2021-2022 Football Rewind: The Panthers bounce back for their first normal season since 2019


Photo Credit: Simon Toffell

by Liv McCorry, Freelance Writer

The long-awaited Friday night lights came back this September for another football season. Students packed the stands from top to bottom, in coordinated themes every week to support our very own Panthers. The boys geared up for an exhilarating season, filled with newly formed bonds, amazing wins, and celebratory shouts and cheers.
After the experience of an unprecedented season last year, the Panthers came back with their claws out. This year’s football team, led by captains Andrew Sara, Mike McCarthy, and Nolan Clark, were ranked third in the North Jersey Liberty League and made it to the first round of playoffs. This season, the boys were able to be together again after the long, messy road of Covid that ravaged last year’s sports seasons. So, upon the conclusion of this turbulent season, I took it upon myself to ask several football players in grades 9 – 12 along with Coach Kurz himself about their experiences during the first “normal” season since 2019.
Coach Kurz could hardly contain his satisfaction when asked about the progress of his athletes this season. The Glen Rock Panthers were the underdogs this season and, after falling behind, pulled through and reached their goal of making the playoffs. Coach Kurz expressed the pride he had in his athletes with their come-from-behind victories over Pompton Lakes and Lyndhurst.
“Our players always inspire me. I often say that I learn a lot more from them than they learn from me. This is a group of seniors that I will never forget and I want them to know how much I appreciate their efforts and the way that they represented our program with class over the past four years,” Coach Kurz said.
Luckily for the freshman players, they got the experience of a semi-normal season for their first year without the fear of getting quarantined looming over their heads. Freshman kicker Michael Flaccavento, who received honorable mention from the NJIC’s Liberty Division during his very first year as a football player, said “The coaches this year made me fall in love with the game and make me want to work harder in the upcoming season.” Flaccavento also noted that the coaches, captains, and other players provided a really great atmosphere which enabled him to improve and grow as a player.
For the sophomore players, this was their first official High School season with some semblance of normalcy due to the ticket limit last year and the absence of the student section. “The student section was electric and they made the games so much more fun with their constant chants,” said sophomore LB Jack Hattersley. Hattersley also explained that this season was all around, a much better experience for him than last year and that his confidence truly skyrocketed. His most important piece of advice that he could impart to the younger players is “to be patient and ready you never know when the team is gonna need you.”
For the veteran junior players, their freshman year season went as expected, though they were thrown into the chaos of COVID last season. However, that didn’t stop them from seeing the true meaning of the sport. Junior RB – LB Cole Kazanjian reflected: “It’s not just about a ball on a field… it’s about the team and the family that you spend 6 hours on weekends and 4 hours on weekdays with. It’s about the support we get from everyone.” Both Kazanjian and LB Owen Litvany expressed that they used the time during the off season to compensate for their lost time last season.
“For a start we were able to pretty much have a full summer to train. We hit the weights early on and throughout the summer, however the majority of the time spent training this year was compensation for missed time last year (covid),” Litvany said. Litvany’s absence from the field due to his injury was certainly noticed not only by his teammates, but by his coach as well.
No doubt, the seniors felt that the close of their final High School season was bittersweet. Captain Andrew Sara expressed his gratitude for his coach throughout his four years.
“Coach Kurz has taught me so many morals and acted as a father figure in my life… I was able to become a disciplined student-athlete with the guidance of Coach Kurz.” Sara also explained how much he will miss putting on that Glen Rock Football uniform. Captain Nolan Clark stated that there was a high level of camaraderie between the players.
“Last year we were only together as a team in practice so it made it harder to build the camaraderie that is normally forged throughout summer practices and other events,” the Brown University Football Commit said.
The seniors this year expressed how thankful they were to have built strong bonds with the rest of the team. When asked if he had any advice for the younger players, senior RT Nick Robertson said: “I would probably tell them too to not take any of the time with the team for granted. 4 years goes by really fast, and after that you’re gonna miss it a lot.”
The 2021 season was a successful one, filled with bonds, camaraderie and all around teamwork, and the ability to be together again is what helped that. And according to the football players, the biggest key to playing as a team is TRUST.