Highlanders hope to finish strong!


Shane Yodice, Sports Editor

With the clearance declared allowing the football team to play, Friday nights in West Milford now has a spark again. It’s an exciting thing for all the players on the high school team who were looking forward to playing again.  With returning key players such as Dylan Connors at quarterback and Joseph Palminteri at running back, and newcomers fullback, Ashton Stymacks and defensive tackle, Shane Yodice, this year’s team was ready to rumble.  The season has brought a lot of hype, like in the rivalry match-up vs Lakeland, which was one of the most anticipated match-ups in North Jersey.  With senior captain Kyler Grahame leading the charge, it looked really bright for the team.  


This year’s coaching staff consists of Stephen Maslanak as head coach, and Gary Stoll as assistant coach and offensive coordinator.  Two new additions to the coaching staff are Coach Music and Coach Dee-Young, who are working with the freshmen team.  Returns like star receiver, Chris Coyle, and linebacker, Mark Keeser, make this team look like a powerhouse going into the upcoming season.


The Athletic Director of West Milford High School, Joe Trentacosta, thinks the Highlanders record for this year is going to be hard to compare to last year’s given the difference in the world today with the coronavirus.  However, when seeing the different teams the Highlanders will play, he strongly believes that the team will prosper.  Speaking of Covid, Mr.Trentacosta believes that, hopefully, if our students and athletes keep observing proper safety precautions, we can avoid closing down school or sports. When asked what benefits this team has over other teams, Trent states that this team has a lot of heart and emotion.  He says he wouldn’t compare it to other teams, that he sees the passion in this particular group of players.  Trent feels that the disadvantages are the same with all schools with Covid; he doesn’t believe this team has any unique disadvantages.  


With a tough loss in week one vs. Jefferson, 21-0, the team didn’t look like themselves. The offense was not in rhythm and it was pretty sloppy on the offensive side. While the defense was not doing well, they were putting in a much better effort than the offense.  The Highlanders didn’t look like they were pumped up or excited to play that day.


Then the team took a complete 180 turn when the Highlanders took on Vernon, a game that ended at 40-23.  This game turned out to be a ball game for quarterback Dylan Connors. Connors had three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns. Casey Fagan caught two of those touchdown passes while Xavier Gerety caught the other.  The defense played solidly as well, coming up with an interception from Dylan.


The next game ended with a close loss to Passaic Valley, 27-20, the team in the first quarter started off ok when they scored first. But when Passaic scored, the team took a mental hit and slowed down a lot. In the second half, though, after a half-time pep talk from Coach Maz, the team had some life in it.  Sadly, at the end, the team didn’t end up on top.


A nail-biter of a game against Paramus showed the Highlanders finishing it out with an amazing comeback in the 4th quarter, scoring 20 points in 6 minutes. The team looked rusty in the beginning of the game, but after another inspiring speech from Coach Maz, they pulled out a comeback with Joe Palminteri scoring two rushing touchdowns and Dylan Connors scoring the game sealing touchdown on a 68-yard run. 


The team started out average, but has high hopes in the upcoming season.  The coaches and team would like to finish out the season going 6-3,the first time that would have been accomplished since 2004. But, they have a tough matchup vs North Plainfield on Thursday, November 5. Let’s see what they can do! Go Highlanders!