Welcome to the Darkside

stormclouds

Photo Credit- George Marinos

A short time ago, in a county nearby, an intense storm began to brew.
The thick dark clouds ominously loomed, and covered the sky with their terrible promise.

Beneath these clouds, the Hanover Rhinos practiced.
This could describe any number of this year’s fall practices for this franchise, which was trying to rediscover the lofty goals of its not-too-distant past.
No one is quite sure during which one of these practices the name Darkside became indelibly attached to the Rhinos defense, but one thing is for certain- it’s here to stay.

What exactly does Darkside mean?

To capture the essence of Darkside, one must look at the man who coined the term, Brandon Nicastro.
In 2009, while Nicastro was playing football for The College of The Canyons, darkside was born. “When I played football in college, we came up with the nickname and I carried it over to the Rhinos,” Nicastro said. “We came up with the name “darkside”, because the defense is basically the dark side of the force. We like to hit, and hit hard.”
Nicastro played for the inaugural Rhinos’ team in the spring of 2012. He remembers his early attempts at naming the defense darkside.
“In 2012, I said it a few times, but it didn’t stick with anyone,” he said.
Despite not finding success with the nickname, Nicastro came through as an AFA all-star in his first season. His seminal moment was a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown, a score that sealed Hanover’s only win to date against the rival Maryland Phantoms.

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Brandon Nicastro (center) celebrates his defensive TD  on 5/5/2012 vs. the Maryland Phantoms. Photo Credit- Christopher Bunty.

“It was a lot of fun, but also very difficult,” Nicastro said of that first season. “We found a good group of guys for our starting defense, but our offense lacked a good line and the connection between receivers and quarterbacks, so our defense was always on the field, and not to mention we had a few head coaching changes throughout the season, which made it hard to solidify our program.”

Five years later, in the wake of a disastrous 2-8 season, and with Nicastro back on the team after a four-year hiatus, the Rhinos are embracing the nickname that he brought to the table in 2012.
“I’ve been contemplating coming back every year,” Nicastro said. “I just couldn’t justify it, due to the lack of time I had, but my best friend Adam Day and I got together one day and had a ‘if you play, I’ll play’ conversation, and now here we are.”
When Nicastro showed up for training camp, he mentioned darkside.
“It really was overnight, it embodied all of us, and we had that darkside mentality,” Nicastro said. “It seemed like it gave the defense more excitement and made everyone play harder.”
Born out of those dark, cloudy days at the Hanover YMCA practice field, Darkside became the rallying cry for the Rhinos as they prepared for their first scrimmage, the Santa Bowl.
The original nickname, darkside, became Darkside. It’s one little difference, a capital letter, but it embodies the spirit of a whole defensive unit.
Tryouts this fall produced a bevy of new faces on the roster. Rookies and veterans alike warmed up to Darkside. Nicastro’s best friend Day, who is a rookie linebacker, caught on immediately, and named himself Boba Fett.
“I just think he’s cool, how he never says much and everyone knows not to mess with him,” Day said of the intergalactic bounty-hunter.

Day passed mention of Darkside on to Rhino lifer Charles Smith, who decided he was most like Darth Maul.
“Adam (Day) started calling the defense Darkside,” Smith said. “It went from there, and it just stuck. Everybody fits their alter-ego in strengths and weaknesses.”
Nicastro chose to be the most famous character from the movie franchise, Darth Vader. “(It’s) because (Vader) is a leader and a force to be reckoned with,” Nicastro said.
The defensive mastermind of the group is Adam Bostian, the defensive coordinator who has been with the Rhinos in some capacity since 2012. Bostian appeared on this month’s magazine cover as Palpatine, the leader of the empire in the original movie series.
Darkside played like they put a bounty on the football for the Santa Bowl. By the conclusion of the annual December charity game, the Southern Maryland Gladiators lay battered and broken under the force of 5 turnovers, 3 sacks, 1 safety, and a defensive touchdown.
In just one game, the forceful Rhinos’ defense had record 1/4 as many turnovers as they had during the 2016 regular season, and 1/3 the sacks. The safety was the first since Adriel Garibay recorded one in the last week of the 2014 season at Germantown.
Speaking of Garibay, he’s back, and he’s restoring the potent punch to the Rhinos’ defensive line. Garibay will be looking to deliver a similar performance to Kody Taylor’s team record 15 sacks two years ago, and the Rhinos were a playoff team that year.
“Feels good to be back and bring my abilities to the team,” Garibay said. “Looking to make my presence felt on the field, and help the team in any way I can.”

adgaribay

Garibay.

