After last year’s challenges, Roselle Park ready to get back to normal and win

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ROSELLE PARK, NJ — After Greg Dunkerton served as a longtime assistant at Governor Livingston and Roselle Park, he moved up to head coach status at Roselle Park last year. Initially, he met challenges for which he was not prepared; however, football coaches are taught to be able to adjust to certain situations on a dime.

Dunkerton was hired to succeed Terry Hanratty as Roselle Park’s head coach. The ensuing 2020 season was paved with scenarios unlike any other, as a result of dealing with the coronavirus.

“During the interview you have a 50-day plan, a vision of where you want the program to go,” Dunkerton said. “That had to be altered. All football coaches know how to make adjustments.”

Trying to get high school games in during a pandemic meant a new kind of “adjustments” for guiding teenage boys.

“There were Zooms and then summer protocols, and we had pods for teaching, training, agility and staying safe,” Dunkerton said. “We then had to modify them during practice.

“There were hurdles and frustrations, but we made the adjustments necessary for us to have a season.”

Roselle Park was fortunate enough to get in six games, winning two, including one at home against Dunellen, which is the team the Panthers open against this season.

“There were teams that were on the bus and found out that their game was canceled,” Dunkerton said. “We counted every game as a blessing.

“It was tough to lose some of them, but we had a chance to play. I didn’t care who the opponent was or how good they were — we just wanted the opportunity to play.”

This year’s squad has only four seniors, including a new quarterback in Mateo Perez, who missed his sophomore and junior seasons after suffering a knee injury in Roselle Park’s 2019 game-scrimmage vs. Highland Park.

Perez succeeds Dunkerton’s son, Gavin, as quarterback. Gavin Dunkerton is now a freshman finance major at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Gavin Dunkerton, who reached the Meet of Champions, is on the track team at Messiah as a javelin thrower. His father said his son’s goal is to become a decathlete.

“With only four seniors we’re very young this year,” Dunkerton said of the team.

The other seniors, all returning starters, include two-way linemen Melvin Claudio, Jared Foy and Ishmael Harvard. Foy’s dad, James, was the head football coach at Roselle Park for six seasons, from 2006 through 2011, and is presently the athletic director.

Another returning starter leading the way at running back and linebacker is junior Manuel Faxas.

“He’s a downhill runner who loves contact,” Dunkerton said. “He’s ready to come up and fill the hole running the ball. He’s also been a great leader for us so far in practice.”

Two juniors with prominent size include lineman Chris Anderson (6-foot-5, 240) on both sides of the ball and tight end Ted Gregoire (6-foot-6, 250).

Roselle Park is scheduled to play at Highland Park on Friday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. in its game-scrimmage.

The Panthers will remain on the road for their first four games, with the home opener set for Saturday, Oct. 9, at 10:30 a.m. vs. South Hunterdon. Roselle Park’s Herm Shaw Field is in the process of getting a track and new lights installed.

Sept. 3 at Dunellen, 7 p.m.
Sept. 10 at Bound Brook, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Brearley, 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 at Middlesex, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. South Hunterdon, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 15 at New Providence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23 vs. Dayton, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 30 vs. Belvidere, 10:30 a.m.
Nov. 25 vs. Roselle, 10:30 a.m.
Head coach: Greg Dunkerton, second season

L Christopher Anderson, junior (6-3, 240)
L Melvin Claudio, senior (6-0, 245)
L Jared Foy, senior (5-11, 200)
L Ishmael Harvard, senior (6-0, 240)
L Kevin Osorio, junior (5-9, 250)
TE Ted Gregoire, junior (6-5, 240)
TE-L Gabriel Amaya, junior (5-11, 190)
QB Mateo Perez, senior (6-1, 195)
QB John Ranieri, sophomore (5-7, 175)
RB Manuel Faxas, junior (5-11, 205)
RB Elijah Ignacio, junior (5-9, 180)
RB William Peay, junior (5-5, 130)
RB Ahyad Venable, junior (5-11, 190)
WR Dylan George, sophomore (5-8, 130)
Starters: Anderson, Claudio, Foy, Harvard, Osorio, Gregoire, Perez, Faxas, Ignacio, Peay and Venable.

L Christopher Anderson, junior (6-3, 240)
L Melvin Claudio, senior (6-0, 245)
L Jared Foy, senior (5-11, 200)
L Ted Gregoire, junior (6-5, 240)
L Ishmael Harvard, senior (6-0, 240)
L Kevin Osorio, junior (5-9, 250)
LB Manuel Faxas, junior (5-11, 205)
LB Elijah Ignacio, junior (5-9, 180)
LB John Ranieri, sophomore (5-7, 175)
LB Ahyad Venable, junior (5-11, 190)
LB Mateo Perez, senior (6-1, 195)
LB Gabriel Amaya, junior (5-11, 190)
DB William Peay, junior (5-5, 130)
DB Christopher Costa, junior (5-11, 140)
DB Dylan George, sophomore (5-8, 130)
Starters: Anderson, Claudio, Foy, Gregoire, Harvard, Osorio, Faxas, Ignacio, Ranieri, Venable and Peay.

Oct. 2 (A): New Providence 40, Roselle Park 22
Oct. 9 (H): Roselle Park 43, Dunellen 14
Oct. 16 (A): Brearley 56, Roselle Park 14
Oct. 23 (A): Roselle Park 27, Wood-Ridge 19
Oct. 31 (H): Asbury Park 58, Roselle Park 20
Nov. 21 (A): South River 26, Roselle Park 22
Head coach: Greg Dunkerton, first season
Section: North Group 1
Conference: Big Central
Division: 1B
Record: 2-4
Home: 1-1
Away: 1-3
Points for: 148
Points against: 213
Shutouts: 0
Overtime: 0-0