Saturday, July 1, 2017
By Richie 'Ballgame' Barton
NJS.com Staff Writer
Boys’ Sports Coach of the Year:
Nick Del Calzo, Hasbrouck Heights Football
In the 31 years that Del Calzo has been the head football coach at Hasbrouck Heights, the Aviators have consistently been a contender for league and section titles. However, the latter had eluded them for a decade coming into the 2016 season. With a new quarterback and some new faces in key places, the Aviators thought they would need time to jell and get into a rhythm. However, Del Calzo had the confidence that his team had the potential to be one of the great ones ever at Hasbrouck Heights and he proved to be right on target.
Del Calzo had his team conditioned to the max and focused on two things: Setting a tone at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter and having enough juice left in the tank to close out games when that time came. That scenario only popped up three times but they were in the Aviators’ three biggest games and they came away victorious in all three.
The Aviators never trailed in any of their first six games and won those games by a whopping average of 38.7 points per game until a showdown where the Aviators’ offense was finally held in check by fellow unbeaten Pompton Lakes in the inaugural NJIC Championship game. Del Calzo slowed the pace and relied on a defense led by Phil Miller and John Wexler. John Iurato, who scored the Aviators’ first touchdown, made up for a late fumble and Matt DiChiara broke up a fourth-down pass playas Hasbrouck Heights’ held Pompton Lakes scoreless in the second half of a 14-13 win.
However, it was another championship that the Del Calzo and the Aviators strived for. They wanted to finish the season and got that opportunity come December. After a hard fought win over Cresskill in the section semifinals, they went into MetLife Stadium in search of a trophy and a perfect season. In a strange coincidence, just like the last team Hasbrouck Heights team to win a section title and have a perfect season, the Aviators would have to go through New Milford to do it.
Del Calzo leaned early an often on his strong running quarterback Frank Quatrone to lead his team to victory. Each and every time Quatrone came through, saving his best for performance for his last in a Hasbrouck Heights’ uniform. He went for a career-high 275 yards rushing and three TDs in a 30-12 win that gave Del Calzo his third section title (1994, 2007).
Will Lynch, Pascack Valley Baseball
Under the helm, Lynch has guided his team to numerous league titles and even an rarity as a public school to win a Bergen County title by winning the tournament in 2010. However, the one title that eluded his program in that time was a state section crown. With a deep pitching staff and a balanced lineup, the Indians knew they had the chance to make a run even in a stacked North 1 Group 3 section. It was up to Lynch to convince them of just how good they could be.
Northern Valley/Old Tappan hit the Indians with a dose of reality when they got shutout on the opening day of the season. They bounced back nicely though by embarking on a 15-game win streak that included a win over the then No. 1 team in the state, St. Joseph Regional (Montvale) backed by two RBI days from Carson Weiss and Jack Devanna.
After falling to River Dell in the Bergen County quarterfinals, Lynch had to turn his team’s attention to winning the North 1 Group 3 state sectional tournament. With his pitching rotation lined up, Lynch relied on them to carry them through and that is exactly what they did.
Riley Weis and Jordan Issackedes did the bulk of the pitching, allowing just three runs over their first three state tournament games before the bats woke up in the section final against Morris Hills.
Carson Weis hit a grand slam as the Indians raced out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back to win via the mercy rule, 14-4, for the school’s first section title in baseball in over 50 years, finishing with a record of 22-5.
Jerome Smart, Teaneck Basketball
Anthony Yelovich, Glen Rock Hockey
Kevin Diverio, Don Bosco Prep Basketball
Jeff Remo, Mahwah Football
Kurt Hommen, Ridgewood Baseball
Pete Zisa, Fair Lawn Volleyball
Kevin Kirkby, Pascack Hills Baseball
Nick Marinello, Hudson Catholic Basketball
D.J. Nimphius, River Dell Football
Brian Dunn, Northern Valley/Old Tappan Football
Girls’ Sports Coach of the Year:
Melissa Landeck, Northern Valley/Old Tappan Volleyball and Softball
Coaching one high school sports program to prominence is tough enough. Doing it with two entirely differently sports in two different seasons is virtually non-existent nowadays. That has just been with Melissa Landeck has been used to though as the head coach of both volleyball and softball at Northern Valley/Old Tappan for nearly two decades.
In volleyball, Landeck has built one of the state’s powerhouse programs. But coming into this year there were some question marks after going undefeated winning the Bergen County, Group 3 state, and T of C titles in the fall of 2015. Having to replace four starters, Landeck and the Golden Knights had their work cut out for them.
Back-to-back three-set wins over rivals Northern Valley/Demarest and Ramapo gave the Golden Knights the confidence they needed. Senior Becky Chu and multi-dimensional junior transfer Madelyn Pulver split the setting duties and diversified the offense, which Landeck took full advantage of to lengthen her rotations and keep both players fresh.
That helped the Golden Knights cruise through the regular season until an unexpected hiccup against River Dell in the Bergen County Tournament semifinals snapped their 48-game win streak spanning two seasons. Landeck made sure her girls went right back to work even harder with a bigger prize in mind, repeating as Tournament of Champions titlists. They did just that with an epic three-set win over IHA to become the first public school to win repeat as T of C champs in 13 years.
Landeck has also seen plenty of success on the softball diamond at Old Tappan. Navigating through a perennially rugged North 1 Group 3 state tournament bracket has been a bug-a-boo for the Golden Knights under Landeck. But with senior All-American Julie Rodriguez leading the way and a supporting cast that emerged as the year went on, the Golden Knights peaked at the right time.
The fifth-seeded Golden Knights won a wild 7-6 game over Sparta to get a shot at top-seeded West Essex in the North 1 Group 3 semis. Rodriguez pitched a gem and freshman Cynthia Gordon ended a long at-bat with a bases-clearing double in the fifth to break the game open for a 5-0 win. While considered one of the best wins in school history, it would be mean nothing if the Golden Knights did not get the job done in the next game, the North 1 Group 3 final at West Milford.
Landeck, in her 13th year as the head coach for softball, got her team regrouped as they rallied from an early three-run deficit to pull out the win. Lindsey Germano brought home the tying and go-ahead runs with a single and Old Tappan tacked on three more runs in a six-run sixth inning for a 9-5 victory and the program’s first section title since 1981.
Jeff Jasper, Pascack Valley
With you think of girls’ basketball in New Jersey from its infancy in the mid-1970’s, it is impossible to think about with Jeff Jasper’s name rolling off the tongue first and foremost. His program at Pascack Valley has been the most successful in the history and his will to teach the game on a daily basis has never wavered even as he approaches a legendary 1,000-win mark for his career.
That work does not just come between November and March though. It is the off-season conditioning and the rugged summer schedule that his players have bought into and saw the fruits of that hard work pay off with an outstanding season.
It got off to a flying start with 16 straight wins, all of them by double-digits. After a shocking loss against Northern Valley/Old Tappan, a team the Indians had beaten by 34 and 33 in their previous regular-season meetings, in the Bergen County Tournament’s Round of 16, it was up to Jasper to make sure that his kept their heads kept and remembered just how hard they worked throughout the off-season to get to this point. He refused to take that chip off of their collective shoulders or let their confidence slip in any way.
They embarked on another 13-game winning streak, once again all by double-digits, which was capped by a 23-8 fourth quarter to erase a deficit in a 66-53 victory over Somerville that put the Indians into the Group 3 state final against a battle-tested Ocean City squad.
Pascack Valley took the lead late in the first quarter and maintained it throughout the game but Ocean City did not let them pull away. It marked just the second time during the season that the Indians were taken into the final minutes of a close game and they lost the first time. Jasper not only relied on his solid starting five but also got production off the bench from senior Shannon Culloo and junior Cerina Dunkel as the Indians held off a last-second tying shot attempt for a 48-45 victory that was Jasper’s 990th of his career and his sixth state title.
Dianne Furusawa, River Dell Volleyball
Tara Madigan, Northern Highlands Girls Soccer
Danny Brown, Saddle River Day Basketball
Jeff Horohonich, Immaculate Conception Softball
Karen McMahon, Saddle River Day Lacrosse
John Yselonia, Bergen Tech Tennis
Molly Jaffe, Park Ridge Soccer
Karla Mixon, Ridgewood Lacrosse
Courtney Carrelha, Mahwah Soccer
Chris Broking, Northern Highlands Tennis
River Dell’s Rachel Sorkenn scoring the game-winning goal in upset over IHA in the Bergen County quarterfinals. WATCH THE VIDEO!
After Sorkenn scored on a long shot to tie the game midway through the second half, one of the most clutch players in New Jersey saved her best for last. Taking a through ball from midfielder Julie McGovern, Sorkenn had a long touch on her first touch but outran the entire IHA defense to get off a left-footed shot from 12 yards that slid inside the far post with 1:57 to go for a 2-1 upset win over the No. 2 seeded Blue Eagles.
Best Concession Stand:
Ramapo High School
To be fair, I did not get to too many concession stands this year but Ramapo did have a nice selection. Being my true self, I tried just about everything they had and went home happy.
The Cowboy Crazies are generally in full effect, especially during big games or rivalry games. They come in full force, matching shirts, and they break out some funny chants during the those games. Always makes for a good atmosphere.
Worst First Pitch by a Guy With Cancer:
At a benefit game held in my honor to help with my fight against Ewing’s Sarcoma, I promptly let the crowd down by bouncing my ceremonial first pitch just before the plate. Ugh! I should have went with the fastball instead of the circle change (which is the actual pitch I threw).
Worst Barton Challenge Contestant:
I can’t even technically call it a challenge because I’ve been supposed to bowl against Sage, a bowler at Northern Valley/Old Tappan, for years now and she keeps ducking me. Don’t worry Sage, I’ll put on some bumpers for you if you get scared of how bad I’ll beat you.
Good ol’ Hank has been around the North Jersey sports landscape for as long as I can remember and always seems to be on the biggest of games in football, baseball, and softball. Not to mention a good guy and a class act on and off the field.
Best Northjerseysports.com Writer:
I’ve got to give it up to my man Cory. I’ve been basically out of action since late October and the big guy has picked up the slack by doing basically both his work and mine in terms of covering games. Would the articles be more readable and with better grammar with Richie Ballgame behind the keyboard? Of course! But I can’t do everything around here and I’ll finally throw the Big Cheese a bone with this award after he has finished second in this category every other year that its has been presented.