Garibay played with Carroll County in 2015, and suited up for just the first two games of 2016, before taking the rest of the season to focus on his firefighting academy training.
The New Oxford graduate is tied with Lloyd Williams for the most career quarterback hurries in Rhinos’ history.
“The defense can be more aggressive,” Bostian said of having Garibay on the field.
His presence also adds to the mystique of Darkside.
Garibay describes Darkside as “A force that envelops anything that comes near or tries to pass through.”
Bostian, a linebacker for South Western in the early 2000’s, was a player for the two winning seasons in Rhinos history, 2013 and 2014. He was the head coach for the last Hanover team to make the playoffs in 2015.
He moved back solely to the role of co-owner starting the 2016 season, a period of time in which the Rhinos gave up 208 points in the first 7 games. He took over defensive play-calling duties for the last 3 weeks of 2016.
“When I took over, I did see a change, more excitement and grit,” Bostian said.
That level of excitement and grit has been taken to a new level since the dawn of Darkside.
Bostian, who loved the name immediately, didn’t realize it would come to symbolize the very spirit of his defensive unit.
“I never had a name for my defense,” he said. “I didn’t think it would stick, but I started seeing hashtags and banners, and the guys kept it going, now we are the Darkside.”

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Rhino Bites

This week on Rhino Bites, we explore why people love to play football, while getting to know a new Hanover Rhinos’ two-way lineman.
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            JON VEITCH

veitch

Age: 21 Positions: DT/OG

#1. Why do you enjoy football?

JV: The thing I like most about football is the brotherhood in it. Not everyone does what we do, and that’s a very special thing.

#2. What football movie best represents the brotherhood that is a football team?

JV: Remember the Titans.

#3. Which character from that movie are you?

JV: Julius.

#4. What are the most recent 5 songs on your music playlist?

JV: 1. One Dance, by Drake (feat. Wizkid & Kyla); 2. Still Here, by Drake; 3. Grammys, by Drake (feat. Future); 4. Low Life, by Future (Feat. The Weeknd); 5. 9, by Drake.
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Wordy Wednesdays

A Word With: Dominic Cotterino domdom

Rhino Charge host George Marinos recently sat down with 2nd-year Rhinos receiver/defensive back Dominic Cotterino to discuss everything from knocking down mental walls as a rookie to knocking down actual walls at work.

GM: I’m here with Dominic Cotterino of the Hanover Rhinos. You’re entering your second season with the Rhinos, what’s the most important thing you learned about competing in semi-pro football in your first year?

DC: I think one of the most important things was (learning) to not psych yourself out, because coming from high school football to playing semi-pro, some people really get hung up on the name semi-pro, thinking ‘maybe this isn’t for me, maybe I don’t have the skill to play at this level’. But when it comes down to it, you’re just playing football. Just get out there and do what you love, and do what you’re good at, and it comes naturally.

GM: It came pretty naturally to you your first season, as you now place 12th in Rhinos’ history for career all-purpose yards. How would you rate your first season?

DC: I would have to rate it at a C, because, for my first time ever starting, I was learning a lot, and using what I learned in my game. I know that I am capable of so much more than that, and I am excited to show it this season and go up even more on the all-purpose yards list.

GM: You got to play with two of your high school friends, Alex and Jack Isennock last year for the Rhinos. How special was this experience?

DC: They were great, I think the addition of us three to the Rhinos really added some depth at some key positions, and it was great to have some familiar faces out there as we all transitioned to the semi-pro level.

