Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders seek to change the mentality in order to turn things around

CLARK, NJ — In an attempt to get back to “Johnson football” and try to produce the program’s first winning season in five years, Arthur L. Johnson High School football head coach Anthony DelConte began with this: “The off-season for us was huge.”

DelConte continued, “We have to get back to doing things the way we used to here at Johnson. We had some setbacks the past two years, with COVID and other things like that.

“What we were able to achieve in the off-season was important for what kind of year we hope to have.”

Second, there was this from DelConte, at the helm of the Crusaders since 2014, after being an assistant coach and, before that, a 2006 Arthur L. Johnson grad who played for head coach Gus Kalikas: “Changing the mentality is what needs to be done. We are going to turn this thing around. Attitude. We are going to be playing the kind of Crusader football we’re accustomed to.”

Running the triple-option offense is first-year sophomore quarterback Robert Gallagher.

“He’s very mature,” DelConte said. “He’s a tough kid who works his tail off. He doesn’t act like a sophomore.”

Senior receiver Thomas Woods is one of five returning players on offense. Last year, he was the team’s A-back.

“We tweaked our offense a bit and put Thomas at wide receiver,” DelConte said. “We feel he has the ability to make plays in key spots for us there.”

Unlike the norm in Clark, Arthur L. Johnson managed only 78 points in nine games last year, getting shut out three times.

“We’ve made some changes, and the kids are learning the schemes,” DelConte said. “We’re hoping that the changes will provide a spark.”

Senior end Steven McCaffery, a two-year starter, is one of five returning players on defense.

“He’s our No. 1 guy there, top-notch,” DelConte said. “He’s loyal, works hard day in and day out and is a great leader. He’s fast, athletic, tough and very physical.”

DelConte said that McCaffery and fellow senior Matthew Jean-Louis, a starting linebacker in Arthur L. Johnson’s 3-3 defensive scheme, were named this year’s captains. Jean-Louis is also a returning starter on defense.

“He was at end for us last year,” DelConte said. “He’s also a very hard worker and someone the kids look to as a leader, which is huge for us.”

Arthur L. Johnson hosted Shore Regional last week in its game scrimmage and opens Thursday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m., at home vs. Governor Livingston High School, which was the team it ended its season against a year ago. Governor Livingston won the game at home, 24-21, on a 28-yard field goal made on the final play of the game by junior place-kicker Liam Quigley.

Quigley is back as one of Governor Livingston’s key players for first-year head coach Pete Ramiccio.

Governor Livingston opened on Friday, Aug. 26, and was defeated at New Providence High School, 29-9.

Arthur L. Johnson is situated in the Big Central Conference’s Patriot Silver Division, along with New Providence, Roselle, Hillside and Metuchen. Both of Arthur L. Johnson’s wins last year came against Metuchen, 16-6 at Metuchen and then 17-13 at home.
Arthur L. Johnson’s four nondivision games are against Governor Livingston, Bound Brook, Spotswood and South River.

Arthur L. Johnson’s triple-option offense:
• LT Vittorio DeMartinis, junior, 6-1, 225.
• LG Sean Joy, junior, 6-3, 245.
• C Aaron Tapia, junior, 5-9, 215.
• RG Sean Kessock, junior, 6-1, 280.
• RT Christopher Sullivan, junior, 6-1, 225.
• WR Thomas Woods, senior, 6-1, 175.
• WR Dylan Perrotto, senior, 6-1, 150.
• SLOT Antwone Smikle, senior, 5-8, 155.
• HB Jason Greenbush, senior, 6-1, 180.
• QB Robert Gallagher, sophomore, 5-9, 150.
• TB Ryan George, sophomore, 5-9, 170.
• PK Brett Makowsky, senior, 6-1, 160.
Returning starters: Tapia, Kessock, Sullivan, Woods, Perrotto.

Arthur L. Johnson’s 3-3 defense:
• E Steven McCaffery, senior, 6-1, 185.
• NG Brandon Brown, junior, 5-10, 190.
• E Jason Greenbush, senior, 6-1, 180.
• MLB Vincent Pisano, senior, 5-10, 215.
• WLB Emilio Menicucci, junior 5-10, 190.
• SLB Matthew Jean-Louis, senior, 5-10, 215.
• SPUR Thomas Woods, senior, 6-1, 175.
• BANDIT Dylan Perrotto, senior, 6-1, 150.
• CB Antwone Smikle, senior, 5-8, 155.
• FS Ryan Volmut, sophomore, 6-0, 160.
• CB Joshua Maltez-Torres, sophomore, 5-7, 140.
• P Brett Makowsky, senior, 6-1, 160.
Returning starters: McCaffery, Greenbush, Pisano, Jean-Louis, Woods.

2022 Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders football schedule:
• Sept. 1: vs. Governor Livingston, 6 p.m.
• Sept. 9: at Bound Brook, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 16: vs. Metuchen, 7 p.m.
• Sept. 23: at Roselle, 6 p.m.
• Sept. 30: at New Providence, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 7: vs. Hillside, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 14: vs. Spotswood, 7 p.m.
• Oct. 22: at South River, 1 p.m.
Head coach: Anthony DelConte, ninth season

2021 Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders, 2-7:
• David Brearley 36, Arthur L. Johnson 0, away.
• Arthur L. Johnson 16, Metuchen 6, away.
• South River 26, Arthur L. Johnson 7, home.
• St. Thomas Aquinas 46, Arthur L. Johnson 0, away.
• Roselle 49, Arthur L. Johnson 7, away.
• Delaware Valley 26, Arthur L. Johnson 0, home.
• Arthur L. Johnson 17, Metuchen 13, home.
• North Plainfield 35, Arthur L. Johnson 10, home.
• Governor Livingston 24, Arthur L. Johnson 21, away.
Head coach: Anthony DelConte, eighth season.
Section: South, Group 2
Conference: Big Central
Division: 2B, 1-3
Record: 2-7
Home: 1-3
Away: 1-4
Neutral: 0-0
Points for: 78
Points against: 261
Shutouts: 0
Overtime: 0-0

Arthur L. Johnson Crusaders
Head coach: Anthony DelConte, since 2014, a 2006 Arthur L. Johnson graduate.
Ninth season: 37-40 or .481
Conference: Big Central
Division: Patriot Silver
Section: South, Group 2
Arthur L. Johnson’s last sectional title: 2002
2021: 2-7
Nolan Field in Clark: Turf

An annual rite-of-August practice returned with Arthur L. Johnson’s visit to the First Children’s School, located in Fanwood. The First Children’s School is a stepping-off point for children who need highly specialized educational services for some period of time in their lives. “The most important thing for us is helping the students and making them better people,” DelConte said. Because Arthur L. Johnson did not have visits in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandemic, this year’s seniors experienced it for the first time. The varsity and junior varsity teams, along with the coaches, attend. That includes seniors, juniors and sophomores, but no freshmen. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to give back to the kids and the school,” DelConte said. “Our guys make an impact on those kids. A former student of theirs remembered who we were, and so we then had him run out with our kids one year on opening night.” This visit was started by former head coach and present athletic director Gus Kalikas. DelConte, a 2006 Arthur L. Johnson grad, also experienced it as a Crusader player.