2015 Middletown South Football Preview: Eagles Looking To Soar
Winning never comes easy, but for the football program at Middletown South it is almost bred into their DNA. The Eagles year-in and year-out continue to play at a high level and give themselves a shot at division and state titles.
This is a program built on hard work, pride, hustle and determination. This year’s group is no different. The senior class started their high school careers with an undefeated freshman team and so did the junior class. To say these two groups know what it takes to win is an understatement.
Coming off a season in which the Eagles reached an NJSIAA championship game for the 11th time in 14 years, they look to finish the job after losing to Jackson Memorial in the Central Jersey Group IV final for their fifth straight loss in a state championship game. This season the Eagles are reloaded with a strong senior class that has the added depth and confidence in their junior and sophomore counterparts.
“We are more mature and confident as a whole this season,’’ veteran head coach Steve Antonucci said. “There is no looking back. We have learned from each step we took last season and hope to build on that this season.”
The Eagles were one of the Shore Conference’s best offenses last season, finishing among the elite at 30.7 ppg. They return senior quarterback Matt Mosquera, who also was selected first-team All-Shore by SSN as a placekicker last season. He threw for 1,240 yards and five touchdowns last season and also served as a running threat. On special teams, he was sensational in goint 14-for-15 on field goal attempts, tying the single-season Shore record of 14 field goals. Mosquera also was 44-for-44 on extra points and is now a perfect 84-for-84 on PATs for his career, one of the best streaks in state history, in addition to being 20-for-21 on field goals for his career.
“(Mosquera) is a gifted athlete who never seems to miss a beat,’’ Antonucci said. “He is cool under pressure both at quarterback and on field goals.”
In the backfield, senior Cole Rogers is coming off a huge season in which he finished third in the Shore Conference in rushing with 1,859 yards and 27 touchdowns to earn SSN second-team All-Shore honors. His counter-part, junior James McCarthy, also returns after seeing action at tailback last season. Junior Kevin Higgins, along with Jake Krellin, will solidify the fullback position.
Mosquera has two tremendous targets at wideout in senior Spencer Pereless, who had 18 catches for 185 yards last season, and Jeremy Joyce. Add in the additional packages for Brian Higgins, Robert Hulse, Danny Diodato and Matt Ferrigno, and the Eagles look to have solid depth at wideout this season.
Where much of the season may hinge is the development of the offensive line, the unit with the most turnover from a year ago. Senior center Joey Rutkowski, senior FBS prospect Tom Lopez and sophomore Adam Markmann have all cemented themselves as starters leaving Chris Patterson, Jeremy Desteno and Frankie Settembrino working for the other open line positions.
“Our offensive line is young this year, but they are working hard and will compete with anyone in front of them,’’ Antonucci said.
Defensively, the Eagles will once again employ a 4-2-5 scheme after a successful switch last year that produced six shutouts, which tied the school record, and only allowed 9.6 ppg. Senior captain Dylan Rogers, Cole’s twin brother, returns to lead the way at linebacker.
Dylan Rogers recorded a school-record 122 tackles last season as a junior to earn SSN first-team All-Shore honors and looks even more explosive this season. Along with Rogers, look for junior Maxx Imsho to continue his growth at the hybrid linebacker/safety position after a promising sophomore season. The secondary is once again anchored by Cole Rogers and Hulse.
“Defensively we are very strong again this year, and the Rogers brothers have stepped up their leadership and have both units flying around the field,’’ Antonucci said. “We are looking forward to watching this unit perform this season.”
Before the Eagles can worry about finishing the job in the state playoffs to win their 10th overall NJSIAA title, they have to find a way to solve Manalapan in Class A North. The Braves have beaten them five straight times in winning five straight division titles. The Eagles also will have a new group of teams to worry about in the postseason, as they have been realigned from Central Jersey Group IV to North II, Group IV this season under the latest NJSIAA realignment.
Head coach: Steve Antonucci, 18th season
Career record: 158-37
Assistant coaches: Al Bigos (asst. head coach/def. coord.); Joe O’Connor (off. coord.); Steve Roberts (LB/WR/spec. teams); Joe Passo (QB); Nick Trezza (OL); Rich Read (off. coord./OL); Howard Barbieri (OL); R.J. Read (WR); Joe Mirault (DL); Tom Grier (off. asst.); Rod Murchie, Rick Taylor (freshman); Stacy White (athletic trainer)
2014 record: 9-3 (5-1)
Big Shoes to Fill: Robert Burke, Jr., TE/DT
Burke got valuable reps last season a sophomore playing alongside graduated standouts Dan Servidio and Brian Joyce on the defensive line. He will be needed to help replace the production of Servidio, who recorded 80 tackles and 11 sacks last year.
X-factor: Matt Mosquera, Sr., QB/K
Returning as one of the top kickers in New Jersey, Mosquera also returns for his second season as starting quarterback. If he can give the Eagles good balance with the passing game to complement a stellar running game, the offense could be even more potent than last year’s standout unit.
Glue Guy: Dylan Rogers, Sr., LB
Rogers is coming off the best statistical season of any linebacker in history at Middletown South, which has produced numerous All-Shore linebackers over the years. If he can duplicate that production again this year, the Eagles will once again be looking at a title shot.
Impact Newcomer: Jake Krellin, So., RB/DE
Krellin will get his shot to replace graduated standout Pat Crowe at defensive end and looks to be a key component in the Eagles’ pass rush.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 16 at home vs. Manalapan
If the Eagles want that elusive Class A North title, they have to find a way to solve the five-time defending champions and end a five-game losing streak against Manalapan. The Braves will be coming to “The Swamp” this year, where the Eagles look to finally turn the tide.