Anthony Giovannielli a model of ‘hustle and determination’ for Ridgewood

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The Ridgewood football team led 40-0 in the fourth quarter when Crossroads senior quarterback Armando Holguin dropped back to pass and heaved a deep throw down the field.

The ball soared toward Crusaders junior Joey Swithers, and the wide receiver hauled it in well behind the defense. There had been a breakdown in the Rebels’ secondary on the play, and it seemed as if Swithers would surely score an inconsequential touchdown in the Week 2 game as he sprinted toward the end zone.

Ridgewood sophomore Anthony Giovannielli never stopped running, however.

“Every play I go 100 percent, and at that moment I was thinking I didn’t want them to score because I wanted a shutout,” said Giovannielli, a linebacker. “I sprinted as fast as I can to get to him.”

Giovannielli pulled Swithers down at the 2-yard line. The touchdown-saving tackle preserved the shutout, and the Rebels won 47-0.

“It would have been easy to say, ‘We’re winning by 40. If they score, it’s not a big deal. We’re going to win the game,’ ” Ridgewood coach Chris Zack said. “But he didn’t.”

The Rebels have a team dinner at Ridgewood on Thursday each week. Part of the dinner features Ridgewood’s coaches announcing who will join junior linebacker Seth Krueger, senior wide receiver Tyler Gil Ramos and junior lineman Vinny Scaletta as a captain that week.

On Sept. 11 — the night before Ridgewood fell 34-21 to Fenton — Zack talked about the tackle Giovannielli made against Crossroads.

It “kind of exemplifies what we want out of all of our kids and what he is able to do with his hustle and determination,” Zack said on Sunday.

Then, it was announced Thursday that Giovannielli would be the team’s fourth captain against Fenton. The team clapped when the announcement was made, and Giovannielli said that moment confirmed to him that he’s established himself as a really good player on the varsity team.

Giovannielli once again proved that the following night. Fenton tested him with its rushing attack, and the 5-7, 165-pound strong-side linebacker answered the challenge. He finished with seven solo tackles and six assists on defense. He also had a couple tackles on kickoffs, Zack said, and recovered a fumble when Fenton’s punt returner dropped a punt.

Giovannielli might be young and undersized, but Zack said he has the skill set and mentality to thrive at his position. Not only does he have a high motor and a never-give-up attitude like he showed against Crossroads, he’s also extremely tough.

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Those attributes are partly due to wrestling. Giovannielli has wrestled for the last 10 years, and he was an all-conference wrestler for the Rebels as a freshman.

Giovannielli said wrestling has helped with his tackling this year — especially when it comes to getting low and tackling older, bigger players like those in Fenton’s backfield on Friday night.

“You’ve got two seniors [on Fenton] — a senior fullback and a senior running back — that are running right at him,” Zack said. “You do wonder sometimes, ‘Is he going to be OK?’ He’s not only OK, but he steps up to the challenge … and gets things done the right way — the way he takes on the blocks, the way he tackles and fills in the gaps. It’s a pleasure to watch him play as a young kid, and to see how well he’s doing.”

This story has been changed to reflect the following correction:

The article misstated the number of coaches who spoke about Anthony Giovannielli at the Sept. 11 team dinner. It was Ridgewood coach Chris Zack, not multiple Rebels coaches.

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