BY MATTHEW ROCCO Correspondent At this time of the year, all the high school football teams are equally optimistic. When the 2010 season kicks off this weekend, everyone has the same 0-0 record and dreams of making the playoffs. Locally, Holmdel High School will be hosting Lakewood on Saturday night (7 p.m.), and Raritan High School travels to New Brunswick for a 7 p.m. kickoff. St. John Vianney High School has its bye week and waits until Sept. 16 to play its first game. The Lancers will open at Rumson-Fair Haven (7 p.m. kickoff). The following is a look at the 2010 Holmdel, Raritan and St. John Vianney football teams. Holmdel High School The Holmdel football team will be looking to turn things around in 2010. Last season the Hornets finished with a 2-8 record and failed to score more than two touchdowns in a single game, a feat that they have not accomplished since Thanksgiving 2007. This season, however, Holmdel has a renewed sense of confidence going into the season opener against Lakewood “Our first goal is to beat Lakewood, and there is not one person on this team who doesn’t want to make the playoffs,” head coach Frank Papalia said, stressing the importance for the team to build confidence with an opening-day win. Papalia, who is in his second season as head coach of the Hornets, is confident in his team partly because there are six returning starters on each side of the football. “The returning players are in more comfortable positions,” he said, “and this is the third offense and defense some of them are playing under.” Papalia’s team will be running a spread offense in 2010, and the objective is simple: spread the ball around. “Our offense is definitely dangerous,” the Hornets’ coach said. “I’m confident we can score points.” On the defensive side of the football, Papalia would like to see his team exhibit sound fundamentals. “I know it sounds simple, but we need to tackle,” he said. And, according to coach Papalia, the team’s overall success will depend on how well the Hornets adhere to this year’s theme: “Inside of our four walls.” “What we mean by that is taking care of ourselves,” Papalia explained. “One thing we are trying to preach is take care of yourself and do your assignment. We need to do our job, and hopefully everything works out.” The coaching staff, which Papalia described as “professionalism top to bottom,” will continue to support this idea during practices and games. “The players have really rallied around the staff,” Papalia said. Papalia and the Hornets are confident that they can turn things around if they remain focused on their goals. “The key word is to compete,” Papalia said. Papalia is also sure to remind everyone that last season could have easily been a different story. “We very well could have been a 4-6 team [in 2009],” he said, noting that Holmdel lost two close games last season. With last season behind them, the Holmdel Hornets are hoping to find success this season by taking care of their own business. Raritan High School Following a strong 2009 campaign, Raritan is ready to further improve on their 8-3 record from last season. Head coach Anthony Petruzzi sees his team as a strong contender in 2010. “We have the opportunity to be in a lot of games,” Petruzzi said. “We have to take care of our part. We pay attention to detail. “We are confident in our offensive and defensive schemes that we put together,” he added. “Our best should be better than the other team’s best.” The Rockets have six returning starters on offense and six on defense, so the team has a core group of players who can lead. “We have a strong senior class,” Petruzzi said. “We also have a lot of younger gentlemen who can step up for us this year. We try to get a lot of our younger guys on the field.” According to Petruzzi, Raritan seems to have a good mix of older and younger players, and the coaching staff is working to prepare everybody. “I am confident that [the players] will be ready,” he said. When asked about the nature of the team’s practices, Petruzzi characterized practices as being a “conditioning period.” “We try to work at a high tempo and turn mental toughness into a physical nature,” he said. “Our goal is to be the most physical team on Saturday [game day].” Raritan’s strengths on both sides of the football are certainly correlated to the physical nature of the team. “Our success will be running the ball and playing good defense,” Petruzzi said. “We will take some vertical shots, but we rely on our front line [on offense].” Heading into the season opener on Saturday, Sept. 11, against New Brunswick High School, the Rockets will continue to work hard in preparation, Petruzzi said. “It has been business as usual, and we will be ready for New Brunswick,” he added. St. John Vianney High School With a strong group of returning players, St. John Vianney, led by head coach Skip Edwards, will be a team filled with experienced players. The Lancers have seven returning starters on offense and five on defense. The entire offensive line, including two tight ends, will remain intact, and the team’s kicker, who also serves as the punter, is back as well. “It’s definitely a plus having players with the knowledge of seasoned veterans,” Edwards said. “We also have nine of our 12 coaches back with us, and they have been working hard to prepare the players.” The Lancers have been preparing for their season opener, which will be on Sept. 16 against Rumson-Fair Haven. The team has a bye week the first week of the high school season. “It’s going to be a tough game against Rumson,” Edwards said, “but we are going to play right along with them. “We lifted all summer and had a long preseason camp,” he added “The players are working real hard.” The team is certainly optimistic that they can improve on last season’s 4-6 record. Last year’s team was predominantly composed of juniors, and Skip Edwards believes his Lancers are much better overall this season. “We are a more physical team than last year. We are smart and athletic,” he said. “We are also much improved defensively.” The Lancers also have a number of younger players who will be expected to contribute this season. “We are hoping the kids step up to the next level and be competitive,” said Edwards. When it comes to the team’s objectives for the 2010 season, the Lancers aim to play together as a team. “Our main goal is to become a team and stay healthy,” Edwards said. “The players have been working very hard. The team really has a sense of community — and Lancer pride, as we call it.” This season, St. John Vianney is optimistic that the team’s Lancer pride and positive work ethic will translate into success.