There is a buzz around Roxbury. The storied football program is now under new leadership.
Ryan Roumes, who has been an assistant for the last seven years, now takes over the head coaching position for the program he helped win a state championship as a player. Roumes played at Roxbury from 2007-2010 and made a game-saving defensive play near the goal line to help Roxbury hold on to the 2009 North 1, Group 4 sectional title.
Roumes takes over for Cosmo LoRusso, who coached for 20 years, including when Roumes was a Gael.
LoRusso went 116-87 at Roxbury with 15 winning seasons, four conference titles and two state sectional championships. Roumes went on to play at Marist before returning to the school district as a coach.
“Taking over for a legend and a well-known guy around the state, as well as someone who made me the football player I was, it’s amazing,” Roumes said. “I know I have big shoes to fill. It’s unbelievably exciting.”
Roumes is happy to see a group of around 50 returning players, including many experienced juniors in crucial roles. Quarterback Anthony Skawinski, who led the team in both passing yards and rushing yards as a sophomore, is one of those juniors.
“We’re going to lean on him,” Roumes said of Skawinski. “He’s going to be a leader for us and a key player to make plays for us. He’s unbelievably athletic with a great arm. Our goal is to take some of that weight off his shoulders, though we know he can handle it. He’s been great in the offseason learning the playbook and some of the new looks we’re installing.”
Another important returning junior, Matt Rattay, earned second-team all-conference honors last year at linebacker. He’s expected to be a vocal leader of a Gaels defense that held six of 10 opponents last season to 21 points or fewer.
“He’s a kid that as a sophomore, we had a hard time taking off the field for us,” Roumes said of Rattay. “As the middle linebacker, he got better every week and asked all the right questions. He was doing all of the things you expect a senior linebacker to do for you and we are lucky enough to have him for two more years.”
Football in Roxbury began in 1913 and includes titles
LoRusso first became the coach in 2002, winning championships in 2009 and 2012, the 100th season of Roxbury football.
“One of the key terms we use for our culture is tradition,” Roumes said. “Roxbury has a tradition of winning and being a football town. There’s a tradition of having hard-nosed kids and being tough to play against. All of that comes from the coaches that came before me and that’s something I hope to continue here.”
Four of the six teams in the realigned SFC Liberty White were playoff teams a season ago, including a West Morris team that won the North Group 3 regional championship, and rival Randolph.
“Every team has a different identity and I don’t know how many other leagues you see that,” Roumes said. “Every single one of those games in conference is going to be a dogfight. If you’re not excited for Roxbury and Randolph, you’re in the wrong sport and you’re definitely in the wrong town.”
The Gaels had multiple three-game losing streaks a season ago and gained valuable experience from them. Many impact players are underclassmen who picked up valuable experience that could help the Gaels return to the postseason for the first time since 2016.
“I’ve been telling the guys that everyone has a fresh start and a clean slate,” Roumes said. “We have seen guys come out this summer and try to take advantage of new opportunities and it has made everyone in the room better.”
All of the home games for the Gaels will be impactful for their playoff chances, beginning with the home opener in September against Randolph.
A home game late in September against a tough Mount Olive program could help decide the conference championship. Hosting Morristown and Livingston in the final two weeks of the regular season could prove crucial for playoff positioning.
Sept. 3: at Morris Knolls
Sept. 9: vs. Randolph
Sept. 16: at West Morris
Sept. 23: at Warren Hills
Sept. 30: vs. Mount Olive
Oct. 8: at Chatham
Oct. 14: vs. Morristown
Oct. 21: vs. Livingston
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