Article by Jason Shulman
Hamilton Township, New Jersey—- Many were in shock to learn former head coach Tom Hoglen stepped down after an immensely successful 18-year stint with the Hornets, but the opportunity to take over the realm was something Hamilton West alum, Mike Papero, couldn’t pass up.
In fact, it became a dream come true.
Having originally played under Hoglen his senior year at Hamilton West, Papero served as the team’s offensive line coach the past 11 seasons where he mentions Hoglen as one of his biggest coaching influences.
Now, he has a chance to inherit a fundamentally sound group of returning veteran players in addition to an exciting nucleus of “up-and-coming” players who already have a narrow taste of success from last season as the Hornets’ finished 6-4 en route to winning the West Jersey Football League Valley Division Title.
We were very grateful to catch up with Papero, who discussed the preparation for his first training camp and how his team is handling the “adjustment period” of having a new head coach along with expectations this coming season.
Players such as junior tackle Zach Medina and senior linebacker Tolu Adeaga will look to not only continue making significant contributions on the football field, but both understand with the loss of several key players from last season, their roles as locker room leaders has substantially increased.
Medina insinuates how he feels a new sense of unity with a players coach like Papero, whom he’s worked with since his sophomore season, and expresses his enthusiasm for the new season that lies ahead.
He’s also noticed an increase in workload and how guys have been putting more effort in the weight room, all in preparation for a rigorous schedule against a few of the top schools state-wide.
For Adeaga, much has been the same regarding the new regime as his experience playing with Papero as a coach in previous years will help ease the transition and hardships that come with having to adjust to new schemes in a limited amount of time, especially on the defensive side.
Like Medina, Adeaga is grateful for how Papero has mentored him into not only becoming a better football player, but a better human being in general.
After a rough ending to last year in which the Hornets lost their season finale 26-0 in a Thanksgiving showdown against Steinert, this year has a rejuvenating feel to it.
Junior running back Kevin Boswell figures to play an extremely pivotal role in the offense once again for Hamilton West, as he’s coming off a breakout year in which he rushed for over 1,200 yards and proved to be capable of being a workhorse back in a controlled offense.
The time for Medina, Adeaga and the rest of the upperclassmen to win is now. The team is scattered with veteran leadership and talented players all looking to build off of last year’s improvements.
With the players’ newfound enthusiasm to continually progress under Papero, Hamilton West is poised to make a run at a more elevated goal than just winning their division title.
The Hornets will start their season on Saturday, August 24, hosting the Montclair Mounties. Here’s a link to the their entire schedule:
Returning offensive starters:
“We have four of our offensive linemen, they’ve all had at least [three] years with experience. We are returning our starting running back Kevin Boswell. He rushed for over 1,200 yards as a sophomore last year. We have all new guys outside at receiver, a new guy will be under center but we are bringing back a couple of our tight ends who both started as sophomores last year,” Papero said.
Returning defensive starters:
“Defensively we’re bringing a lot of guys back in our front seven. Quasean Lewis is our big-boy up front. We have two returning junior starters at defensive end and we have four linebackers coming back that I would put up there with anyone in the county,” Papero said.
Most Impactful 2018 roster loss:
“Dan Ornosky was in my opinion the best offensive linemen in the county, maybe even the area. He’s on his way up to Kutztown now. It’s hard to replace someone who is as dominant as he was, so that’s a big one,” Papero said.
Player to look out for in 2019:
There’s a bunch of guys I can talk about there. The two ‘Cronce” twins’ [juniors Chase and Christopher Cronce], one’s a linebacker/fullback, one’s a linebacker/tight end. I think they’re going to continue making names for themselves,” Papero said. “A big tight end named Isaac Young, a couple sophomores especially Andy Figueroa, Xavier Edwards, they’re going to be getting time right away for us.”
Player who will surprise in 2019
“We have someone named Jarod Stockton who is physical. His name isn’t necessarily well known as the other kids but I think he’ll be somebody to fly under the radar. I mentioned it once, [Andy Figueroa] has had an awesome offseason and we’re expecting great things from him,” Papero said.