Senior offensive linemen Jeff Yanez, Adrian Ferati, Turner Brennan and Mateusz Luniewski helped create the holes and Hunter Van Zant burst through them, giving the Boonton High School football team the distinction of leading New Jersey in rushing yards.
According to MaxPreps, the Bombers amassed 2,796 yards on the ground, an average of 399.4 per game, on the way to a 6-1 record and the SFC National Blue Conference Championship. Van Zant, a junior, accounted for 1,750 of those yards and crossed into the end zone an impressive 21 times.
Ferati and Danny Portas, the senior captains, provided outstanding leadership in a season marred by the unpredictability of the pandemic.
Another senior, Sean Tucker, was named the Morris County Special Teams Player of the Year for his outstanding kicking and long snapping.
Coach Bryan Gallagher feels that with the foundation that these seniors created, along with a hard-working group of rising underclassmen, the future for Boonton football is bright.
Boys Cross Country
Like everything else in 2020, the cross country season was different. Although the teams competed in most of the traditional meets, there was certainly a different feel to them. No crowds. Social distancing. Masks on when not running. No post-race mingling and congratulating.
The bus modifications certainly were unique. Limited to bringing the top seven to most varsity meets, the team was often split up and didn’t race as an entire team at the same time at the same location. Injuries also plagued the team this season and, except for the first couple of meets, the Bombers were not able to field their best team for much of the season. The boys final record was 4-5 but could have been much better.
Junior Alex Paulozzo was the team captain and, although he was not the team’s top finisher in a handful of the meets, there was no doubt that he was the team’s leader. He ran 19:15 this year and saved his best race for last as he shined at the state sectionals at Garret Mountain.
The surprise of the season was how well freshman Austin Hudak ran. Austin was consistently one of the top runners on the varsity and his time of 19:01.9 set the Boonton freshman course record at the Tourne Park, eclipsing the record held by Paulozzo. Austin was Boonton’s top finisher in two dual meets this fall.
Another surprise was the emergence of sophomore Ethan Smith. Smith impressed many and was running as the No. 2 man until an injury cut his season short. His 5K season best was 19:48.
The injury bug also affected sophomore John Henry Cartelli as a severe case of shin splints prevented him from training and performing at his peak. He bravely completed the season yet was unable to meet his own lofty expectations.
Juniors Jaheem Ali and Justin Holey rounded out the varsity squad. Both were consistent with their efforts and their times.
Girls Cross Country
Led by senior Mackenzie Zuercher, the 2020 Girls Cross Country team had a consistently good season. Running with only four girls, it was a season of individual performances and improvement. Once again, Zuercher led the way as the No. 1 finisher in all of the meets this season, running a 24:05 season best 5K and having her best race of the season at the state sectionals at Garret Mountain.
Junior Pragya Shrestha continues to be a bright spot on the team as she was consistently the No. 2 on the squad. Battling through an injury, she ran an impressive season best of 24:48 at Dover High School.
The surprise of the season was the success of freshman newcomer Elizabeth Zanca. Earning her first varsity letter, Zanca improved her 5K time by three minutes and ran a personal best of 25:13 at the Tourne.
Completing the team was sophomore Emily O’Day whose hard work and perseverance is inspirational.
Captains Marisa Wagner, Tara Gabelmann, Elaiana Rivera-Lagalla, and Isabella Viruet led the Bombers, who finished with a 6-5-1 record and a showing in the region state tournament quarterfinal with an unfortunate defeat in double overtime.
Exceptional play occurred all over the field. Pacing the team in goals was Bella Viruet (6 Gs, 1 A, 9 defensive saves). Elaiana Rivera-Lagalla was also a force on the field, scoring two goals and assisting on two. In addition to being awarded the MVP award, these two players also earned first-team All-Blue North Division honors.
Blazing the front line were Layla Coache and Maddie Errichiello. The midfield was commanded by Tara Gabelmann, Manar Bakir, and freshman phenom, Lila Maggio. This line was further supported by an all-star cast of defenders: Megan Wise, Marisa Wagner, and Mya Russo, as well as goalkeeper Savannah Spann. Ready to jump in at a moment’s notice were Isabella Morales, Katie Kulick, Brooke Hopkins, Tamara Kyle, Carole Quinones, Marylinn Lagos, and Marwa Sadaat.
“The leadership and camaraderie of this team was truly inspiring,” said coach Cindy Tserkis-Schlitt. “This group will be forever labeled one of the most coachable, dedicated groups in the program’s history.”
With the loss of seven seniors to graduation, four of them starters, next season will open the path for some new blood. Up-in-comers to look out for are Jacki Martinez, Haleema Rehman, Carmella Campanelli, and Jesley Rua. The cage is up for grabs, and there are three amazing keepers in the running: Izzy Barroso, Jaime Kaiser, and Tayla Szmak. There’s no telling who will take the lead, but it’s great to have such talent from which to choose. The 2021 season is expected to be a banner year for the Bombers.
The Bombers ended with a record of 4-8-2 in a very competitive conference. The season was highlighted by the team’s first state victory in eight years over Wallkill Valley and a victory over Villa Walsh, the first since the inception of the program.
“The girls really worked hard this season despite some of the challenges that they faced with the pandemic,” coach Pete Nosal said. “They showed both determination and grit to compete with any team they faced throughout the season. I am extremely proud of the way the team performed and the accomplishments they achieved.”
Senior Madison Kleinwaks and Danielle Vucenovic earned first team all-conference and all-county honors. Kleinwaks concluded her career as the all-time scorer with 53 goals.
Kayla Manna, a senior, and sophomore Ava Derr were named second team all-conference and honorable mention all-county. Mazzy Cirinelli was selected to honorable mention all-conference.
The boys soccer team, led by tri-captains Chad Durkin, Drilon Toska and Jonathan Shirley, posted a 6-6-2 record.
Toska was the leading scorer on the team with nine goals and three assists and he was followed by Damian Naumoski, a first-team all-county and all-conference selection, had five goals and two assists. Sophomore Emanuele Caltabiano led the team with four assists.
Durkin, also first-team all-county and all-conference, capped his four-year tenure as starting goalie with a total of 123 saves.
Toska gained first-team honors in the league as well as honorable mention all-county. Shirley was second team all-conference and honorable mention all-county. Joining Shirley on second team all-conference was Jason Barbosa. Emanuele Caltabiano was honorable mention in the conference.
The Bombers advanced to the sectional semifinals and lost to eventual champion Pompton Lakes in a shootout.
The team was led by senior Hailee Smentkowski at first singles, newcomer Anna Papp at second singles and Rachel Gamboa at third singles.
Nicole Cutaia and Allison Muttel comprised the first doubles team and senior Juliana DeCarlo and newcomer Addison Dicang played second doubles.
Hailey Castro, Valerie Ghnim, Adalia Edwards and Savannah Smentkowski rounded out the Bombers squad.