By Sean Farrell / Record Sports Dept.
Becton could be the sleeper of the 2019 football season.
The Wildcats are often overshadowed by their bigger neighbors to the north and fell off the radar in 2018 with a 3-6 record. But recent history shows that Becton is due for a turnaround year, and a more experienced lineup makes that a real possibility.
This season, the Wildcats have only three seniors to replace.
“We’re definitely more confident than we were last year,” coach Jack Maher said. “Last year, we knew we would take our lumps, without a doubt.”
While Becton finished below .500 for the first time in 14 years, it can take some positives from the rebuilding project. The Wildcats should be better in the trenches after starting four new players on the offensive line and three on the defensive side.
The big storyline will come under center, where the Wildcats lost their No. 1 quarterback to a transfer. Joe Crifasi, an athletic 6-foot-3 junior, moves from wide receiver to take over the offense.
“We call him Eli because his facial expressions never change,” said Maher, referencing Giants quarterback Eli Manning. “If he throws a touchdown pass in our 7-on-7 or if he throws a pick, it’s the same face all the time.”
Crifasi will line up next to his older brother James, a speedy running back who was banged up at times last year. Cencir Bacote is another agile back and wide receiver Michael Failla should stretch out the defenses. Those players should have more time and space with more stability on the line for Becton.
Two-way lineman Johan Alcantara is receiving college interest and may be the team’s best player. Sophomore George Kasper is seen as another difference maker up front, while Dylan Caughey, Jason Taylor and Marcus Duran all return on defense.
Becton is one of the most consistent Group 1 programs, with winning records in 10 of the last 12 years. The Wildcats have eight sectional championships, most recently winning in 2003.
Maher has maintained that reputation with a 21-17 record through four seasons. He won one division title in that span.
Becton faces an uphill battle in its own league. It shares the Meadowlands Division with two returning sectional champions, Hasbrouck Heights and Butler, both fresh off of 10-plus win seasons.
With Cresskill on the regular-season schedule as well, there is little room for error.
The Wildcats may be the underdog in two of their first three games, so their resilience will be crucial.
Becton can vie for a .500 record (or better), but it comes down to how well it adjusts to a new quarterback and the move to a 4-4 defense.
Maher likes the toughness throughout his program and the camaraderie shown by the current group. With a more veteran lineup, the Wildcats should be better equipped to handle in-game adversity.
“This year we have a lot of hard workers,” Maher said. “We have leadership.”