BY AVERY PERSON
Matthew Donaghue, a key member of the Old Bridge High School coaching staff for twelve years under former head coach Anthony Lanzafama, has taken over as the new varsity head football coach. Lanzafama stepped down last year after leading the Knights for 12 outstanding seasons and serving on the staff for 21.
Members of the football program from the past and present expressed their approval following the announcement. “I was extremely happy Coach Donaghue was named the new football coach at Old Bridge High School,” Lanzafama shared. “Old Bridge High School is in great hands under the leadership of Coach Donaghue.”
Donaghue, an OBHS graduate and standout athlete, played multiple sports at the high school and college levels. “I had the privilege of coaching him when he was a player here, and I always remembered his work ethic and his love for the game, teammates and our school,” said Lanzafama. “After he graduated from Old Bridge, he went on to a successful football and baseball career at Kean University.”
Donaghue’s extensive experience on Lanzafama’s staff has prepared him for his new post. “Coach Donaghue has been instrumental in a long run of successful seasons at OBHS, coaching on both sides of the ball and serving as Defensive Coordinator for the last five years,” said Lanzafama.
The respect between the former coach and the one seeking to maintain the program’s momentum is mutual. “I am honored to have had the opportunity to coach under Coach Lanzafama for 12 years. He taught me so much and is an excellent coach,” said Donaghue.
Athletic Director Daniel DiMino gave coach Donaghue his endorsement as the new head of the football program. “He is an incredible coach. He shows our athletes how much he cares about them and this community. That’s great leadership,” explained DiMino.
To that end, Donaghue’s goals for the program extend beyond the field. “[I expect the team to be] a group of young men who will hopefully be role models inside and outside of the school. On Friday nights, they are going to always represent our school and town to the best of their ability,” disclosed Donaghue.
Lanzafama expressed confidence in Donaghue’s ability to make that vision a reality. “Coach Donaghue has a passion for football. He loves the game, and his enthusiasm is contagious. He is one of the best motivators that I’ve ever coached with,” said Lanzafama. “His players love playing for him and that is one of the best compliments you can give a coach.”
Senior Shane Hughes, echoed that sentiment. “The energy he brings onto the field promotes a very competitive atmosphere that makes us as players work harder,” explained the offensive guard and defensive tackle.
Donaghue’s skills as a leader and tactician will serve him well in his new role. “Coach Donaghue has a tireless work ethic. He is meticulous in his preparation and a master teacher,” explained Lanzafama. “He makes sure all our athletes are confident in their assignment and technique and are well versed in the tendencies of the upcoming opponent.”
Senior Nathaniel Myers values Donaghue’s enthusiasm. “I love Coach Donny’s determination to win, and he also cares a lot for all of his players. He does the best that he can to make sure that we are ready for every Friday night, so we can go out and get the win,” said Myers.
Under his leadership, the team got off to a strong start with a win in the season opener and two wins in the first three games. “I felt great for the players to win that first game at home. We added a week 0 game, and the kids responded and played very well. It was fun to be back on the field competing and watching the players go out and play after a long summer and camp,” explained Donaghue.
Senior running back Daniel Hennessey expressed his gratitude for coach Donaghue’s contributions. “Playing for Coach Donaghue in his first year as head coach has been great. He brought in a new offensive scheme for us, and he has been very determined in us getting better individually and as a team. This has helped us achieve the success we have had this early in the season,” said Hennessey.
While Donaghue expects big things from many seniors on the team, including quarterback Brady Cavallaro, defensive end and offensive tackle Robert Orzal, center Armend Urici, and wide receiver Thomas McAleavey in addition to Hughes and Hennessey, his focus for the season is team and individual growth. “The expectation for the team is to continue to develop and improve each week. There are a lot of first year varsity players; they need to gain confidence and experience,” said Donaghue.
In the informed opinion of Lanzafama, the program is in good hands. “We will see our student-athletes being prepared and playing hard every Friday night, proud to represent Old Bridge High School and Old Bridge Township under the leadership of their new Coach,” he said. “As the former head coach and alum, I could not be prouder!”
Posted on 9/16/22
Photos by Kaden Buchalter, Frank Papeo, and Tim O’Neill