With nearly an entirely new coaching staff and a lineup full of seniors, Raider football is in position to compete in every game over the course of this season. New head coach Mark Ciccotelli has a history of winning, 7 state championship rings to his name, and expects to continue his winning ways at Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
As for the players, seniors such as quarterback Cooper Heisey, running back Javin Scott, wide receivers Dwight Laylor and Justin Sanders, linebacker Nick Palazzolo and defensive end Declan Cassidy plan to lead the team to a successful, winning season and they all have their mind set on qualifying for the state playoffs.
With new offensive sets, defensive alignments, and many skilled athletes, the Raiders seem to have all the pieces they need to achieve their goal of reaching the state playoffs and winning the conference. Coach Ciccotelli has the utmost confidence in his team and believes they have a great opportunity to accomplish these goals.
“Hopefully we can bring home some hardware” Ciccotelli said, “A conference championship or a state championship, that’s what I set my eyes on each and every year.”
A main contribution to this goal is the performance of the seniors and how they lead and motivate the underclassmen in practices so everyone produces in the games. Ciccotelli believes senior leadership is one of the biggest strengths of the team.
“The senior leadership is our biggest strength, we have some guys back that understand what needs to be done” Ciccotelli said. All of the players know what is at stake, and for the seniors, they want to make their last season special and go out on top.”
Implementing the new offensive and defensive plays may be a challenge for the players to understand and it may take time to adjust, however, Ciccotelli plans to work on these potential weaknesses every day in practice. “They’re still getting used to everything being new to them” Ciccotelli said. “We’re going to work on our weaknesses and we’re going to try to get them right.”
Some players, such as linebacker Nick Palazzolo, believe that they will be successful, with the new systems implemented. “I expect us to win way more than prior years,” Palazzolo said. “We have a good chance to make a deep playoff run with the players and coaches of the team as well.” Though it’s his first year playing football for the high school, his effort and determination was noticed by Ciccotelli who named him one of the four captains of the team. “I lead by putting all out effort into every play.” Palazzolo said, “I want the rest of the players to see this so they play hard every play too.”
The Raiders expect to have a much better season than previous years. With the new coaching staff and skilled players, specifically seniors, all over the field, they are expecting to do big things. All the pieces seem to have fallen into place and each player believes the team can be something special this season. Be sure to attend the games as it gives an extra boost in order for the team to win games.