With Romano Displaying Versatility, Leadership, Hun Football Routs Kiski 68-0 in Season Opener
OPEN FIELD RUNNING: Hun School football player Ben Romano races to the end zone last Saturday as Hun defeated the Kiski School (Pa.) 68-0 in its season opener. Junior captain Romano scored two touchdowns in the win, one as a receiver and one after lining up at quarterback. The Raiders are slated to host Paramus Catholic on October 10. (Photo provided courtesy of The Hun School of Princeton)
By Justin Feil
Ben Romano has added leadership this year to the versatility that he brought last year for the Hun School football team.
The junior captain scored two touchdowns – one as a receiver and one after lining up at quarterback – as the Raiders rolled to a 68-0 win over Kiski in their season opener Saturday at Hun.
“I think we played pretty well,” said Romano, who also plays in the Hun defensive backfield.
“We were excited to get out for our first game. We had quarantine and the build-up for that, and our season started later than most private schools because of the rules. We have a lot of new faces and we were excited to get out there. We just tried to get a win and that happened.”
Hun jumped out to a 40-0 lead in the first quarter to start the season with a bang. The Raiders looked fully reloaded in their first game after graduating a significant senior class a year ago. Hun didn’t get a look at this year’s group until preseason began September 14, and it didn’t have a scrimmage to get a sense of how the team would play.
“We knew we had some good players, but we had kids that hadn’t played together,” said Hun head coach Todd Smith.
“It was a lot of new faces whereas last year’s team was a lot of returners and this year’s team is just a lot of new faces that hadn’t played together. We weren’t sure how they were going to gel. Sometimes you need that scrimmage to help get things going. Since we didn’t have that, we were looking forward to seeing how things would come out.”
The offense came out quickly while the defense was dominant right from the outset. The defense’s stinginess set up the offense for multiple scoring opportunities.
“The d-line played really well,” said Smith. “One of our new defensive lineman, Mike Gavin, played exceptionally with another younger lineman we have, Brian Ingram. He played great as well. Then the linebackers played great with Sean Childs and Gavin Forsha.”
Looking to build on its performance against Kiski, Hun is slated to host Paramus Catholic on October 10.
“We’re definitely not satisfied,” said Romano. “Our goal is to go undefeated and not lose a game. Our mentality on defense is to not let up any points to the opposing team. We’re going to keep the same mentality every time and just keep hammering away.”
Hun feels confident because of players like Romano, one of their returners on both sides of the ball. The 6’1, 195-pounder transferred from Delbarton last year and developed into a reliable contributor who is being asked to lead this year too.
“Ben is one of the most versatile athletes we have on the team,” said Smith.
“He has great athleticism. He can run the ball or catch the ball. He could come in and play quarterback if we need him to. He’s our do-it-all guy. On both sides of the ball too, he plays corner and safety. He’s a great player and he does it all.”
Playing in his second season with Hun, Romano is looking to contribute more to the program. In addition to his offensive and defensive roles, he has taken on a leadership role.
“I try to stay as vocal as I can, but I mainly try to lead by example with the younger guys because I know I have another year after this,” said Romano.
“I’m trying to be as vocal as I can and show the guys what to do and reach out to the team as much as I can and talk to them, passing them in the hallways at school and saying hi to them. It’s really fun.”
With his versatility, Romano should make noise wherever he lines up. He showed it in the first half with a pair of scores. He took a short pass out to him from new quarterback, sophomore Marco Lainez, and made one move before racing 51 yards for his first touchdown of the season.
“We had three receivers on my side and I was the most inside receiver,” explained Romano. “They went out to go block a corner and a linebacker. That leaves me and the safety one-on-one. I gave him a juke move and saw green and just took off.”
Romano’s second touchdown came out of Hun’s wildcat package for short yardage situations. Romano played quarterback in middle school and some freshman year at Delbarton. The Raiders were at the Kiski 9-yard line when Romano took the snap and faked the handoff before dashing up the middle behind a big block from fellow captain, senior Kevin Wigenton, for the touchdown run.
“I can either hand it off to our running back, Ahmad Dixon, who’s a very good, very strong back, or I can take it and keep it and run up the middle for a touchdown and follow Kevin for a block,” said Romano. “I got the ball, saw a linebacker and saw a hole and went right through it.”
The Raiders were able to open plenty of holes even with a partially rebuilt offensive line. Wigenton and junior Jacob Allen return as starters on the line, but the Raiders replaced graduated starters on the rest of the line with post-graduate Brandon McKinnon at left tackle, sophomore Zach Aamland and junior Greyson Brockriede at left guard, and junior Jacob Bingham at center.
“I was pleased with how well the offensive line played,” said Smith.
“They really came off the ball. One side of our line is returning and the other side is brand new. I thought the new kids did a good job of working through the new schemes and new terminology and identifying defenses on the fly. I thought they were really good. They did a great job of moving their feet and staying with their blocks. I thought Marco Lainez did a great job of managing the offense.”
Lainez completed 13-of-15 passes for 271 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. Mason Shipp was on the receiving end of two of his touchdown passes while finishing with five catches for 97 yards.
“The wide receiver corps on our team is really crowded,” said Smith.
“We have some really good football players there. Mason Shipp had an exceptional day. Kelvin Smith is a very good wide receiver. Ben is a very good receiver. We’re pretty blessed at that position.”
Junior running back Dixon rushed six times for 132 yards and one touchdown while sophomore Dominic DeLuzio ran 10 times for 104 yards and a touchdown and post-grad Billy Giudetti had seven carries for 54 yards and one touchdown.
On the defensive side, junior Tyler Jameson had an interception for Hun. The Raiders also got a returned punt for a touchdown from Shipp.
“Our offense is always going to be strong at the line,” said Romano. “We’re always going to be able to run the ball. Now that we have a lot of receivers, it’s really diverse. We can really do anything with our offense. Our defense is really solid. We have a lot of new kids, and at the same time we have a lot of good athletes that can rotate in. It’s going to be really fun to see how our season plays out because we have a lot of good players and we can play all sorts of positions.”
Romano likes being able to contribute in a multitude of ways. He spent the summer when the team was largely isolated training on his own to get ready. When he could, he came to Hun to work out. When the season began, he was back to take any role the Raiders needed.
“I love being all over the field,” said Romano. “It’s fun to see the game from all different perspectives and get a chance to take over a game at any position.”
Having known Lainez for two years, Romano developed a chemistry with the new Hun quarterback. In addition, Romano has felt a comfort level returning to Hun this year.
“Last year was showing up to a new school and meeting these new guys, starting out as a new kid and going in,” said Romano.
“Now I get to see who’s coming in, who’s still here, who I get to work with. It’s fun being a returning kid and going around campus and knowing a lot of people.”
Planning to play in college, Romano has just begun the recruiting process in earnest and is excited that he and the Raiders will have the chance to play this fall.
“It means a lot,” said Romano. “At the beginning of the quarantine period, coach Smith was saying he didn’t really know what would happen with our season. At one point, it was canceled and then it wasn’t, and then it was canceled again and then not. To finally just be able to play a game with these guys was a lot of fun. It was really great.”