Ne­wark strug­gles in open­ing game

Yel­low­jack­ets fall to St. Marks, 27-6

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JON BUZBY JonBuzby@hot­mail.com The Buzz from the Hive will be posted on­line each Mon­day morn­ing dur­ing the high school foot­ball sea­son and also in Fri­day’s print edi­tion. It will in­clude some game anal­y­sis and ex­clu­sive quotes from Ne­wark High foot­bal

The open­ing game of any foot­ball sea­son has to end in ei­ther vic­tory or de­feat, with an un­of­fi­cial rule of thumb be­ing that the re­sult can set the tone for the re­main­der of the sea­son.

The Yel­low­jack­ets are hop­ing that last Fri­day night’s lop­sided loss is the ex­cep­tion to that rule fol­low­ing a 27-6 de­feat at the hands of St. Mark’s.

“Tough way to start the sea­son,” head coach Barry Zehn­der re­flected, 48 hours af­ter the fi­nal horn sounded. “St. Marks is al­ways a very well-coached team and if you aren’t ready in every as­pect, they will send you home un­happy. They beat us, no other way to put it. They de­served to win that game. They beat us in every as­pect of foot­ball.”

Sec­ond half let­down

Ne­wark trailed just 6–0 at the half and wasn’t play­ing to their full po­ten­tial, ac­cord­ing to Zehn­der.

“I was hop­ing we would come out and play with en­thu­si­asm and with con­fi­dence,” Zehn­der said.

St. Mark’s quickly doused any hopes of that, scor­ing on the open­ing drive of the sec­ond half.

“They grabbed all the en­thu­si­asm and con­fi­dence and never let us get it back,” Zehn­der said of the Spar­tans’ touchdown.

Ne­wark’s lone touchdown didn’t come un­til late in the game.

“Af­ter St. Marks put a cou­ple scores on the board, we chal­lenged the of­fense to reach down and find it in­side of them to put a drive to­gether,” Zehn­der ex­plained. “They did just that and gave us some­thing to build off this week.”

Some pos­i­tives

De­spite the loss, Zehn­der pointed to sopho­more Mele Stallings’ var­sity de­but as one of a few pos­i­tive mo­ments. Stalling missed much of last sea­son with a bro­ken wrist.

“He re­ally worked hard in the off­sea­son and we thought at times the growth he has made shined through,” Zehn­der said of the two-way player, who was se­lected by the coach­ing staff to be a “prac­tice cap­tain” for the game in recog­ni­tion of his out­stand­ing ef­fort in the off­sea­son and pre­sea­son.

Zehn­der was also pleased with a cou­ple of other in­ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers.

“I thought some young guys stepped up and showed the game lights weren’t too big for them and that we will be able to de­pend on them as the sea­son moves on,” he said.

Those play­ers in­cluded fresh­man punter Tabari Wright, who calmly fielded a bad snap and got the punt away. Stephen Casella also im­pressed the coach­ing staff.

“He showed us that he is go­ing to bat­tle and give ef­fort,” Zehn­der pointed out. “He hasn’t played much foot­ball in his life, and we have had to move him around to find where he can help us. The film showed us that he wants to be suc­cess­ful and wants to help his team.”

Af­ter miss­ing all of last sea­son with a torn ACL, Cameron Pad­gett started his first var­sity game at cen­ter.

“He had strug­gled at times in the pre­sea­son with the shot­gun snaps and it was a slight con­cern go­ing into the game,” Zehn­der ad­mit­ted. “He over­came those men­tal is­sues that of­ten ac­com­pany wor­ry­ing about your snaps.”

Plenty to work on

As you would ex­pect, Zehn­der ad­mit­ted that Ne­wark has plenty to work on af­ter its first real com­pe­ti­tion of the 2017 cam­paign. Scrim­mages show a lot, but real games tend to high­light weak­nesses in a much brighter light.

“We need to im­prove on ever ything,” Zehn­der said. “This loss was on all of us, start­ing with me. I have to put the play­ers and coaches in a bet­ter po­si­tion to win a foot­ball game. Our play­ers have to step up and take some own­er­ship for their mis­takes and es­pe­cially some of the lack of ef­fort we saw on film. But ul­ti­mately the head coach is re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing sure the play­ers and as­sis­tant coaches have a chance to suc­ceed. Af­ter a lot of self­e­val­u­a­tion, I didn’t do that in many cases.”

Bounc­ing back

“We talked af­ter the game about how ad­ver­sity shows the true char­ac­ter off a man,” Zehn­der said. “We will re­mind the team on Mon­day that half the teams in the state lost their first game. We only lost round one … we haven’t lost the fight.”

Ne­wark has an ex­tra day of prac­tice with this week’s game sched­uled for Satur­day. Zehn­der said the main ad­van­tage of the ex­tra day is that the coach­ing staff can now spend more time on things that oth­er­wise might only get five min­utes or so of at­ten­tion.

“We crank up prac­tice, we re­mind them of ex­pec­ta­tions and we coach them on how to reach them,” Zehn­der added. “Then we make sure we hold them to those ex­pec­ta­tions.”

Game day

Ne­wark will gather Satur­day morn­ing for a pregame meal of bagels, fruit, juice and some light food be­fore board­ing the bus for a 10:30 a.m. kick­off at Con­cord High School.

NE­WARK POST PHOTO BY DAVID MELLON

Ne­wark fell to St. Mark’s, 27-6, on Sept. 8.

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