At half time, Talamo says, he makes no adjustments in offense or defense. "It makes no difference if we're winning or losing, I've done all the coaching I can during the week. In the few minutes I got I don't fool with trick plays. I get busy on their character."
For all his emphasis on character, Talamo puts plenty of work into the game itself. He is a shrewd tactician who calls all the team's plays and relies heavily on spotting opposing weakness.
Pascack often makes no attempt to return opposing punts. "We just let 'em go over our heads and roll dead," Talamo says. This also stems from the 1958 defeat, when two fumbled punts contributed to enemy touchdowns. "All the coaches want to beat me real bad, and they'll do anything unorthodox. So I have to play a standard defense and watch out for the fourth-down pass or run. Anyway, all we want is to get hold of the ball. We can score from anywhere on the field."
Statistics fully support this claim. In its first five games this season the team scored 196 points for the highest per-game high school average in New Jersey. In 1959 it was No. 1 offensively and No. 2 defensively in the state.
Early each week, Talamo and his four assistants look over game movies and draw up detailed breakdowns, which comment on individual performances on every offensive play. "Laakso," one will read, "hit man in left gap instead of going down-field.... Reisman—do not throw cross-body block on linebackers.... Pelsang—you are running hard now. Is it because you are carrying the ball?"
The movie breakdowns are copied and passed around the squad. They are studied religiously and sometimes with direct results. Before the Ramsey game last month, Talamo stepped into the locker room to pep up team spirit and character. "What did I see? Ralph Rush, my halfback, was reading off everybody's mistakes from the last breakdown. The kids were just sitting there listening and getting madder and madder at themselves. What could I add to that? I turned around and walked out of the locker room without saying a word." Pascack won 73-0.
On the practice field Talamo is a shouter. He berates his players, together and individually, and sends them to the sidelines for the slightest infraction. But he softens his harsh demands with carefully chosen psychological sweeteners. "Do you know who you're playing Saturday?" he yelled before the Mahwah game. "A team with a very high rating. The fellas who pick the all-state teams are gonna be here too. So you got your chance to look real good."
The boys themselves reflect their coach's outlook. They play good, hard-hitting football, and they keep their mouths shut. There is no horsing around and little talk during practice. They are clearly in pursuit of excellence.