Clifton Mustangs
Clifton_CardBy Angela Daidone

Clifton coach Ron Anello is ready for a new day in the sun.

Player discipline issues and Anello missing a portion of last season due to neck surgery led to the Mustangs struggling last season. The team finished with a 4-6 record and learned an important lesson.

“The kids found out that no one, not the players or the coaches, is above the program, and we had a tough time,” Anello, who is in his seventh season at Clifton, said. “But we won our last three games and we’re pretty excited to get going again.”

The team is experienced, but young — there are only 15 seniors on the 68-member team. Anello hopes that experience will give his players an advantage over their opponents this season.

“We have youth on our side,” Anello said. He’s counting on that youth to serve the team well.

“We have kids who got a lot of [playing] time last year so they know what’s expected of them,” Anello said, whose team will compete in the newly formed Big North II Conference, which includes Teaneck, Fair Lawn, Passaic, Eastside, and Kennedy.

Pat Ferraro is one of those players Anello expects to be a team leader. The junior quarterback, a three-year starter, is a stabilizing force for a team that lost a big chunk of its offense to graduation and Anello’s no-nonsense approach to coaching.

Anello is confident Ferraro will be successful this season.

“He knows the game. He’s ready every time he steps on the field,” Anello said. “He’s got a solid game and he works hard.”

In previous seasons the team’s roster was quite large, sometimes topping out between 90 and 100 players. Anello said that because this year’s team has 68 players only four Mustangs will play on offense and defense: guard and tackle David Ricca, offensive and defensive tackle Tom Trommelen, fullback and linebacker Angelo Minuche, and halfback and safety Joe Chiavetta.

“Our expectations are always high here in Clifton,” Anello said. “We were a state champion in 2006 and conference champion in 2008, so we’re ready to get back there again,” Anello said.

Anello said the team has had to already overcome some injuries this season, including three players being out with possible concussions. A new state rule mandated that these players wait 12 days before returning to the field.

And the Mustangs are lacking at certain positions, but Anello said a late summer quad scrimmage helped “shake things out.”

“The whole focus is to see who is game ready by the time we start the season,” Anello said. Last season is where it belongs, in the past. “It’s behind us. My goal and my philosophy is that we start fresh and fight the good fight each game.”

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