GM: How much are you going to miss playing with Alex, who deployed this winter?

DC: I am going to miss him a lot, he is one of my brothers. We have a small group of friends that all call each other family, so to not have him around for the next 4 years will be tough, but I’m proud of him and I know he’ll come back in four years. You never know, maybe we will play together again when he gets back.

GM: Are you going to do anything special to show support for him on game days this year?

DC: Well, I always support our troops, from my grandfathers being in (the military). Just having respect for those men, they give the biggest sacrifice, and I always stand by my flag. I don’t want to give anything away, but all I can say is, my first touchdown this year will be special for more than just one reason.

GM: How awesome would that be if your first touchdown came in the first game of the year, at Byrd Stadium where the Maryland Terrapins play?

DC: That would be like a dream come true. Maryland is my favorite college and as a kid I wanted to play there. The only better thing would be playing for the Baltimore Ravens.

GM: What’s your favorite Terps memory growing up?

DC: I liked watching Torrey Smith go through college and then see the Ravens pick him up in Baltimore, and have him become a great player for us there, too.

 GM: I remember hoping for the Dolphins to draft certain players in various drafts, and being pretty excited when they did. Were you monitoring the draft closely in 2011, and how did it feel when you found out Smith was becoming a Raven?
DC: When you look at the 2011 draft and see the names that were there, it’s amazing how many of them turned out to be the best players in the league now. I love that we got Jimmy Smith, first round, and Torrey Smith, second round, filling the two biggest needs I think we needed coming into the next year, and it was cool to see a Maryland guy come to Baltimore so he could stay in his hometown. That’s a dream of mine.
GM: Being from Maryland, it was an interesting choice for you, Alex, and Jack to choose the Hanover Rhinos. How far do you drive to get to team events?
DC: 45 minutes, but, for football, Alex, Jack, and I would drive halfway around the world because we just love the sport.
GM: What was it that made the Rhinos the perfect fit?
DC: Really, the reason we fit in was that, when we came to try out, we were treated the same as everyone else, that we had the chance to start if we were good enough. When we were all in high school, it wasn’t like that. It was already kind-of predetermined who would start (in school) just because they started before.
GM: How did you hear about the Rhinos, and why did you decide to tryout?
DC: I heard about them over Facebook, and I followed up with the post and talked to some people to find out when tryouts came. Alex, Jack, and I talked about it, and decided we would try out and see what it was like, because it’s always a no unless you try.
GM: What were your expectations as you walked up to the field for the first time for tryouts?
DC: I was expecting everyone to be dressed in full pads, ready to hit, do full contact and really show what you had. We all came in with confidence, knowing that we’re good at what we do and that we can be here, and we can compete with these guys.
GM: Describe the first tryout and how things went.
DC: When Alex and I pulled up, we were listening to some pump-up music to get us in the football mood. When we got on the field, we started to talk to some guys and the coaches to just see what was going to happen that day. Then we got right into running routes and catching the football. I think we both had a great day, and so did the coaches. They said that we had great skills and (the coaches) were excited to see us come out to tryout for the team.
GM: You mentioned high school a little earlier. Take us through life at Hereford High School.
DC: Well, in high school, we had one of the best teams out there. When I tried out for the team, there were so many people at my positions and I don’t feel like I was given a fair chance to show what I had. They would just pick the guys that started the year before, and not give a second thought about it. Even with that, I loved playing for my high school, and am happy I did, because I learned a lot.
GM: What were your most notable accomplishments at Hereford?
DC: I was pretty good at track. I started track because I wanted to get faster for football in the future, so I did indoor and outdoor. I was a sprinter and tried to do a couple of other events, but focused so much on sprinting that never got really good at other events. I raced a couple of times in states for my team.
GM: Where did you travel for states?
DC: To be honest with you, I can’t remember the exact spot, but it was in Maryland, about an hour and a half away.
GM: For those who have never competed in states, describe the whole experience.
DC: Well, it’s awesome and kind of terrifying at the same time the first time you go, because it’s cool to see all of the other schools that you compete against, but then you realize that they are here because they are as good or better then you. The one thing I hated about track was getting up to the line and waiting so long for them to get the race started, or waiting in a rely race for the first runner to come to you so you could go. When you finish though, it’s a great feeling to know you competed at states.
GM: What was it like being a member of the football team at Hereford?
DC: We were a family. We won and lost together. We were extremely hard working with conditioning and lifting. We had some very talented players. Every Thursday, we would have a team dinner, so after practice, we would all meet at the church and eat there, because Fridays were game days.
GM: And your team had a lot of success on the field?
