By Morgan Sturdevant
The 2016 edition of WHS’ football team has picked up where last year’s state champs left off. The team is currently 3–0, riding a New Jersey-best 16-game winning streak, and expectations are sky-high.
The roster is missing several big names from last year’s team, with former star running back Jack Curry and quarterback Zach Kelly having graduated. However, the current group of Blue Devils have filled those holes well. Senior co-captain and defensive end Owen Kessler said, “The biggest thing is that we have to prove to the other towns that we can still be great without players like Jack Curry, and the kids have really stood up to fill his role.”
Senior running back Matt Varano, also a co-captain, said: “We obviously lost some very good seniors who helped us win the championship, but it’s a new year. We have new seniors, new leadership, and I do think we have a very good shot this year, and we’re all very excited to see what we can do.”
Varano, together with senior Ishmael Glasco, filled Curry’s cleats in the team’s first three games. Varano helped power the offense with 156.5 yards rushing per game, but he unfortunately suffered a serious knee injury in last Saturday’s victory against Franklin. That leaves Glasco to carry the backfield and take the full share of the workload. He has proved very capable in limited action, already finding the end zone five times in the young season. On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Drew Ortiz has 36 total tackles so far this season, and Kessler has chipped in with 9 and 4 sacks.
Westfield has had three impressive wins thus far: a 30–0 win on the road against Linden, a 35–21 victory over championship-contender Ridge and most recently, a 37–10 win over Franklin. While gaining more notoriety throughout the state, the team still feels a bit underrated.
“I definitely feel like we’re getting more recognition in the area, but I still feel like, because of the recent history of our football program, we’re still seen as less compared to some of the other teams and I don’t think we get the respect that we deserve,” Kessler said.
Coach Jim DeSarno and his players are not letting the championship win impact their season. DeSarno said: “We told the team in the beginning of the year that...they can’t take any of that away. They can’t take the trophy away, they can’t take their rings away, and for them to be as successful as they want to be, you have to start all over again.”
The players agree, but the momentum from last year’s success has a lasting effect.
Said Kessler: “I think we are going to do just as well as we did last year, but we want to keep everyone focused on taking it one game at a time. If we do that, I don’t think there’s any team we can’t beat.”