2014 Point Beach Football Preview: Ready For More
After an incredible run to the program’s first NJSIAA state sectional title last fall, Point Beach’s football team knows it will have to adjust to being on top as it sets out to make another march toward a championship. With its three star players all returning as seniors, the bull's eye will be squarely on their backs in Central Jersey Group I.
“Now there’s a target on our back and everyone wants to beat us,” said senior halfback and cornerback Mike Frauenheim. “It makes us work harder in practice and stay focused longer. We have something to defend now.”
The Garnet Gulls will have to replace their entire offensive line, but have their big three back in Frauenheim, senior quarterback Jake Fioretti and senior fullback Joe Wegrzyniak, a Shore Sports Network first-team All-Shore selection who ran for 1,581 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. They will pace an offense that averaged 25 points per game last season and was clutch during its playoff run.
Fioretti is a four-year starter at quarterback in Point Beach’s Wing-T offense, and threw for 721 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Behind him in the backfield are Wegrzyniak at fullback and Frauenheim at left halfback. Frauenheim ran for 756 yards and 10 touchdowns to give the Garnet Gulls a tandem of runners who combined for over 2,000 yards. Those three, however, are the only returning starters on offense, and they understand even more will be on their shoulders this season.
“Me, Mike and Joe, we know this is our team and we have to be the leaders,” Fioretti said.
“Out of all three of us we know we have to help the younger kids, and in the long run that will help us,” Wegrzyniak said. “That’s what you have to do at a Group I school."
The other halfback position will be staffed by seniors Geno Antagnoli, Drew Napoliello and Zack Schaller. Playing tight end will be junior Tanner Smith and sophomore Connor Kells. Point Beach has to replace leading wide receiver Noah Yates, who had 398 yards and six touchdowns, and will do so with senior Kent Napoliello and 6-foot-2 junior Ryan Sheehan.
Point Beach received excellent line play last season, especially during the playoffs, so the onus is on the new starters to keep playing at the same pace. The tackles are sophomore Matt Zuhowski and junior Forrest Gardner with sophomore Cody Liguori also in the rotation. Gardner is out until early in the season with a broken arm, so Liguori will take his place until his return. The guards are senior Jake DeLorenzo and junior Kevin Barry, and the center is sophomore Cade Watkins.
“We have a young line, but they’re kids that work hard and want to be good, so when you have players like that stepping in it helps a lot,” Frauenheim said.
The Gulls’ defense allowed just 11 points per game last season, and turned in a phenomenal performance in the sectional final by holding Shore Regional in check in a 12-7 victory. Seven starters return from that unit, including leading tackler Wegrzyniak.
The defensive linemen in Beach’s multiple front are all interchangeable, positionally, and feature Barry, Smith (65 tackles and 4 sacks) and Gardner as returning starters and Zuhowski stepping in along the line. Liguori and Watkins will also see time along the defensive line.
DeLorenzo is a returning starter at inside linebacker and will be joined by Schaller. Wegrzyniak returns to start at outside linebacker after posting a team-leading 92 tackles, 17 tackles for a loss, 6.5 sacks and one interception. Drew Napoliello will be the other outside linebacker.
The secondary returns both of its starting cornerbacks with Frauenheim and Fioretti back. Frauenheim intercepted four passes last season. The safeties are Kells and Sheehan.
“Noah (Yates) was a big loss because of all the interceptions and (Sean) Struncius was a big loss because he was the leader on the line, but we have most of our 'backers back, Mike and I on the corners, and guys up front that should play well,” Fioretti said.
Tryouts are sill ongoing for the starting kicker position with Schaller and Antagnoli among those in the mix. Wegrzyniak will be the punter.
In the Shore Conference’s Class B Central division it will be Point Beach and Shore as the frontrunners, and those two teams will also be among the top squads in Central Jersey Group I. The teams meet for their divisional game on Halloween, and could once again see each other in the playoffs. The Blue Devils will surely be looking for revenge after last season’s defeat in the sectional final. Being the hunted team is an entirely different role for Point Beach, but one they’ve been working toward for the last four years.
“The mentality from the outside is that Beach is going to be X, Y, Z and that’s what we wanted three years ago,” said head coach John Wagner. “When people see Beach they believe every year we’ll be competitive.”
“It’s crazy, actually,” Wegrzyniak said. “My freshman year to now is such a huge difference. We were trying to build to this and now we have to maintain it. It’s a completely different role, but we’re excited for it and ready to go.”
Head coach: John Wagner, 4th season (29th overall)
Career record: 28-6 (178-98-2 overall)
Assistant coaches: Jeff Bower (RB/DB); Rich DelDuca (OL/DL); Bill Evans (WR/DB); Brandon Neary (OL/DL/freshman); Paul Struncius (QB); Mike McGee (LB/freshman); Cali Whedon (athletic trainer); Dr. Joseph Mannion (team physician).
2013 record: 10-2 (4-1)
Big Shoes to Fill: Ryan Sheehan, Jr., WR/S
Sheehan steps in as a starter at split end and safety where Noah Yates, who had six receiving touchdowns and a state-best nine interceptions, played last season.
X-Factor: Line play
The Garnet Gulls have three proven weapons in the backfield, so if a young and inexperienced offensive line can come together Point Beach shouldn’t miss a beat offensively.
Glue Guy: Jake Fioretti, Sr., QB/CB
A four-year varsity player who starts both ways, Fioretti sets the tone as the team’s offensive leader.
Impact Newcomer: Connor Kells, So., TE/S
Kells brings good size (6-foot-1, 185 pounds) as a first-year starter at tight end and in the secondary.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 31 at Shore
Not only will it be a rematch of last season’s sectional final and division championship game, it will likely decide the division title again and also be a preview of another state final. Both teams could be undefeated entering this game.