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High School Football comes back to Glen Rock


When school opened this fall, with the coronavirus still very much a threat, students in Glen Rock were able to choose whether to attend in person or stay at home and learn remotely. But as New Jersey tries to get back to some semblance of normalcy, high school sports in the state will be played this fall. Volleyball and gymnastics, which are played indoors, were shifted to the spring, but outdoor fall sports – football, soccer, cross country, field hockey and girls tennis – will be played in their regular season, though their seasons will start later than usual.For Glen Rock High School, the football season is set to begin next weekend, with the Panthers opening up Friday, Oct. 2, at home against New Milford. Under the state’s revised schedule, teams are projected to play a shortened season, with six regular season games, and with no state playoffs. But head coach Jim Kurz, who is entering his 12th season leading the Panthers, is just happy to be playing at all.“We’ve just got to worry about the basics,’’ Kurz said. “We’re able to practice and play, and we’ll do this as long as we possibly can.’’With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing people to wear facemasks and to socially distance from one another, summer football practice was very different. “Very socially distanced, players were spread out, but we found a way,’’ Kurz said. “And that’s what our theme is this year: Find a way. If you want to be a winner in anything – in life – you’ve got to find a way. You can’t worry about excuses or circumstances. You have to find a way – within the rules – to get it done.’’Kurz said the league to which Glen Rock belongs, the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference (NJIC) has several contingency plans that include shortening the season even more, or changing schedules if one or more schools is forced to suspend play because of the coronavirus.   On the field, Glen Rock will be a young team in 2020, having graduated 18 seniors from the team that went 5-4 and lost, 28-27, to Newton in the first round of the playoffs last year. Seniors Ty Scherer, Tommy Callahan and Ryan Burstiner were elected captains, and they will have to lead a squad that has 12 seniors and will feature contributions from a talented and deep sophomore class, led by running back Hayden Yuzon, who burst onto the scene as a freshman kickoff returner in 2019. Running back/defensive end Aiden Burkhardt and running back/linebacker Owen Litvany will be major pieces on the varsity this season, as will running back/linebacker Luke Famularo.Scherer returns at quarterback, after he took over in the second game of last season. According to MaxPreps, he threw for 1,035 yards, completed 58.5 percent of his passes, and threw four touchdowns and one interception. He ran for 409 yards and 10 touchdowns. “Anytime you can return a starting quarterback, at our level, it’s impressive,’’ Kurz said. “It doesn’t happen often. Having Ty back is great, not only because of the fact that he has experience, but he has leadership and toughness and smarts.’’The 6-2, 180-pound Callahan (14 catches, one touchdown as a starting receiver in 2019) is a vocal leader, Kurz said, and should be a dominant weapon on the field.“We’re going to have to find ways to get him the ball,’’ Kurz said.The offense will look different than in past years because Kurz has changed it up and will be using two running backs now, as opposed to the single back Glen Rock used for 20-plus years. Injuries at the end of the season last year led the team to using a two-back system, and junior Andrew Sara emerged as a devastating ballcarrier (team-leading 493 yards, four touchdowns). This year, Kurz will team Sara with Yuzon, Burkhardt, and sometimes Litvany in the backfield.The offensive line will need some rebuilding after losing three starters from last season. But the 6-2, 230-pound Burstiner and 6-1, 260-pound junior Nolan Clark return. Seniors Ed Males (6-3, 250) and Angelo Piazza (5-11, 205) will be expected to step up.The defense will be led by defensive end Clark (three sacks in 2019) and inside linebackers Sara (team highs in tackles, with 61, and interceptions, two) and Litvany. Callahan and Mike McCarthy (who doubles as a receiver and backup quarterback) will be playmakers for the Panthers at outside linebacker.Attending games will be different for spectators. Attendance at outdoor events in the state is limited to 500, which for high school football will not include the teams, cheerleaders and officials on the field. That means crowds will be less than usual for Glen Rock games.“It might look a little different,’’ Kurz said. “Everyone’s going to be spread out. It’s going to be interesting. This is new to all of us.’’

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