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Up 24-0 at halftime only to lose 28-24 to Shawnee in the semifinals of last season’s NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV playoffs, Toms River South has plenty of built-in motivation as it enters 2014.

“When it happened it was the worst thing ever,” said senior quarterback Tymere Berry. “But looking back it has put a chip on our shoulder and gives us motivation to come out and go all the way this year.”

“Everybody who was on the field last year will remember that game,” said senior linebacker Quentin DeCarlo. “It’s in the back of our minds, and we want to get back there and win it this time.”

The Indians will have to replace a handful of All-Shore players from a season ago, but return dynamic quarterback Tymere Berry and running back Khaleel Greene along with a sizable  offensive line. After a brutal conclusion to last season, the Indians feel they’re ready to contend for division and state titles in their fourth season under head coach Ron Signorino Jr.

Five total starters return from an offense that averaged 33 points a game last season. Berry enters his third year as a starter and is coming off a year in which he threw for 1,090 yards and eight touchdowns and ran for an additional 815 yards and 11 scores. At ‘A’ back is Greene, who split time with 1,100-yard rusher Otis Kearney last season. Greene chipped in with 620 yards and 15 touchdowns. The slot backs are junior Jaden Kosh at one position and either junior Tyler Sosa or junior Mike Cutillo. Jeremiah Lonerdon will also see time in the backfield.

Toms River South quarterback Tymere Berry, shown here in 2012, returns after accumulating nearly 2,000 total yards last season. (Photo by Cliff Lavelle).

“We’re obviously blessed to have Tymere back and there’s no question he’s the main cog in the offense,” Signorino said. “And we feel good with Khaleel as the full-time ‘A’ back. He’s pretty special with the ball.”

“I know the offense a lot better and everything is second nature now,” Berry said. “I’m just working hard to keep getting better.”

Junior Javion Harris returns as a starter at wide receiver and will be joined by senior Francis Hearne. Junior Isaiah Parker will also see time at receiver. Harris has strong potential, and the Indians are hoping he can be the downfield threat Darrius Hart was last season.

“This has to be a big year for him,” Signorino said. “He has the ability to replace a Darrius Hart, but will he? That’s yet to be determined. If he does he’ll be a very good football player.”

The offensive line returns two full-time starters and another player who saw action, and looks to be the strength of the team. Junior Kyle Hebrew is the center and seniors Mike Rutter and Jimmy Allen are the guards. The first-year starters are the tackles, senior Travis Galanos and senior Tyler Parenteau.

“There’s no question this is the biggest team we’ve had since we’ve been here,” Signorino said. “We’re big and strong on both sides. Allen, Hebrew and Rutter are just tough, hard-nosed players. And we’re as big at tackle as ever for what we ask them to do. You win in the trenches, and with what we have in Tymere and Khaleel we’ll be fine because of what we have up front.”

The Indians' defense was solid last season, but they would like to improve on allowing 21.5 points per game. They’ll run a 4-2-5 base that features six returning starters. Three starting defensive linemen are returners, with Allen at defensive tackle and Rutter and Joe Odebode at defensive end. Junior David Rodriguez will start next to Allen as the other tackle.

DeCarlo started on the line last season but has been moved back to inside linebacker. Kosh returns as the other starting inside linebacker to give Toms River South a strong run-defending presence.

“We want to stop the run first, and with our size and athleticism up front I think we’ll be able to do that,” Signorino said.

Cutillo and Lonerdon are working in at one outside linebacker spot with Sosa as the other outside linebacker. Harris and Berry are the starting cornerbacks with Parker and Hearne also in the rotation. Greene returns as the starting safety.

Handling both the kicking and punting duties will be sophomore Matt Shiffer.

Toms River South began last season 2-0 before losing back-to-back games to eventual Central Jersey Group IV champion Brick and Lacey. The Indians then won their next five games to reach the sectional semifinals before the heartbreaking loss to Shawnee. The Class A South schedule will be fierce once again, but the Indians are up there with Brick as the front-runners to win the division title.

With Berry and Greene in the backfield, the Indians’ offense will put up points. If the lines on both sides play as well as the coaching staff feels they can, it could take the Indians to another level. That feeling among the players and coaches is that this year’s Toms River South squad is a championship team.

“Our mindset is that we’re going to compete and be there in the end,” Signorino said. “We built the foundation and the concrete is dry, so we’re solid there. These seniors are our guys now, so hopefully we prepare them and put a good product out there.”

“We want nothing less than a championship this year,” Berry said. “We went out with a bad taste in our mouths last season, and we want to end it differently this time.”

 

Head coach: Ron Signorino Jr., 4th season

Career record: 15-16

Assistant coaches: Matt Martin (off. coord./RB); Bill Rankin (QB); Brett Hardie (WR/spec. teams); Kyle Austin (OL); Joe Kelly (RB); Ron Signorino Sr. (def. coord./LB); Ray Guzzi (LB); Steve Bernath (LB); John Smicklo (DL); Jimmy Drackowitz (DL); Bill McDonnell (DB); Debbie Morante (athletic trainer).

2013 record: 8-3 (5-2).

Big Shoes To Fill: Javion Harris, Jr., WR/DB

Harris will be counted on to fill the void left by the graduation of Darrius Hart, who had 467 receiving yards and six touchdowns and also intercepted seven passes on defense.

X-Factor: Finishing games

When Toms River South did stumble it was late in games, so the challenge this season is to sustain a high level of play and put good teams away when they do get a lead.

Glue Guys: Mike Rutter, Sr., OL/DL and Jimmy Allen, Sr., OL/DL

Rutter and Allen are returning starters on both sides of the ball who are the key cogs in what appears to be the strength of the team.

Impact Newcomer: Matt Shiffer, So., K/P

Shiffer takes over the team's kicking duties, and with the Indians likely to be playing in several big games, has a chance to potentially convert some crucial kicks.

Pivotal Game: Sept. 26 vs. Toms River North

An improved Mariners squad would like nothing more than to knock off their biggest rival in “The Civil War,” and a win by the Indians here would likely leave them undefeated entering the teeth of the A South schedule.