Some guys like to fall asleep with the television on. Others prefer the soothing sounds of some good jazz music to shepherd them off to dreamland. Chris Sacco usually falls asleep in a lounge chair, phone in hand with game film running on Hudl. Sacco, entering his fourth season as head coach of the Pleasantville football program, is a certified football junkie, and now that he's rebuilt the Greyhounds from the ground up, the next step is figuring out how to sustain success — and get this car into the fast lane toward a state championship.
The Greyhounds were 0-10 in Sacco's first season, but last year they racked up seven wins and earned a berth in the state playoffs, where they were rudely greeted by perennial state championship contender West Deptford. The Eagles pounded Pleasantville, 51-12, showing the Greyhounds that making the playoffs is one thing, winning once you get there is quite another. Sacco said he hopes his players learned that lesson well, and will be able to take that next step this season.
"I fall asleep watching film. Sometimes my wife has to give me a nod because my phone is on and I'm asleep and it's still playing film," said Sacco, who cut his teeth as an assistant at Hammonton for several years. "We have a lot of options."
There's no reason to believe Pleasantville shouldn't be a contender in South Jersey Group 2 with the group of athletes it has returning to the lineup this fall. Quarterback Sahmir Jones, the 2017-2018 Glory Days Magazine Male Athlete of the Year, now has a full season of varsity experience under his belt and looks very comfortable running Pleasantville's spread offense. And there are top Division I recruits such as Mohamed Toure and Elijah Glover, along with other outstanding athletes, like WR/DBs Akeem Walker, Jabril Shakur and Marcus Peeler, all seniors, as well as junior running back Joshua Kotokpo, younger brother of Joe Kotokpo, an outstanding linebacker on last year's squad.
"We have a lot of chemistry and we can get the ball all over the field," Walker said.
"We're really confident heading into this year. We're just trying to take it week by week, but we want to go all the way. That's the expectation, but we have to go week by week to get there," Glover added. "We have the talent, the biggest challenge is just going to be ourselves. We can't beat ourselves. We have to do the little things right. If we do the little things right, all the plays, the playmakers, the touchdowns; turnovers will be created — we just have to do the little things right and stick together."
With the athletes Pleasantville has, they are sure to fly around the field on defense. Sacco said the key will just be consistency, both on offense and defense.
"I think our defense is going to be tough. We have a lot of guys coming back and a lot of optimism with the younger guys coming in. The biggest thing is just to tackle well, and like we tell them, getting lined up properly and then just playing football from there. We have eight days to go until a huge game with a very tough and disciplined opponent (Haddonfield), so we're going to watch some film tonight, see what we can clean up and get after it tomorrow," he said. "It's a nice option to have, all these athletes, the biggest thing is just consistency and finding what works. Sometimes we want to get several guys in the mix, and sometimes it's hard to do that based on what the defense is showing. But it's good to know that we have options."
The ability of Kotokpo to run the ball effectively could be huge for the Greyhounds. Last year, Sacco had to be wary of how many carries he gave Toure because he needed him to play every snap on defense. Toure was one of the top linebackers in South Jersey last year, and giving him 20-25 carries on offense would have hampered his effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball.
"I've been impressed with Josh. He kind of had to bide his time. Last year, Mohamed got a lot of carries, but we know what we have in Josh. He's a scrapper, he's tough, he's strong with a low center of gravity. We have some weapons, which is nice," Sacco said. "These guys are putting in the work. We're working them, and they are responding, and you can see it by the numbers we have out here. It's just a different type of football player out here now, all the way down to the freshmen. The freshman class isn't huge, maybe 14 or 15 kids, but they are all football players and they are going to continue to help build this program. We have a bright future ahead, we think."
So, Pleasantville is no longer a winless team, and as the Greyhounds have built up into a contender, the people in town have noticed and started packing the stands. Players said that presence gives them a big lift on Friday nights.
"Knowing that we have support from the city feels good, we can come out here and show out for them, and have fun. We have the support, everybody is rockin' with us now, coming out to the games," Walker said.
"When the city comes out (to support us on Friday nights) it feels good," added Glover. "When I was a freshman, nobody was at the games, and now we pack this thing in."
Contact Dave O'Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays