Bogota wants to get back to playing the brand of football that opens eyes around North Jersey.
That was the Bucs’ hallmark during the last stint in which they employed an alumni coach. Dan Sabella (Class of 1993) guided them to a 39-6 record over the final four years of his tenure (2001-06), which started off around .500.
Brian Appleton (Class of 2005), an all-league lineman as a player, enters Year 2 as coach off a 4-6 campaign. That win total was double what Bogota had produced in each of the previous three seasons.
“I’d like to win more than four games, obviously,” Appleton said. “We have one less game this year because we open up a week later, so it’s going to make it a little more difficult.
“But I’d like that winning percentage to keep tracking upward, and hopefully surprise some people.”
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The Bucs did a bit of that when they hosted Wednesday’s South Bergen Shootout and won four of seven games in the 7-on-7 format. Rising senior Dayval Chimilio, a converted running back, ran the offense at QB and made plays on both sides of the ball, as did rising junior tight end/linebacker Ashanti Caviness.
“We have the skill positions,” Appleton said. “But we’re only going to go as far as our line is going to take us.”
Bogota stood out as one of North Jersey’s small-school powers in the 1990s and 2000s. It reached three sectional finals in the former decade and two in the latter, going 12-0 en route to winning the 2006 North 1, Group 1 championship under Sabella.
Since then, the Bucs have finished at or above .500 five times and made the playoffs twice, though neither has occurred since 2014.
From 1976-2009, they tallied seven-plus wins 16 times in 32 years.
Battling low numbers is a given in Group 1. A big graduating class gives way to a group that was mainly sophomores and freshman last fall and only returns three seniors.
Inexperience took its toll in Appleton’s first year, as the Bucs battled through a third consecutive 0-6 start. The installation of a new offense was a factor, and the coach pointed out, “If you look at the scores, outside of a couple games, we were right in all of them.
“Hopefully we can overcome those same situations this year and win that tight game.”
In general, the goal is to keep progressing in the right direction. Making greater headway in a competitive NJIC Patriot seems to be the next logical step.
“Last year, we took a step forward – we won our first [division] game in three years, beating St. Mary’s at home under the lights,” Appleton said. “That was a big one for us.”