Nutley Raider Football: New Coach, Same Passion For The Game
The varsity football team kicked off their 2022 season with an opening game against Bloomfield High on September 1. The new season came with illuminating questions revolving around the new head football coach, Joe Piro. Piro, presently Nutley High’s athletic director, is excited to take on this new role temporarily during the absence of Head Coach JD Vick.
Piro was a former Nutley Raider and was part of the 1988 state finals team. Before the player role, he was a waterboy for the 1982 Raiders. “I really came in on the ground floor,” he said. “So this kind of completes the whole spectrum here.” Football has always been his passion so he believes being out there coaching these kids is a privilege and an honor. Walking down the stairs of the Nutley Oval as a head football coach is very different from walking down the stairs as head of the athletic department, according to Piro.
Piro said he was a bit nervous before the first game of the season: “New lights, a first full football game in the Oval against Bloomfield, you know there was a little bit of extra added pressure that comes with being the coach so, yes, I was nervous. I was very nervous.”
As the season goes on, and changes are made, the players of the Nutley Raiders have shown to be very resilient since Piro stepped in as head football coach. Senior footballer William Jennings spoke about his thoughts about his final ride on the team. “It feels crazy how fast it went through my high school years and how I’m already in my senior year playing my last games of Nutley Football. Of course expectations according to the coaching staff are higher for me since I am a senior. Lastly, I don’t really have any accomplishments that really stand out, but I would say that playing football with the guys on my team is the only accomplishment I need.”
One change, of course, is the coaching style and how things are going to run as the season progresses. “I actually think it was a little bit of a welcome change. I have a much different style than Coach Vick and I think that they appreciated my style not to say that was wrong I'm just heading to appreciate my style as well.”
Overall, this season has been filled with ups and downs, wins and losses, but that’s just football. In the last two games, the Raiders have put up a total of zero points and have allowed a combined whopping 80 points. Following these two straight defeats, Joe Piro had to make a few things clear. “Here's the thing, we have a great bunch of kids that are very very resilient. In the end, you know we’ve fallen short because we're just not where we need to be, but they keep working and getting there all right so we haven't given up on them. They're not giving up on us. I mean we fought hard against Passaic Valley and West Essex, two very good teams. I thought that we should have fared a little bit better, but it just wasn't in the cards for us. We made some mistakes that we know that’ll hurt us, penalties and bad snaps and stuff that killed what we call Drive Killers. They recognize that but look, you want to be the team that must score two points in two games but we’ll get back on track this Friday night. I plan on driving a big offense, a very productive offense and you know we're going to keep grinding away. Fortunately, we have a great group of kids that don't know the word quit and that is looking forward to the remainder of the season."
The Raiders marched into Belleville and put on a show in a 28-8 victory and spoiled the Buccaneer's homecoming game and were sitting at 3-3 with a then .500 win percentage. That was until this past Friday night. Wayne Valley High School shut out the Raiders at the Oval by a score of 35-0. This was their second straight home loss, in which the Raiders were scoreless, which led to a then 3-4 record.
They say in sports, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. The Raiders traveled to Newark to take on Barringer High School and defeated the Bears, 42-21. The Raiders have now capped off a hard-fought season with a victory and finish their campaign with a 4-4 record. Although a postseason might not be on the table, regardless of the outcomes, the Raiders will compete in a tournament around Thanksgiving.