After two seasons as the head coach at Secaucus High School, Charlie Voorhees is certain of one thing: Expect the unexpected.
Like last year, when it was thought that the Patriots were earmarked to what appeared to be Bergen County Scholastic League and NJSIAA Group I state playoff glory. With a veteran team returning, it just seemed that all the pieces were in place for a great season.
But the Patriots stumbled somewhat to a 6-4 season. They made the state playoffs, but lost in the first round to Saddle Brook. The Patriots never contended for any league honors.
"I think we all just expected too much," Voorhees said. "I think people expected us to be too good."
That's not the case this season, when the expectations are a bit lower.
"We've kept it laid back," said Voorhees, who begins his third season. "I think people are picking us to be horrendous. But I think we'll surprise some people. We hope to have a feisty group. We have a lot of kids who have waited patiently for their turn to play. They're going to get their chance this year."
One of those getting an opportunity to play a new position is junior Justin Jinorio (5-8, 165), who was the team's starting wingback last year.
"We tried a few other guys, but Justin stood out," Voorhees said. "We put in a whole new offensive package just for him and his ability to run and throw. We're going to run a little option, a little Wishbone, a little run-and-shoot. We feel we can do all of those things with this kid. Justin's a special kind of player."
The backfield will feature senior John Tapia (5-10, 180), whom Voorhees calls "an excellent football player." Senior Ryan Mosca (5-8, 160) and junior George Krieger (6-0, 175) will share the fullback duties. Sophomore Kelvin Kemper (5-7, 165) and junior Mike Addeo (5-7, 155) will equally distribute the playing time at wingback.
Voorhees also has "the X-factor," which is the designation he's giving to senior receiver/do-everything Jamal Ford (6-3, 215).
Ford, who is also a standout basketball player, caught 20 passes and scored four touchdowns a year ago, but he'll do a lot more this season.
"Jamal has a lot of ability and he has a lot of what college coaches are looking for," Voorhees said. "He just had knee surgery over the summer and he's back playing already, wearing no brace. He just wants to play."
Senior Ted Bageorgos (6-3, 205) is the starting tight end. Voorhees thinks that Bageorgos will catch more passes than the eight he hauled in last season.
The offensive line is young, but possesses a lot of size and ability, especially sophomore tackle Austin Hinton (6-5, 265), who will receive his fair share of college scholarships when his time comes in two years. Sophomore Mark Calvanico (6-3, 320) will start at the other offensive tackle, giving the Patriots excellent bookend blockers.
Juniors Alex Smith (6-3, 255) and Beau Fitzgibbons (5-10, 215) will man the guard positions, with senior Dave Galleon (5-10, 215) starting at center.
On defense, Ford leads the way at outside linebacker, where he was flat out dominant at times last season.
Bageorgos and Smith will anchor the defensive line, along with seniors Rich Ryals (6-3, 285), Frank Zitzman (6-2, 200) and Frank Lanza (5-10, 200). Mosca and Galleon will play linebacker, along with Ford, who will simply be all over the field.
Kemper will man one of the cornerback slots, along with junior Pat Cocucci (5-10, 165) and a player with a very appropriate name for a defensive back, Steven Snuffer (5-10, 165).
"I hope to God he hits like a snuffer," Voorhees laughed.
Tapia and Addeo will play safety, along with sophomore Jeffrey Rennie (6-1, 155).
There is also something new about Secaucus football this season - lights. The lighting has been installed, but it is not known whether the Patriots will have any night games re-scheduled for this season.
"We've been talking about getting lights for a long time and it's what everyone wanted," Voorhees said. "It's already etched in stone that we'll continue to play Weehawken at night during Thanksgiving week."
Maybe this year, the game might have BCSL championship significance.