DC: Yeah. We were beating teams 50+ to zero. And then the couple games we did lose, we would only lose by 10 points or less, most of the time less. My senior year, we were going to be great but first quarter of the first game, we lost our best lineman for the whole year. We still went 7-3 though, and only lost those games by a touchdown or less. For my school, our JV record was 7-straight back-to-back championships, never losing a game.
GM: It had to be a bit of a culture shock to go through the struggles of a 2-8 team last season with the Rhinos.
DC: Yeah, it was different to have that happen, and there were some times last year that I may have lost my temper because of some losses that we had, but I think that this year, with the new talent that we have, and what has become of the players last year, I have no doubt in my mind that we will have a great season this year, and I am very excited about that.
GM: You are an intense competitor, and, as you mentioned, we saw that emotion bubble up from time to time. Where does that drive come from?
DC: To be honest, it’s just the way that I am wired. I love to be competitive, and I always have. There has not been a time in my life since I was able to walk that I have not been involved with at least one sport. I have played soccer ever since I could walk, and still do sometimes today. I played baseball in elementary school and football, and track in high school while still playing soccer the whole time. Twice a week I would leave football practice that was 2 hours and go straight to a 2 hour soccer practice. I just love playing sports and being active.
GM: How rewarding would it be to go to the playoffs and beyond with this 2017 Hanover Rhinos team?
DC: That would be amazing and a great feeling to get to the playoffs this year, and I think we can. We have some real talented players on this team and if we work as a team, I think we can beat anyone.
GM: You’ve been working with a new quarterback this year, at least he’s new to you. What’s it been like catching passes from and working with Chase Scharf?
DC: Great. We are getting a good connection down between the both of us and we both are beginning to trust each other. For me, I know he can fit the ball in there and, for him, that he can trust me to catch whatever he puts near me. So I hope if he ever feels like he just needs to throw the ball up, he throws it my way.
GM: In the Santa Bowl exhibition in December, you recorded your first career interception and also your first touchdown. What was each of those moments like?
DC: It felt different. I mean, to finally get one in something other then practice or backyard. (Chuckles). But I knew it’s always been in my ability to get them, but to actually do it felt great. I did not really know what to do after I caught that touchdown. I was just making sure the ref called it in before I celebrated. I can’t wait to get them in a real game this season.
GM: Never got a chance to interview you about the touchdown because you suffered an injury later in the game. The touchdown came on a pretty remarkable end of half sequence that involved multiple timeouts by both teams, and the original plan was to kick a field goal. It ended up being an all or nothing play on the last snap of the half. Talk about the sequence, the play, and the remarkable catch.
DC: Coach said in the huddle that it would be up to a vote, kick it or throw it, and of course, we all wanted to go for more points. And I said, ‘just look for me in the back of the endzone’. And luckily (quarterback Jake Orner) threw it to a perfect position that I could jump over the corner and grab it, and toe tap my feet before I went out of bounds. The catch was a good catch, but it’s something that should be expected of me because I am a starter, and starters need to make the top plays when there’s no time left on the clock. But I can’t take all of the credit, because the whole team played great that day. I was just one part of the pie that ended in the W.
GM: Alex and Jack are in the demolition business. Do you do work with them?
DC: I used to work with them, and it was a good job for us all to keep us in shape.
GM: What’s the craziest thing that happened on that job?
DC: There was one day at the job where I had just showed up to work extremely angry, and my boss went to Alex and asked him,’hey, what’s wrong with him’. Alex just said, ‘he is just ticked-off about something that happened yesterday’. So my boss came up to me with a sledge hammer and said, ‘here, I want you to take down this cinderblock wall, and maybe that will help’. Well, normally you take your time and start from one end and take a couple sections at a time off, but it would not take to0 long, maybe ten to fifteen minutes. I do not remember the measurements of the wall. It was not a huge wall, but if I were to guess, I would say, like 6-8 feet long and 10-12 feet high. I said ok, and hit the wall 3 times. With the first hit, I put the whole sledge through the wall, and on the third hit, the whole wall fell down and Alex and my boss just look at themselves in shock. I turned to my boss and said, ‘here you go’, and handed it back to him. It was not a big wall, but to just take 3 hits and have it down was not what he was expecting me to do.
GM: What’s your workout regimen like to stay so ripped?
DC: Well, to be honest, lately I have not been keeping up with my workout, which I’m trying to get back into this week with the new gym. Just being able to run and make sure I get some upper body work with some benching variations and curls, and doing some cable work really makes it easier to push off the defender on the line when he’s in press coverage on me, and the running and leg workouts get me that speed I need.
GM: Thank you for your time.
Remember, you can catch a new edition of Wordy Wednesdays once a month during the offseason, exclusively on Rhino Charge. During the season, Wordy Wednesdays will run weekly.

