Kean Football Looking For Another Winning Season in 2013
By: Carl Stoffers
Two years removed from a New Jersey Athletic Conference Championship, the Kean football team headed into this season with something to prove after a 2012 campaign that saw the Cougars register a mediocre third place finish.
Head coach Dan Garrett, already the most successful coach in school history, will look to extend his streak of seven straight non-losing seasons with a group he says is one of the best he’s ever coached.
“This is a special group of kids. They’re character kids. There’s no nonsense with this team. They practice hard, they play hard,” Garrett said. “It starts with recruiting. We recruit people who want to go to school. With people like that in your program, you can sustain. We have 20 seniors on our team, that says a lot. It’s a mindset here.”
Anchoring the offense for the 2013 Cougars are senior quarterback Christian Bailoni and senior offensive linemen Matt Kiefer, Mike Orlando and Darrin Love. Bailoni is looking to improve on an impressive 2012 season in which he logged at least 200 passing yards in four games and threw for 1,700 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Coach Garrett praised senior running back Sean McKee, who averaged 3.8 yards per carry in 2012 and rushed for 240 yards while recording three rushing touchdowns. McKee also caught three touchdown passes.
“McKee is a kid who works hard and has emerged as a leader for this team,” Garrett said.
Defensively, the Cougars will depend on senior defensive lineman Will Nahan, senior outside linebacker Matt Clerk and junior defensive back James Leavy. In addition to these veterans, Garrett and Defensive Coordinator Keith Migliorino are counting on a big contribution from an unlikely source this fall.
“LeRon Dillard. He’s a transfer from community college, and we’re really depending on him to help our defense,” Garrett said. Dillard hasn’t disappointed, logging 10 tackles and one interception in Kean’s first two games.
Picked to finish third in the NJAC preseason coach’s poll, the Cougars are off to a rough start, dropping their first two contests. Kean was beaten in the season opener at Albright College 30-14, then manhandled by nationally-ranked Mary Hardin-Baylor 34-7 in week two. In both games, the Cougars struggled in the second half, surrendering a combined 55 points after halftime.
“You want to do better any time you lose. I think the effort is there, but the execution wasn’t consistent. It just wasn’t good enough,” Garrett said. “We expect our players to execute at a high level. We review every play of every game, and we had maybe two clips from the Albright game where all 11 guys were doing their job. We look at it as a teaching moment.”
While the team has suffered two tough defeats early on, Garrett’s philosophy hasn’t changed. He speaks passionately about “winning the day” and what it means to him and the players in the Kean football program.
“Winning the day means always getting better,” Garrett said. “It means getting in the weight room early, it means watching film. It means keeping your academics in order. Practicing as hard as you can. It means doing everything you need in order to win in every aspect.”
With a winning philosophy, proven talent and key contributions from underclassmen, the Kean Cougars and their coach fully expect to “win the day” and turn in another successful season this fall.