The Patriots of Secaucus High School, under the guidance of head coach Charlie Voorhees, have developed a program in the truest sense. They've nurtured and fine-tuned products from the fifth grade and Secaucus Recreation's fine Pop Warner youth program, run magnificently by Jason Elwell, all the way through high school.
Just how much does Voorhees have his finger on the pulse of the town's youth program?
"We're working on getting a few more fifth graders, but our sixth grade class is solid," Voorhees says with a laugh.
He knows now how cyclical the Secaucus football program is. One group of talented kids graduates, another follows, and then another waits in the wings. It's been that way for quite a while.
"We already know the top five players coming in next year," Voorhees said. "These kids are developed from when they're very young."
But perhaps the time has come for the Patriots to make that next step up the ladder when it comes to state playoff time.
In each of the last five seasons, the Patriots have had success in the regular season, qualifying each time for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs. And each time, that successful season came crashing down in the first round of the playoffs.
In 2003, the Patriots suffered a first-round loss to Hoboken. A year later, the Patriots were 8-1 when they went back to Hoboken, only to come away with a tough 19-13 loss. In 2005, the Patriots again had only one loss at the state playoff time and fell to Belvidere. A year later, the Patriots won their BCSL National league crown and were undefeated headed into the states, but lost to Verona.
And a year ago, Secaucus took a 7-1 record into the state playoffs and lost in a tough one to New Providence, 22-19.
They were all successful seasons, but all ending with a hard-fought loss in the state playoffs.
"It proves that the system is in place, but I think perhaps the expectations have to be a little higher," said Voorhees, whose team opened the 2008 season with an impressive 32-0 victory over North Arlington last weekend. "I think we truly have the ability to challenge for both titles [the BCSL National and the Group I state crown]. If we are really looking to get somewhere, other than being just on the map, we have to win one of these years. I don't know if we can continue to keep coming up short."
With three major senior leaders, the Patriots definitely have all the tools to make this a year to remember.
Leading the way is senior quarterback Lucas Litwin (5-9, 180), who had a breakthrough season a year ago, passing for more than 1,200 yards and rushing for 900 more, earning Hudson Reporter All-Area honors at quarterback.
"He's been phenomenal," Voorhees said of Litwin. "He throws it well and he's a great runner. He's also very strong. He knows how to win and that's the big thing."
Another key performer is senior running back/do-everything Bobby Roesing (6-1, 180), who could very well become the most versatile football player in the school's history. The latest in the line of great athletes from the Roesing family, following in the footsteps of older brother Eddie and older sister Cory, a former Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year, Bobby could be the best of the lot.
"No doubt about it," Voorhees said. "The potential is there for Bobby to have a great year."
The third key returning senior is fullback Mike Nunez (6-0, 210), who is just a physical specimen and workhorse.
"He is just ferocious right now," Voorhees said. "All three of our seniors are very good football players and can play anywhere."
The halfback duties are being shared by junior Joe Impreveduto (5-10, 185), senior Peter Delgado (5-10, 165) and junior Noah Mustafa (5-10, 165). Juniors Carlos Quinones (6-0, 210) and Alex Farinola (5-10, 180) are Nunez' backups at fullback. Junior Jayce Guilliani (5-9, 160) backs up Roesing at the wingback/flanker slot.
Seniors Luis Bolanos (5-9, 165) and Mo Elbouazizi (6-0, 165) and sophomore Matt Traynor (6-0, 165) share the duties at wide receiver.
There aren't many Group I football programs that have that much depth and talent in the skilled positions.
Along the offensive line, the Patriots feature one of the best two-way performers around in junior Betim Bujari (6-4, 285), who is already getting looked at by some major colleges. Bujari is joined at tackle by senior Omer "Turk" Karadavut (6-1, 285), who is also a handful in his own right.
Junior Mike Landi (6-0, 240) and senior Raheed Mohammed (5-10, 190) are the guards, with junior Igor Ivanovski (5-10, 190) at center. Junior Guisseppe Marzocca (6-2, 180) is the tight end.
Defensively, the Patriots utilize the 3-4 set, with Ivanovski and Karadavut at defensive ends and the imposing Bujari on the nose.
The outside linebackers are Landi and Mohammed, with Impreveduto and Nunez returning at linebacker. Nunez has been a three-year starter at linebacker for the Patriots.
The cornerbacks are Mustafa and Bolanos, with Roesing, an All-Area selection a year ago at defensive back, and Litwin (three interceptions a year ago) returning to their safety slots.
"We have a lot of good athletes," Voorhees said. "I think that's what sets us apart."
A few wins in the state playoffs this year will set this team apart from any other Secaucus team in the past. The time is now.