2015 Manasquan Football Preview: New Season, New Attitude
After starting last season 3-1 only to lose their next six games on their way to their lowest win total in 26 years, Manasquan knew a change was necessary.
Granted, four of their losses were to two-time defending Central Jersey Group II champion Rumson-Fair Haven, Central Jersey Group III champion Matawan, Class A Central champion and 10-win St. John Vianney and state finalist Bridgeton, which finished a combined 45-21, but the coaching staff felt a change had to come. A record of 3-7 is not acceptable at Manasquan, which registered its lowest win total since going 3-6 in 1988.
After the Warriors’ tough loss to rival Wall on Thanksgiving, the changes started immediately.
“Losing our last six games changed our outlook, and it showed the next day when our weight room was packed with returning players ready to implement the changes,” fifth-year head coach Jay Price said.
The changes occurred from top to bottom, with many coaches being moved to different positions. New conditioning tests were instituted that all players had to complete in order to try out. The coaches stressed that practices were going to be more up tempo and everyone had to be in better shape and ready to play multiple positions.
“We entered numerous 7-on-7s during the off season and changed some of our strength and conditioning programs,’’ Price said. “We wanted to compete in everything.”
One of the changes was naming former Manasquan and Temple University star Don Klein as offensive coordinator. Klein has served as offensive line coach for the last four years, but will now take over the play calling.
One of the first things he has done is to force all his skill position players to be able to play multiple positions.
“I want the players being comfortable being uncomfortable,’’ Klein said. “It will keep them on their toes and not be able to take plays off.”
The offense will continue to be multiple, using two wide receivers, a tight end and two backs at times to continue to run power, iso and counter. In other sets, Klein will employ six or seven playmakers at one time hoping to spread the defense out and move his skill people around to find space to make plays.
“I want to keep the pressure on them to always know what’s going on,’’ Klein said. “We have six or seven playmakers who we want to touch the ball as much as possible.”
Their multiple offense will feature a three-headed monster at tailback in Toms River North junior transfer Parker Day, senior Paul Krueger, who is returning from a torn ACL he suffered five days before last year’s opener, and sophomore Connor Morgan, who filled in for Krueger last year and showed flashes of brilliance in sharing the rushing load with the graduated James McAlary.
“We are looking to spread the carries out to keep us all fresh,’’ Krueger said.
The quarterback battle is being waged between returning starter Liam Grieb, a senior, sophomore Tommy Antonucci, who saw significant time as a freshman, and junior Jerry Maher. Grieb will take most of the snaps after throwing for 1,104 yards and eight touchdowns last year, while Antonucci, the oldest son of Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci, is more of an option runner and sideline-to-sideline passer, and Maher is a classic pocket passer.
Senior Shane Flanagan and juniors Kyle LeBlanc and Damaso Jamie, in addition to the three tailbacks, will shift around in their spread formations. Junior Adam Schreck will hold down the tight end spot, and when not playing fullback, junior Tommy Meyer will also line up there.
The offensive line returns three starters even though they will be playing different positions. Seniors Matt McGrady, Dan Mopsick and Rob Hart all return with Mopsick at center, McGrady at guard and Hart at tackle. Sophomores Sean Anderson and Evan Hilla will fill in at the other guard spot and junior Dylan Pacetti will be at tackle.
The Warriors will line up in a 4-3 defense with McGrady and Hart at the tackles.
“We are interchangeable with either one of us playing a three- or one-technique,’’ McGrady said.
Junior Nick Pierro will also see plenty of action. The defensive end spots are being contested between Pacetti, Schreck, senior Dustin Piatti and junior Daniel Fiske.
The competition for playing time is even more evident at the linebacking positions with Meyer, Day, Krueger, Hilla and junior Jack Mallet all getting reps. The secondary spots are all up for grabs with Jamie and Flanagan working at the corners, and Antonucci and LeBlanc holding down the safety spots. Seniors Conor Kinneally and Kyle Coyne and junior Devan Carrol are pushing the starters for playing time. There is an open competition in the kicking game with Flanagan and Schreck leading the pack and Day as the punter.
“Hopefully the staff will find the right rotation to keep the players fresh,’’ Price said. “This is why we are teaching everyone two positions due to our lack of depth. We are already better than last year. We are in better shape, stronger and faster.’’
Hopefully this will lead the Warriors, who have more NJSIAA titles than any team in Shore Conference history (11), back to where they belong.
“Playing a 12-game season,’’ Price said.
Head Coach: Jay Price, fifth season
Career Record: 25-17
Assistant Coaches: Don Klein (off. coord./OL); Lou Certo (WR); Andy Manser (QB); Dave Hallion (RB); Billy Bertscha (DL); Darrell Falkinberg (OL); Sean Cunningham (off. asst.); Larry Kellyl (LB); Eric Howland (LB); Brian Lee (DB); Jay Price Sr. (DB); Rich Griffith, Matt Voskian, Andy Cefalo (freshman); Kevin Hyland (athletic trainer).
2014 Record: 3-7 (2-4)
Big Shoes to fill: The linebackers.
There are five players competing for three spots, and they will have to help replace the production of Tanner Cowley, who had 100-plus tackles last year and is now at the University of Virginia.
The Warriors had six players who saw significant time as sophomores last year and two others, Tommy Antonucci and Connor Morgan, who played key roles as freshmen. The Warriors need that experience to translate into making a bigger impact this fall.
Glue Guy: Matt McGrady, Sr., OL/DL
McGrady and fellow senior Paul Krueger are being counted on to set the tone on and off the field.
Impact Newcomer: Parker Day, Jr., RB/LB
Day ran for 381 yards and three touchdowns on an average of 5.4 yards per carry as a sophomore at Toms River North last season before transferring to Manasquan. He gives them another big-play weapon in the backfield and also should be in the mix at linebacker.
Pivotal game: Sept. 12 at home vs. Raritan.
The Warriors lost 41-34 in the opener to the Rockets last season and ended up struggling to a three-win campaign. They have never lost on their home field to Raritan in history, so they look to uphold that streak and build some momentum right off the bat.