Since November 3, 2018, Jefferson has been without America’s favorite sport: football. Fortunately, that drought will soon end as the Falcons are preparing for their season opener on September 6, 7 p.m. at Hackettstown High School.

The new Falcons for the 2019 season include six captains and brand new coaching staff. “My philosophy with captains is once the votes from the guys start dropping off, that’s when we stop. With this group, it took six guys before we saw a drop-off, so that means we have more help controlling the locker room and in our preparation,” said coach Jerry Venturino about the team leadership. “As for the coaches, it stinks to have lost coach Anthony Vasile to another program, but we brought in some new guys who have good football IQ and can be difference makers.”

One of the leaders Venturino mentioned is quarterback Matt Johnson, who is poised for a big second year as the starting varsity quarterback. “I can’t turn the ball over,” Johnson said regarding what he must improve on this year. “I have to be a real leader of the offense. Some of the guys are new and I have to keep them under control and help them throughout the season,” he added.

Key to Johnson’s success will be the wide receivers and running backs. Senior wideout David Hanna spoke about the importance of the relationship between him and Johnson. “We have played the last three years together [in football] as well as basketball, so we have that chemistry and it should be something special this year.”

Senior Matthew Cappello will also have to take a big step to ensure Johnson’s success. “Cap” missed significant time last year due to an early-season injury, so his health will better ensure the team’s success. “The injury taught me to take nothing for granted and work hard all the time. I’ve really been working hard in the weight room and putting some meat on me so I can stay on the field this year,” he said.

Venturino also mentioned junior running back/linebacker Mike Gould, who had a tremendous sophomore year with the Falcons. “I need to take the big step offensively,” said Gould, who led the team in sacks last season. “The goal is 1,000 yards rushing this year. Defensively, I just have to keep doing my thing and get better each day.”

Getting better each day seems to be the motto for all the Falcons, as their two most experienced linemen spoke about the same idea. “We have some new guys out there, but I’m always helping explain more in-game decisions they’ll need to make to help them as well,” said senior lineman Richie Raymond.

“The guys are good at not being afraid to ask questions, so whatever they ask I am glad to answer,” added senior Jefferson Felter. “Although inexperienced, a lot of the guys seem to get better every day and I’m excited to see what we can do.”

As opening day for the Falcons inches closer, the excitement for this team continues to grow. Their expectations are much higher than their results of the past season. With some additions and returning pieces, can the Falcons finally solve the puzzle? The first chance to prove it will be on September 6 at Hackettstown High School.

“The Rock” superstition of the seniors of every year, to paint the rock and put the senior’s initials on it (this year’s seniors initials pictured). The team goes and touches the rock before running out onto the field prior to games (Photo: Michael Chirichella)

Never miss a headline!

Sign up to have The Jefferson Chronicle emails/breaking alerts and Print Edition sent free to your inbox. Subscribe >>