By: Jude Bazerman
WEST CALDWELL– The bitter November cold was no match for the Chiefs’ spirits, as they completed a feat on the gridiron that no other team in the school’s history has achieved. In a dominating 42-21 win over Jefferson, the Chiefs not only came away with a North, Group 2 championship, but broke the school’s mark for most wins in a season with 12, a record that was set 30 years prior. Propelled by senior captains Ryan Pini, Peter Murray, J.T. King, Pasquale Capozzoli and junior standouts Luke Kurzum and Harry Boland, the team pulled a complete 180 from their 1-8 season just two years ago, and finished their storybook campaign on a high note at MetLife Stadium.
Led by seasoned head coach Tom Lamont, Caldwell’s sudden improvement was due to leadership as much as the actual talent on the field. Assistant Coach Ryan Smith (who also teaches Math at JCHS) gave some insight as to why the team had such a successful season, stating, “Our football team worked tremendously hard all year to get to the point where they are at. The seniors and the leaders on this team have kept everyone’s mindset the same since we started back in the summer. That mindset is to win our last game. We finished as the only team in the history of [James] Caldwell High School with 12 wins….the kids worked their tail off week in and week out and executed the coaching staff’s game plan to a ‘T’.”
Chiefs starting lineman and captain Ryan Pini agrees that hard work was the main proponent for the team’s success. “It’s great to see all of the work we’ve put in and time we’ve sacrificed finally paying off,” he said. “The comradery this year has been second to none and has been a huge reason for our success.” It’s safe to say that the work ethic upperclassmen on the team embodied rubbed off on younger team members in a more positive way than in previous years, and the trait of being hard workers looks to be passed down from generation to generation of future Chiefs.
With that being said, it would be foolish to ignore the production that took place on the field for the Chiefs. The potent offense is one that valued both running and passing the ball, with playmakers dotting the field. Junior quarterback Luke Kurzum did a fantastic job of running the offense throughout the year, with his 1,791 passing yards, 19 passing TDs, and out of this world 77% completion percentage proving that. When the ball found its way to one of the team’s receivers, juniors Lucas Lattimer and Harry Boland, along with senior captain Peter Murray, always made plays. All three players accomplished over 400 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Running the ball was also a focal point of the offense, with senior captain Pasquale Capozzoli and Harry Boland leading the ground game, both with over 17 touchdowns and 600 yards rushing. The stout defense must also not be overlooked. The unit as a whole only allowed more than 14 points twice, in large part due to sophomore Joey Marinello’s 108 tackles and sophomore Julian Casale’s 8 sacks.
All of this success created a connection between the players that will never be broken. Senior Ty Vastola spoke to the importance of the team’s strong bond, stating, “We have bonded because we all bought into the goal of winning a state championship. Smaller things like eating outside as a team, watching film as a team, or the pasta dinners on Thursdays have also boosted team spirit. We’re truly one big family.” The strength and unity of a team is often overlooked by onlookers, but this Chiefs team proves just how necessary chemistry on and off the field is needed to win in all sports. From top to bottom in the organization, the same values lie within each person.
Caldwell’s historic season is due to an even combination of leadership, talent, and the brother-like bond that every member of the team has. In a world where nothing seems to be certain, one constant remains: This year’s Caldwell Chiefs gave any and all teams a hard fought battle, and came away with a victory.
All stats courtesy of highschoolsports.nj.com
Special Thanks to Ty Vastola