2015 Matawan Football Preview: Staying Hungry
Coming off their sixth NJSIAA title in history with a 27-7 win over Carteret to capture the Central Jersey Group III crown, Matawan is out to make sure there is no letdown coming into this season despite graduation losses and the transfer of one of its top returners.
Once again, the Huskies will start with the difficult 1-2 punch of defending Class A Central champion St. John Vianney and two-time defending Central Jersey Group II champion Rumson-Fair Haven in their first two games.
“Last season people counted us out when we lost to SJV and RFH and went 0-2 to start the season,’’ head coach John Kaye said. “We made adjustments and finished state champs, so let’s just take this season week to week and build off last season.”
Led by sophomore quarterback Georg “LC” Pearson, the Huskies return a host of Division I prospects ready to help them repeat as sectional champions. Pearson, along with seniors Aliem Shaw and Shawn Ramcheran, looks to head one of the more explosive offenses in the Shore. Pearson threw for a Shore Conference freshman-record 1,956 yards and 16 touchdowns to earn SSN third-team All-Shore honors and already has an offer from Temple.
The backfield will consist of seniors Isaiah Phillip at fullback and Makiya Ceasar at tailback, who will take over the starting role after the graduation of leading rusher Devon Spann. Shaw, a two-time, SSN first-team All-Shore selection at linebacker, and junior Derrick Wiley will also see some time at running back.
The offensive line will be led by returning senior starters Mike Kawka and Dave Sherman, along with juniors Mike Mchugh and Donald Small, with junior Jesse Haber filling in at the open spot. Senior Dylan Messiah will also see some time on the offensive line. Junior newcomer Jacob Signorile steps in at tight end, with Alex Pierce and Ramcheran at wide receiver. Ramcheran returns after making 31 catches for 391 yards and six touchdowns, including a pair of touchdown catches in the state final. Juniors Joe Beukers and Jake Burlew will also see some time at wideout as the Huskies try to replace the production of DeJohn Rogers, who had 36 catches for 616 yards and 5 touchdowns last year but has transferred to Paramus Catholic.
The defensive line will consist of Mchugh at one defensive end spot and Signorile and senior Austin Santana-Simmons rotating at the other defensive end position. Kawka and junior Andrew Conzo will look to fill the production of graduated standout Jake Weber as the defensive tackles.
Shaw, who had with 122 tackles, 15 tackles for a loss and 7 sacks as a junior, leads a linebacking corps that looks to be one of the most dominant ones in the Shore Conference. He is joined by Phillip, a three-year starter who had 74 tackles last season, and Ceasar. Ramcheran returns at cornerback and junior Ray Belony will step in for Rogers, who also was one of the Shore’s top cover corners. Pierce and sophomore Devonte Spann will be the safeties, with Pierce making the transition after playing linebacker last year.
On the special teams, the Huskies return senior starting place kicker Adam Elliott, who was one of the top kickers in the Shore Conference a year ago and also booted a game-winning field goal in the final seconds to beat Ocean in the sectional semifinals. Junior long-snapper Patrick Hennessy also returns as a starter, and junior Lucca Caetano-DeAlmeida will take over the punting role after the graduation of Jimmy Pierce. Ramcheran returns as a playmaker in the return game.
In addition to Pearson and Ramcheran, the Huskies have several other players generating FBS or FCS interest, including Shaw, Phillip, Kawka, Elliott, Small and Mchugh. They now look to translate that talent into the program’s first back-to-back state titles since 1991-92 and their first division title since 2010.
Head Coach: John Kaye (10th Season)
Career Record (51-26-1)
Assistant coaches: Nick Citro (DL), Jay Bellamy (Def. Coord./Spec. Teams/QB), Ken Mandeville (RB), Scott Davis (WR), Charlie Marsh (LB), Sam Turner (OL), Dave Monro, Nick Vasilinko; Matt Goetz (athletic trainer).
2014 Record: 8-4 (4-2)
Big Shoes to fill: Shawn Ramcheran, Sr., WR/DB
With the transfer of Rogers, the team’s leading returner in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches, the Huskies will lean on the veteran Ramcheran to help fill the void.
The explosive offense behind sophomore quarterback, George Pearson will look to make another leap forward after averaging 25.1 points per game last season.
Glue Guy: George Pearson, So., QB
Despite only being a sophomore, Pearson has already led a team to a state championship, throwing a career-high four touchdown passes in the final against Carteret. The offense will go as far as the maturity and leadership of Pearson can carry it.
Pivotal game: At home on Sept. 12 vs. St. John Vianney
There is no love lost between these two rivals, as St. John Vianney features two prominent Matawan transfers and other standouts with Matawan ties. This also is a big game in the Class A Central race right off the bat, and the Huskies will look to avenge a loss from last season.