Rhino Bites

This edition of Rhino Bites gives us a welcome relief from the hot-button issues dividing the country. Today, we swear-in two new members of the Hanover Rhinos. Both guys are recent graduates of high schools in the York area. Read on, catch the Rhino Fever for 2017, and watch the Boys of Snacktown shock the world this spring!
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JORDAN SNYDER

jsnyder

Age: 19 Position: Cornerback

#1. Tell us about your time at local Northeastern High School.

JS: I played 3 years of football for the Northeastern Bobcats. I played running back and safety, before being moved to cornerback.

#2. How did you find out about the Hanover Rhinos, and what made you want to join?

JS: I found about the Rhinos from a former player. He was telling me I should join the team because he saw me play flag, and saw my skills and speed. I wanted to join, because I love football and competing. I’ve been playing flag for the last two years, and it just wasn’t enough for me.

#3. What is it about the level of competition in the AFA that gets you excited?

JS: I love a challenge. I’m used to being an underdog, and to just show and prove that I can play with anyone, and play well, is just a good feeling.

#4. Is there a player you’ve styled your game around?

JS: I think as a kid, when I started, I wanted to be fast and juke people from watching Ladainian Tomlinson, but now on defense, I style my game around Tyrann Mathieu and Troy Polamalu. I love just being a ballhawk and finding my opportunity for an interception.

#5. Finish this sentence. If I’m not playing football, you can find me _______.

JS: Playing basketball or doing music.
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ROBERT HOLLIS

hollis

Age: 20 Position: RB/WR/LB/S

 #1. What are some of your hobbies off the football field?
RH: I coach football- Yorktown and York High  School freshman team. I love cooking and being in the kitchen, into anime, I work with a lot of after school programs.
#2. How excited are you to help sculpt the young minds of the players that might lead the turnaround of the York High School football program?
RH: It’s very exciting and is going to be a long process, but me being so young, they don’t expect me to do too much. But I plan on being a head coach someday, so it’s a great opportunity, and a way to get some experience under my belt.
#3. Tell me about your experience playing football for York High School.
RH: I was an offensive linemen and linebacker at 155 lbs., and made second team all-county my senior year.
#4. Either/or questions. Coffee or tea?
RH: Tea.
#5. Playstation or Xbox?
RH: PlayStation.
#6. Rock, paper, or scissors?
RH: Scissors.
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Remember to check out a new edition of Rhino Bites every Friday, featuring brand-new members of the Hanover Rhinos, exclusively on Rhino Charge.

What’s in a Uniform?

jersey

The Hanover Rhinos’ 2017 uniforms. The white jersey and both pairs of pants will debut this season.

The Hanover Rhinos will have a new look in 2017.

