That is the number on the countdown clock in the Kelly Wellness Center at Don Bosco Prep. 16 days to the first day of the season for the Ironmen. And they are getting ready.
Practices. Drills. Workouts. Conditioning. Strength training. Film study.
“The clock reminds us everyday that the season is getting closer,” said Coach Dan Sabella. “We started at 100, now we’re at 16. It’s a lot more real.”
Don Bosco travels to Bellflower, California for their first game of the season on Saturday, August 31 against St. John Bosco. “They are an extremely high level program, one of the top in the country,” said Sabella. “It’s a great experience for our kids and for our program to take a trip like this. There are so many positives. We want to get out there and compete.”
Sabella is happy with the team’s preseason progress, noting that part of the process of being a new coach is building relationships with his team. “We are moving at a good pace, making strides, getting better every day,” he said. “We are all getting to know each other, and we have come a long way. We are all building a trust. We have to rely on each other, and the comfort level is there.”
The Ironmen play their home opener on Friday, September 6 against Gonzaga High School (Washington, D.C.) at Granatell Stadium. Although their first two games are against out of state teams, the Ironmen will play conference games against rivals Bergen Catholic, St. Joseph Regional, St. Peter’s Prep, and Paramus Catholic. “We play in the best conference in America,” said Sabella. “It’s a consistent level of competition that is as good as you’re going to get on a high school level.” Games against Pope John XXIII, West Orange High School, and DePaul Catholic are also on the Ironmen schedule.
Coach Sabella is counting on his upperclassmen, including 24 seniors, for leadership. “We have a veteran group, a solid senior class,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot in three years. But they are really hungry and motivated. We’re excited to make senior year a special one.”
Sabella knows the Ironmen need to capitalize on their strengths. “We definitely have a lot of experience on the defensive side of the ball,” Sabella said. “We have proven returning stars with a lot of ability. It’s a tough defense to drive on. Offensively we have have two big name running backs, exceptional players with the ball in their hands. Our younger offensive line continues to progress. Since June 14 we have only gotten better.”
The role of quarterback is still undecided. “We’ve been splitting responsibilities all the way through, and it’s a healthy competition,” said Sabella. “No matter who is named starter, we have two guys. Both will be prepared and ready to go.”
Sabella also knows that development is part of the program. “Staying healthy always helps, and developing some depth with your younger players,” he said. “And it’s a good, talented freshman class. It’s important to build a foundation for the future. It’s not just about 2019.”
Sabella’s other team, his coaches, are also working diligently towards this season’s success. “The coaching staff is a great bunch of guys to be around,” he said. “They are accepting of their roles and work extremely hard. There is a chemistry between the returning staff and the newer guys who have joined us this year.”
Coach Sabella is feeling at home at Bosco. “I am enjoying the energy and the culture,” he said. “It is a competitive environment on campus. Winning is expected. The staff, the students, everyone is behind you. This is the best time of the year.”
The Ironmen will host two scrimmages at Granatell Stadium, on Saturday, August 17th against Bethlehem Catholic (PA) at 11 a.m. and Mater Dei on Saturday, August 24th at 11 a.m.
16 days. Bring it on. Let’s go Bosco!