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Football 2013: Warren Hills Regional High School – The Express Times

For the first time in a long time, the Warren Hills Regional High School football team is entering a season with a wealth of confidence.

After years of anticlimactic NJSIAA consolation games and sub-.500 records, the Blue Streaks, who haven’t had a winning season since going 6-5 in 2005, come into 2013 believing in their abilities.

Winning changes everything.

Despite going 5-7 overall, Warren Hills advanced to the NJSIAA North 2 Group 4 title game, losing 35-7 to West Morris at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium.

“There’s a little bounce in the step. There’s a level of belief in what’s going on,” sixth-year coach Larry Dubiel said. “Winning and doing a couple of things right goes a long way. We didn’t get to the promise land of finishing with the title, but we were close. There’s a feeling of conviction of commitment. We want to do better than we did. There’s not that slap in the face saying we’re going to be the doormat again. I think our kids came in in the past feeling good about what’s going on, but it was easy for them to give in when things got tough.

“I’m finding that through the end of last year and into this year, there’s a new mental toughness I’m feeling. I’m certainly challenging them for it, that’s for sure.”

Warren Hills was unable to get in any sort of rhythm last fall due to a rash of injuries to key players. The team never gave in, according to Dubiel, and hit its stride at the right time: playoffs.

Warren Hills, which ended the regular season at 3-6, was able to qualify for the NJSIAA playoffs per a new rule allowing teams under .500 with enough power points to earn a spot in the field. The Blue Streaks were 3-5 at the time of the postseason cutoff and earned the sixth seed in the eight-team bracket.

“I think our guys learned to stick to it,” Dubiel said. “They learned to not give in. We’ve always talked about that. I think it was a testament to them because we did have a lot of untimely injuries. As one person was coming back another was going out it seemed. Finally toward the end people were coming back and everybody was staying.

“Under the circumstances, the state said go ahead and play and we were able to take advantage of it.”

While the team as a whole is coming in with more confidence, so are some of its individual players. Senior fullback/linebacker Steve Cleaver matured during the wrestling season, according to Dubiel, and it’s why he was a clear choice as a captain.

Cleaver possesses all the intangibles as a leader — he’s vocal, leads by example, doesn’t take any opposition and is good at what he does, Dubiel said.

“I think there are a couple of players who wrestled last year and grew as people through that season,” Dubiel said. “We saw it with Steve in wrestling and we saw it in spring workouts. We saw it during the annual blue and white competition; he was all over the place.

“We said ‘Look, this kid is one of our captains, period.'”

WARREN HILLS

Conference: Mid-State 38 Mountain Division

Coach: Larry Dubiel (sixth season, 15-37).

2012 record: 5-7 overall, 3-2 division

Returning starters: Sr. WR/DB Tai Adetula, Sr. WR/DB Tyler Adams, Sr. WR/DB John General, Sr. WR/LB Stephen Brundage, Sr. OL/DL Ryan Witner, Jr. RB/LB Sint Van Solkema, Sr. OL/DL Tyler Maxwell, Jr. TE/LB John Kelly, Sr. FB/TE/LB Steve Cleaver, Jr. FB/DL Andrew Pacheco.

Key returnees: Sr. WR/DB Kahlil Lewis, Sr. WR/DB Esco Blaylock, Jr. RB/LB Justin Iaione, Sr. TE/DE Delroy Green.

Top newcomers: Sr. TE/DE Kevin Vander Horn, So. RB/LB Kurt Nemeth.

Home field: Warren Hills School District Stadium

Click here for the Blue Streaks’ schedule

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