The Knights, coming off a 10-1 season, are now ensconced for the next two seasons with Group 5 powers such as Montclair and a Non-Public, Group 4 in Seton Hall Prep, battling in one of the state’s more challenging divisions.
“It’s an enormous challenge, and maybe the biggest challenge we've faced
as a football program, but the kids and the coaches are excited by the challenge as well,” said Chris Benacquista, West Essex’s fourth-year head coach.
“The move up into the SEC-American, which I consider
one of the best divisions in the state, is a whole new territory for us
in that we will be meeting a few major programs we've never faced before.
But, when you talk about a Seton Hall Prep or a Montclair coming to Travis Field, it’s really going to be an event for our school and communities,
and incredibly exciting and energizing for our football program.”
West Essex's fourth-year head coach Chris Benacquista realizes that there are big challenges ahead in rigorous SEC-American
Credit: Bill Allen
The Magliaros are veteran varsity football, basketball and baseball players at West Essex and have the type of experience that can set the tone for a somewhat green squad in terms of varsity reps.
Dom Magliaro was a big playmaker for West Essex on both sides of the ball in 2013
Credit: Glenn Kross
“Luke is an athletic player at quarterback and has really developed
his throwing ability during our summer 7-on-7’s,” said Benacquista.
“We had a scrimmage with Randolph and Scotch Plains
and he passed for more than 140 yards, which is a great sign moving forward.”
West Essex's Marc McDonald (42) is a superb two-way performer for the Knights as they look to reload during first season in the SEC-American
Credit: Glenn Kross
Other key players to watch include cornerback-wide receiver Michael Panzarino and wide receiver John Agolia.
On the very plus side for West Essex is the fact the program continues to attract great numbers with 84 players in the upper three grades this fall including 26 seniors. There are also 25 freshmen out for that team.
“We feel we have the depth in numbers to compete at a high level,
and I think it’s a tribute to the commitment our kids have
to the football program and the stability of the coaching staff
that we continue to have such outstanding numbers,” said Benacquista.
“We’re fortunate that we still have some strong senior leadership
and we feel we can groom a number of kids to fill some of the key positions.
The competition in practice and in scrimmages has been outstanding, and our kids simply come to play each and every day.”
- West Essex won the 2011 playoff title in North 1, Group 2 in Benacquista’s first season as head coach, defeating River Dell in the final at MetLife Stadium
- Benacquista, a former standout player at both Wessex and The College of New Jersey, was a longtime assistant to Dave Drozjock, who guided the Knights to five of their eight playoff titles (2001, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007)
- Michael Panzarino’s older brother, James Panzarino, graduated last spring after a fine baseball career at West Essex and will next play for Susquehanna
- Dom Magliaro returns as the team's punter and will also pick up the placekicking chores this fall.
West Essex's 2014 Regular Season Schedule
- Friday, Sept. 5
at Delaware Valley
19 Senator Stout Rd, Frenchtown
- Friday, Sept. 12
Home vs. Irvington
- Sept. 19/20
- bye weekend
- Friday, Sept. 26
Home vs. Central
- Friday, Oct. 3
279 Chancellor Avenue, Newark
- Friday, Oct. 10
at West Orange
179 Eagle Rock Avenue, West Orange
- Saturday, Oct. 18
at East Orange
344 Prospect Street, East Orange
- Friday, Oct. 24
Home vs. Seton Hall Prep
- Friday, Oct. 31
Home vs. Montclair
Woodman Field: Chestnut Street and Essex Avenue, Montclair
- Friday, Nov. 7
Foley Field: 3300 John F. Kennedy Drive, Bloomfield