BY ANDREW GARDA
While the Montclair High School football team members are still wrapping their heads around head coach John Fiore’s sudden leave of absence due to an ongoing family matter, upon their return from the mandatory dead period from August 2 to August 6, they will see a familiar face at the helm in the person of Pete Ramiccio.
Ramiccio has been with the team since Fiores’ arrival in 2010, first as a backs defense coach, then as a co-defensive coordinator with longtime MHS player Jamie Bittner in 2014, before finally becoming the assistant coach in 2016 .
I actually came to Montclair a year earlier than John, but I was still the defensive coordinator at Fair Lawn my freshman year [in the district]said Ramiccio. So I did the leather-Montclair-coach-Fair Lawn thing. When John came in, I was able to get to the staff.
Ramiccio thanks John Porcelli, who was Montclairs athletics director at the time, for getting a foot in the door.
Coach Porcelli had a relationship with my AD at Fair Lawn, and he knew I was teaching in Montclair and put us in touch a bit, he said.
Before teaching at Glenfield Middle School and serving as a defensive coordinator at Fair Lawn High School, Ramiccio gained a lot of soccer experience at the collegiate level.
He started out as an undergraduate assistant at Syracuse University before coaching tight ends and wide receivers at Iona College, a Division I FCS school.
The connections Ramiccio puts on the table in terms of liaising with football staff at both the collegiate and high school levels will be a resource he can tap into as the season progresses.
Listen, you’re only as good as the people around you, right? he said. I am fortunate to not only have the network, but also the different personalities and coaching styles of all the people I have worked with.
With all the different ways to approach a problem, be it a game problem, practice problem, or number problem, Ramiccio knows he will benefit from the advice others can give.
It’s really very fortunate to have the ability to know, well, something in this part of the team is not going well [and] I know I can call this person, he said. Or if I had a practical problem, an organizational problem, then I know I can go this way. Or how do we arrange our meals or things like that? I know I could go [one] way, but it’s nice to have different opinions depending on what the problem might be.
Hell also has an experienced staff returning, filled with coaches who have been with the team for a long time. Bittner, Eugene Kline, Dan Roberts, Michael and Anthony Maffuci, Aubrey Lewis, Michael Kornegay and Henry Wilson are among the veteran coaches returning. With them comes a face that Mountie faithfully hasn’t seen since 2018’s Pat Leonardis, who takes over as the Offensive Coordinator.
Leonardis last worked with Charles Murphy in mid-2018, but made some real noise when he teamed up with Tarrin Earle, who led the Mounties to an undefeated season and section championship in 2017.
We were very lucky not only to have all the pieces, but also to bring back an important piece, Ramiccio said of Leonardis. He’s going to make the attack, which is a huge help. It allows us to maintain more continuity.
Another thing that will help the Mounties with continuity is that Ramiccio had the off-season program running for most of the spring and summer to begin with.
You know coach [Fiore] addressed his situation, so his presence in training was a bit rare, Ramiccio said. So he had already delegated a lot of things to me. I’ve been in the weight room every day, with the kids on the field until June and July.
That doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have to make adjustments. For example, the pace that Leonardis takes offense will be faster than under Fiore, but overall those adjustments will likely be minimal.
That will be a key to a successful Mounties season, given the difficulty of the schedule. Things get serious right from the start, when the Mounties take on East Orange at Rutgers SHI Stadium on Friday, September 3.
While fans may see it as a big test, Ramiccio sees it as a big opportunity.
They played a rival, played on a big stage, he said. We went to Rutgers. You know, it’s an exposure opportunity for the kids. And I mean, what better way to start the season than that?
While conditions are tough for Ramiccio and the Mounties, the interim coach is excited about the season and the chance to coach the state’s winning high school football program.
I am very excited and I feel very happy, he said. I’ve wanted to be a head coach for as long as I can remember. I wish the circumstances were maybe a little different. I hope everything is alright [with Fiores family].
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