While the fan-favorite red home jerseys will remain, the team has revealed new white jerseys that will be worn for the games away from Snacktown.

The switch from the gray away jerseys comes months after the Atlantic Football Association passed a mandate that all teams must have one white jersey and one color jersey.

“The league requires all teams to have a home and away jersey,” AFA commissioner Rodney Anderson said in a league statement. “Light and dark, the same as any typical football league. It would be unsafe to have two teams in dark jerseys, and very difficult to distinguish at times. Some games are played at night, and it makes teams easily identifiable.”

While the league ruling played a factor in the decision, Rhinos’ co-owner Adam Bostian said the team had been contemplating a change.

” (Team president and co-owner) Chris Bunty and I talked about it a year or so ago,” Bostian said.

The changes Bostian and Bunty discussed at that time have become the design for the new away jerseys.

Made by Healy Sportswear, the white tops maintain the same bookend layout as the home red tops, which the Rhinos debuted in spring 2015.

“They are beautiful!,” Rhinos’ player Jordan Gardner said. “The white, at New Oxford, we wore almost all white, and have always liked it, nothing like getting a white jersey dirty!”

The body is white, with red lettering, while the bookends running down the side of the jersey under the arms are gray.

The white tops will be nameless on the back, and will belong to the team, while the red jersey tops will be personalized with the last name of the player, and they will belong to the individual players.

Gone from last season are the black, red, and gray pants that the Rhinos wore for every game. Instead, there will be two different styles of pants, one solid black, and one solid gray. The players will choose what style pants they will wear for the coming game at the end of each week’s practice.

Bostian said there is meaning behind all of the colors.

“Well, when the organization started 6 years ago, the colors were red and black, but the original Rhinos were red and gold,” Bostian said. “I graduated from South Western High School,  so I like the red and black.”

Surprisingly, Bostian does not list his South Western allegiance as the main reason for the gray parts of the Rhinos’ look.

“Kind-of,” Bostian said, “but Rhinos are also gray.”

Bostian said he hopes the new away uniforms will say boldly that the Rhinos are ‘a clean organization’.

Veteran linebacker Dorell Blue voiced his approval of the new look as well- “Fire, something new. I like”.

 

 

Rhinos’ Preseason Opener Cancelled

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The Hanover Rhinos’ preseason opener, scheduled for this Saturday, January 14 at Manheim Adventure Park, has been cancelled due to concerns over the weather.

Rhinos’ co-owners Chris Bunty and Adam Bostian announced the decision to the team on Tuesday morning.

“The scrimmage between the Hanover Rhinos and the Baltimore Giants is being postponed indefinitely due to bad weather forecasted for Saturday,” Bunty, who is also the Rhinos’ president, said. “We don’t want to risk the players, staff and fans from both teams.”

“Safety (is a concern), driving to and from,” Bostian said. It’s not worth someone getting into a car accident for a game that means nothing.”

Snow is forecasted to start with snow showers in the Hanover-Glenville area around 8 Saturday morning, with the ferocity of the precipitation predicted to escalate to steady snow in the early afternoon.

“Sometimes, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate,” Bostian added.

“(We’re) disappointed that the scrimmage was cancelled,” Giants’ owner Chuck Huntley, Jr. said. “We were looking forward to working with your organization, and hope it can be rescheduled.”

No plans to reschedule the game have been made at this time.

While the Rhinos’ players are eager to get back on the field to compete against another team, they are understanding of the ownership’s decision.

2016 team captain Dustyn Lauver agreed that there are more important things to focus on than one preseason game, but he also added, “I’d drive down (to Baltimore) to play the game if necessary.”

The Hanover Rhinos have 8 weeks of practice left until the 2017 Atlantic Football Association season opens.

Snacktown’s warriors will next take the field on Saturday, February 11, at 1:00, at Manheim Adventure Park, against the Pennsylvania Pharoahs.

The Pharaohs, who are based in Harrisburg, were WDFL Northern Conference finalists last season. This season, they will be making the transition to the ECFA.