Bill Campi spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach to Nick DeStefano at Weehawken High School.
When DeStefano took over the vacant position of vice-principal in the district, it forced him to relinquish his coaching duties – and opened the door for the young and energetic Campi to take over the program.
Although his surname may say differently, there’s nothing campy at all with Campi. He’s strictly business and has his finger on the pulse of his very young football team.
Campi is a native of central Jersey, a product of the famed Hunterdon Central football factory. That school has produced at least 20 major college products over the years. One of the most currently famous Hunterdon Central grads would be Jason Cabinda, whose exploits were prominently featured on the recent HBO docu-series “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the Oakland Raiders.” Cabinda and his mother were shown weekly. Cabinda was cut by the Raiders at the end of training camp, but was picked up by the Detroit Lions, where he remains today.
So Campi comes from a solid football background. It wasn’t like an outsider was brought in to take over the Indians.
“The kids have known me the last two years,” said Campi, who said he always wanted to have the chance to be a head coach. “I’ve known some of the kids since they were freshmen. I think I have a good rapport with the kids. We have good camaraderie and I think the locker room is showing that right now.”
Campi promises that the Indians will be a different looking defensive unit. Every down, there could be a different defensive formation and look.
“Defensively, I think we’re a little more diverse,” Campi said. “We’re going to make changes that best fit our personnel. We’re going to try to put the kids in the right positions and see that happens.”
On offense, Campi certainly has a unique touch to his squad.
“I like to call it, ‘complexly simple’,’’ Campi said. “We have a couple of good athletes that we’re going to try get out in space. We’re going to give them the opportunity to make plays.”
Junior Sean Guerriero (5-10, 165) is the quarterback. Guerriero has huge shoes to fill, replacing the Indians’ do-everything signal caller Jimmy Lopez, who masterfully called the signals for the Indians for two seasons.
“He’s a good kid who works hard,” Campi said of Guerriero. “He just has a lack of varsity reps in practice. He’s had some moments where he’s in command. He has a good arm and is a good north-to-south runner.”
Derek Mejia (5-9, 170) is a junior running back. Campi likes Mejia’s grit.
“He’s a tough kid,” Campi said of Mejia. “I’m going to look for him to take more of a leadership role. I want him to take charge. He’s a pretty good athlete who is doing a nice job so far. He just has to keep plugging away.”
Junior Andrew Ortiz (6-3, 180) is one of the Indians’ wide receivers.
“We’re expecting Andrew to take a bigger role this year,” Campi said. “He’s had a nice [training] camp and I expect him to help us out.”
Senior Chaz White (5-10, 170) and Moses Morales (5-8, 165) are two other receivers who have to be leaders on this team, considering they have only a handful of seniors. Morales has been a basketball player at Weehawken. He’s now taking the plunge and giving the pigskin a twirl.
The offensive line is young, with only one senior, namely guard Andres Gonzalez (5-11, 215), who has been a starter the last three seasons.
The rest of the line consists of strictly juniors. Tackles J.J. Santos (6-1, 190) and Tristan Fitzgerald (5-10, 165), guard Giuseppe Salandra (5-9, 195) and center Hector Murillo (5-10, 170) have the duty to protect Guerriero.
The defense features most of the offensive personnel, just turned around to play on the other side of the ball.
The Indians will play a 3-4 base formation. Santos is the nose guard, with Gonzalez and Salandra at defensive ends.
Fitzgerald is the middle linebacker. He is a solid football player who stands out when you watch. If you happen to catch Weehawken in action this season, you will notice Fitzgerald – guaranteed. The other linebackers, called the “Will” and “Mike” positions, are Murillo and junior Shane Epstein-Pettullo (5-10, 165).
The cornerbacks are Mejia and sophomore Kenyon Jones (6-0, 160). The youngster Jones can flat out fly. He’s that quick.
The safeties will be a rotation of Guerriero, Ortiz and White.
Campi has one obstacle that the team has to handle.
“It’s the mentality,” Campi said. “We’re not going to do anything half-assed. We have to have expectations that we will improve this season.”
The Indians were 2-6 last season, but have more guns this year. The Indians opened this season last week with a 28-0 loss to Wallington. They travel to Wood-Ridge Friday night. Obviously, it’s a tough schedule.
“I voiced my concerns with the kids,” Campi said. “The kids have bought in and I can see that with their dedication and their actions. They seem to be up to the challenge. We can’t have the ‘Same old Weehawken’ mentality because that just leads to ‘Same Old Weehawken’ results.”
After that session, Campi went out to address his team once again. He’s got a finger on the pulse.
“At the very least, we’re making better men,” Campi said. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com