duffy.
Head coach: Anthony DelConte, since 2014.
A 2006 Johnson graduate.
Third season: 12-9 (.571)
Conference: Mid-State 38
Section: Central Jersey, Group 2
Johnson’s last sectional title: 2002
2015: (7-4 and 3-2, second in Mountain Division)
Nolan Field in Clark: Field Turf.
DelConte has guided Johnson to playoff berths
in Central Jersey, Group 2 his first two seasons
at the helm of the Crusaders, despite starting
2014 and 2015 with 0-3 records. Johnson won its
first playoff game last year since 2008.
DelConte was an assistant at Johnson in 2011, 2012
and 2013 under head coach Mike Mancino. When DelConte
played at Johnson, Bob Taylor was in his last
year as head coach in 2002, Mike Katz was the head coach
in 2003 and present athletic director Gus Kalikas
was the head coach in 2004 and 2005.
JOHNSON CRUSADERS 2016
Sept. 9 at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 Bernards, 7 p.m.
Sept. 24 at Roselle, 1 p.m.
Sept. 30 Delaware Valley, 7 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Hillside, 1 p.m.
Oct. 21 at Somerville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28 North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Nov. 5 at Gov. Livingston, 2 p.m.
Nov. 24 at Rahway, 10:30 a.m.
2015 JOHNSON CRUSADERS (7-4)
(H) Bernards 28, Johnson 13
(A) Voorhees 29, Johnson 15
(A) Delaware Valley 24, Johnson 13
(H) Johnson 12, Gov. Livingston 0
(H) Johnson 23, Roselle 14
(A) Johnson 34, Hillside 15
(H) Johnson 21, Belvidere 7
(A) Johnson 40, Somerville 29
(A) Johnson 40, New Providence 6
(A) Lincoln 40, Johnson 26
(A) Johnson 21, Rahway 17
Head coach: Anthony DelConte,
Section: Central Jersey, Group 2
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Mountain 3-2
Points for: 258
Points against: 209