Since Zampella took over the head coaching duties at his alma mater in 2012, the Hawks had not posted a losing record, compiling a 33-19-1 mark over that span, including an impressive 10-2 mark and a trip to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 championship game in 2015.
So when the Hawks jumped out to a 4-2 start, it looked like it was a typical Zampella-coached campaign.
But then disaster struck. The Hawks lost their last four games to finish an uncharacteristic 4-6 and Zampella had his first losing ledger.
It certainly didn’t zap Zampella of his endless energy and tireless approach, but it certainly set him back a bit.
“It was definitely a motivation to bounce back this year,” Zampella said. “We didn’t live up to potential last year. We just didn’t finish well. I was a little upset and embarrassed about the way things turned out last year. We had to focus on doing the little things, have more of an attention to detail. If we do the little things right, then it will show up on the scoreboard. We needed total discipline in everything, both on and off the field. We had to do things the right way.”
One of the players who does things correctly is senior quarterback Johnathan Bates (6-0, 180), who is a four-year starter for the Hawks as their signal caller.
Bates, a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree, is a big-time performer who will play college football somewhere next fall.
“He’s a leader,” Zampella said of Bates. “He helps the rest of the kids with his approach. He’s not going to panic when things don’t go well. He knows how to rally everyone else. I’ve put a lot of trust in him. He’s also very bright. He’s been an honor student for the last three years. I think he’s going to have a good year for us. He does all the right things all the time.”
The top running back is senior Hasan Dominick (5-10, 215), who is also a very good team player.
“He’s been with the varsity for four years, so he knows what to do,” Zampella said. “He’s the heart and soul of this team. He’s started with Bates for four years. He’s a tough, physical, hard-nosed running back. He’s also an honor student.”
Junior Jaheir White (5-9, 165) might be the player to watch in the Hawk backfield.
“He has excellent speed and toughness,” Zampella said. “He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. He’s the most explosive kid we’ve ever had.”
Zampella said that White has been clocked at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
“He has incredible speed,” Zampella said. “He’s also a good receiver coming out of the backfield.”
Sophomore Anthony Posey (5-10, 160) adds good depth to the backfield. Posey also can run.
Junior Isaiah Decias (5-7, 160) is a slot receiver.
“He’s also a big-time threat every time he touches the ball,” Zampella said.
Sophomore Amarrie Bolden (6-2, 170) is a player with a world of talent.
“He definitely has [NCAA] Division I potential,” Zampella said. “He has good size and speed and catches the ball well.”
Seniors Stephon Payne (5-11, 175) and Donnell Adams (5-11, 170) are also capable pass catchers.
The tackles are senior Jayden Rolling (6-5, 350), who has already given a verbal commitment to Villanova, junior Juwan Jones (6-2, 260) and sophomore Anthony Dantzler (6-3, 305). The trio of talented tackles will juggle playing time there.
The guards are senior Curtis Raeford (5-9, 250) and sophomore Luis Galarza (6-1, 240). There are three people battling for time at center, with juniors Ernest Vidal (5-8, 200), Sebastian Rivera (6-1, 300) and sophomore Joshua Ruiz (6-2, 265) all slugging it out to snap the ball to Bates.
Defensively, the Hawks will go to Galarza at defensive end, along with senior Nasim Owens (6-2, 190). The defensive tackles are Raeford and junior Anthony Jones (5-11, 230), who is a big-time play maker on the defensive line.
The linebacker corps features some excellent talent, especially sophomore Christian Rodgers (5-11, 200).
“He has a lot of potential,” Zampella said. “He’s a fast, physical linebacker.”
The other linebackers are Payne and Dominick, who made Hudson Reporter All-Area last season.
“He makes all of our defensive calls,” Zampella said of Dominick. “He roams sideline to sideline making plays. He’s a good physical presence.”
The cornerbacks are junior Naseem Ibrahim (5-10, 165) along with White and Decias.
The safeties are Adams, Bolden and junior Kiye Smith (6-2, 175).
The Hawks were slated to begin their season Sept. 1 against Cardinal O’Hara of Philadelphia in Philly. They play their first home game Sept. 6 against West Catholic of Philadephia at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium at 6 p.m.
Needless to say, Zampella is counting on better results in 2018.
“I like our leadership,” Zampella said. “I like the way they play together. Some of these kids have the potential to be very good. They need to continue to improve and continue to pay attention to discipline and to detail.”
If the Hawks can stay away from penalties and turnovers, which plagued them a year ago, and stay away from catastrophic injuries, then they could be in the hunt once again for an NJSIAA playoff berth this season. – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.