CLARK – Sometimes you have to tailor your offense to the strengths of your quarterback.
That’s what Johnson third-year head coach Mike Mancino did, with senior Vin Fischetti (5-8, 160) taking over as signal-caller.
“It all goes through him,” said Mancino, with the scheme now a flex, spread set, with also a veer look. “With Vin’s size he’s not a true drop-back.”
Running with the ball is among Fischetti’s strengths. It will be up to him to read the proper dive or pitch once he takes the snap.
Although since-graduated Lance Pecina was the returning starting quarterback last year, Fischetti did see some action behind center.
“We had Vin come in and play a series around the middle of the second quarter in some games,” Mancino said. “He scored six times from the quarterback position, with Lance playing somewhere else, so he does have some experience.”
When Fischetti does look to pass he will be keeping an eye on tight end Vin Banek, the senior one of six returning starters on offense.
“Vin can catch the ball in the middle, allowing Fischetti to roll out and look for him,” Mancino said. “We’re going to try to throw the ball a little more when we’re on the move.”
With standout running back Anthony Travisano, who played in the Snapple Bowl, also lost to graduation, senior fullback and returning starter Joe Francisco will be among the running backs seeking to pick up the slack created by that void.
Banek is also one of four returning starters on defense and the focal point of that unit at middle linebacker. He is being looked at by Patriot League schools, according to Mancino.
“He had 120 tackles for us last year,” Mancino said. “We’re new up front, so we’ll be looking for Vin to be a leader.”
Gone are standout linemen Ed Olenick and Ryan Baron, who are both now playing Division 2 ball at KutztownUniversity.
Two other returning linebackers, both on the outside, are senior Michael Dohn and junior Matt Pedicini.
Taking over as defensive coordinator is Chris Drechsel, with the defensive coordinator the past two years – Dan Guyton – now the head coach at Governor Livingston.
This is Drechsel’s fourth year as an assistant at Johnson. He was a standout player for Chris Hull at Cranford, the 2005 graduate helping lead the Cougars to the state playoffs in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
“Chris has them moving a lot and working real hard,” Mancino said.
Also making his presence felt, like he does every pre-season at Johnson, was former NFL player and 1985 Brearley Regional graduate Tony Siragusa. He played for the Bears at the same time Mancino did – Mancino is also class of 1985 – and was also Best Man at Mancino’s wedding.
“Tony loves to come by and work with the defensive players and be around the kids to show his support,” Mancino said.
Mancino’s first two Johnson teams finished 6-4 after dropping close playoff games in Central Jersey, Group 2 quarterfinal round action. After a 32-27 home loss to DelawareValley in 2011, last year Johnson was edged at Carteret 24-21, almost knocking off the top seed and eventual champion.
“I think the Central Jersey, Group 2 picture is a bit cloudy right now,” Mancino said. “We gave Carteret a run last year.
“This group we have now does not have an Anthony Travisano-type star back, but we’ve got tough, gritty kids. The seniors we have now lost only once (on sub-varsity levels) as freshmen and just once as sophomores. They’ve been under the radar a bit.”
SPREAD SET, VEER OFFENSE:
T Luke Taylor, senior, (6-1, 215)
G Michael Dohn, senior, (6-1, 230)
C Kyle O’Connor, senior, (5-10, 235)
G Andrew Lamiera, junior, (6-1, 225)
T Mike LaBianca, junior, (6-1, 210)
TE Vin Banek, senior, (6-2, 220)
SE Jim West, junior, (6-2, 170)
SE Mark Barringer, junior, (6-2, 185)
QB Vin Fischetti, senior, (5-8, 160)
FB Joe Francisco, senior, (6-1, 220)
B Matt Pedicini, junior, (5-10, 185)
B Jake Egner, senior, (5-8, 170)
B Nick Vargas, senior, (5-8, 170)
PK Mitch Becker, sophomore, (6-2, 165)
Returning starters (6): Banek, O’Connor,
Taylor, Dohn, Francisco, Egner.
JOHNSON’S 4-3 DEFENSE:
E CJ LaSpina, senior, (6-0, 185)
T Ab Nakhla, senior, (6-4, 270)
T Frank Gallina, junior, (6-0, 190)
E Luke Taylor, senior, (6-1, 215)
E-OLB Jacob Lopez, junior, (6-1, 190)
OLB Michael Dohn, senior, (6-1, 230)
MLB Vin Banek, senior, (6-2, 220)
OLB Matt Pedicini, junior, (5-10, 185)
CB Nick Vargas, senior, (5-8, 170)
CB Mark Barringer, junior, (6-2, 185)
FS Jim West, junior, (6-2, 170)
SS Joe Francisco, senior, (6-1, 220)
P Vin Banek, senior, (6-2, 220)
Returning starters (4): Dohn, Pedicini,
Head coach: Mike Mancino, since 2011.
A 1985 Brearley Regional graduate.
Third season: 12-8 (.600).
Conference: Mid-State 38
Section: Central Jersey, Group 2
Johnson’s last sectional title: 2002
2012: (6-4 and 3-3 in Raritan Division-fourth)
Nolan Field in Clark: Field Turf.
Mancino has guided Johnson to the state playoffs
in Central Jersey, Group 2 his first two seasons
at the helm, with the Crusaders narrowly losing
in the quarterfinals both years.
JOHNSON CRUSADERS 2013
Sept. 12 North Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 Summit, 7 p.m.
Sept. 28 at Hillside, 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Roselle, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 Gov. Livingston, 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 Somerville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Cranford, 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 DelawareValley, 7 p.m.
Nov. 28 at Rahway, 10 a.m.
Head coach: Mike Mancino,
2012 JOHNSON CRUSADERS (6-4)
(A) Johnson 14, North Plainfield 7
(A) Summit 17, Johnson 13
(H) Johnson 26, Hillside 0
(H) Johnson 50, Roselle 28
(A) Johnson 36, Gov. Livingston 14
(A) Johnson 35, Somerville 7
(H) Cranford 29, Johnson 3
(A) DelawareValley 47, Johnson 6
(A) Carteret 24, Johnson 21
(H) Johnson 33, Rahway 20
Head coach: Mike Mancino,
Section:Central Jersey, Group 2
Conference: Mid-State 38
Points for: 237
Points against: 193