ROSELLE PARK – While Roselle Park will not field a varsity team this year because of a lack of numbers, several measures are being taken to return varsity football for 2019.
“We’re taking it day by day,” Roselle Park varsity head coach Terry Hanratty said.
Hanratty and assistant coach Greg Dunkerton are in charge of the junior varsity team, with John Ranieri and Ryan Rooney assisting.
There is a nine-game JV schedule and a four-game freshman slate.
“We have 23 kids at practice for everything right now,” Hanratty said. “We’re trying to do everything the same as a varsity team.
“The only thing different is that we don’t have double-sessions. We don’t want to scare anybody off.
“The emphasis is on weight-training and building the kids’ strength.”
Hanratty said the junior varsity team is 10 sophomores and one junior – left guard and linebacker Jonathan Estivene.
“We practice every day, teaching the fundamentals, lifting weights and trying to get more kids to participate,” Hanratty said. “We will be prepared.
“JV teams normally don’t practice that much, they are basically the scout teams for the varsity. We’ll be on top of everything.”
The program’s No. 1 goal is to return varsity football next year.
“We will go through the hallways and see who can play, just like we’ve been doing,” Hanratty said. “We’ll be sure to stay on them (the players Roselle Park has now) and make sure they are doing the right things in school.
“We will also work with the Pop Warner in town.”
Hanratty said that the Pop Warner program in Roselle Park is offering elementary flag football for the first time for youngsters in all grades, not just first and second.
“The 6th and 7th grade team is also combined, similar to other towns in the area,” Hanratty said. “We’ve talked to Kenilworth to see if we can combine with them. They reached out to our Pop Warner guy.
“We’re trying to negotiate so our kids can go there and play and there kids can come here.”
Hanratty also gave instances of other towns combining players and some that had to have older players play down a grade to fill that grade.
“A lot of towns are trying to combine teams, not everyone has a full amount,” Hanratty said. “In Berkeley Heights we don’t have a 5th grade team. I think you will see more and more of that.”
Roselle Park’s lone returning senior is quarterback Patrick Gergich, who had a fine season last year in helping lead the varsity to a 7-4 record that included a 4-0 start, a road victory in the North 2, Group 1 playoffs and a season-ending 7-6 Thanksgiving Day triumph over neighborhood rival Roselle. It was the 100th meeting between the Union County schools located off both sides of Westfield Avenue.
“We had an opening for a JV game on Sept. 28, so on that Friday night we will be hosting Bergen County Tech,” Hanratty said. “We worked it out with their coaches for Patrick to play in that game.”
Seniors normally are not eligible to play anything other than varsity.
“Coaches have been talking and negotiating with other coaches for 20 years,” Hanratty said. “Bergen will also use some older kids, including some seniors.”
So Gergich, who right now is practicing every day and is also in the role of a coach to the younger players, will get to play at least one game his senior year.
“Patrick is like a player-coach,” Hanratty said. “He’s a special kid.”
In order to jazz up the Sept. 28 game Hanratty said that the Roselle Park band and cheerleaders will also be part of the event.
“James Foy (Roselle Park Class of 1990 and its present athletic director) worked it out with them (Bergen County Tech),” Hanratty said.
“We’re trying to make this a stepping stone to next year. The most important thing is that everybody is safe. Linemen have been working all summer with our strength program.”
There were just too many factors, Hanratty felt, going against fielding a varsity team that would be competitive.
“We didn’t have kids showing up and seniors to count on and we didn’t want to drag our feet any longer,” Hanratty said pertaining to the final decision that was made in June. “One kid was injured, one moved to Florida and the others saw the writing on the wall and decided it wasn’t for them.”
The key to having a varsity team once again next year according to Hanratty is having most of this year’s kids coming back.
“We have to keep 90 percent of our kids that came out,” Hanratty said. “It we have 17 sophomores then we need to keep at least 15 of them.
“We don’t believe in focusing on football all year round. We have a strong belief that our athletes should play multiple sports.
“We want them to have a good experience this year so they will want to come back. When I had a meeting in June with the parents of the sophomore players and told them that their kids were not going to play varsity they were relieved. They were thankful.”
Two sophomores of note include Nasir Williams and quarterback Gavin Dunkerton, who is the son of assistant coach Greg Dunkerton.
Williams became a starter at cornerback as a freshman on last year’s varsity team. Hanratty said he had the game-winning deflection in Roselle Park’s 27-21 first-round North 2, Group 1 playoff victory at Glen Ridge.
Dunkerton has grown some.
“He grew five inches and gained 25 pounds,” Hanratty said of the 6-2, 185-pound QB. “He looks like a totally different person and has developed muscles.
“That’s the kind of difference a year can make.”
Roselle Park’s first JV game is scheduled for Sept. 10 at home against Brearley.
The first freshman game is set for Sept. 22 at home vs. Bergen County Tech. Coaching the freshmen are Keith Wintermute and Robert Salamanca.
2018 ROSELLE PARK
Sept. 10 Brearley, 4 p.m.
Sept. 17 Manville, 4 p.m.
Sept. 24 at South Hunterdon, 4 p.m.
Sept. 28 Bergen County Tech, 7 p.m.
Oct. 1 Middlesex, 4 p.m.
Oct. 8 at New Providence, 4 p.m.
Oct. 15 at Dayton, 4 p.m.
Oct. 22 at Belvidere, 4 p.m.
Oct. 29 at Bound Brook, 4 p.m.
Coaches: Terry Hanratty,
Greg Dunkerton and
John Ranieri, Ryan Rooney.
2018 ROSELLE PARK
Sept. 22 Bergen County Tech, 11 a.m.
Oct. 5 at New Providence, 4 p.m.
Oct. 6 Bergen County Tech, 10 a.m.
Oct. 13 at Bernards, 10 a.m.
Coaches: Keith Wintermute, Robert Salamanca.
2017 ROSELLE PARK PANTHERS (7-4)
(A) Roselle Park 33, Sussex Tech 7
(H) R. Park 33, South Hunterdon 7
(H) Roselle Park 41, Dayton 6
(A) Roselle Park 35, Belvidere 0
(H) Brearley 40, Roselle Park 21
(A) Bound Brook 37, Roselle Park 14
(A) R. Park 32, New Providence 6
(H) Manville 15, Roselle Park 14 (OT)
(A) Roselle Park 27, Glen Ridge 21
(A) Shabazz 27, Roselle Park 6
(H) Roselle Park 7, Roselle 6
Head coach: Terry Hanratty,
Section: North 2, Group 1
Conference: Mid-State 38
Division: Union, 3-3
Points for: 263
Points against: 172
ROSELLE PARK THIS DECADE: