Football – Building a Program: 2017 Central Regional Preview
Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out”, Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and Carl Douglas’s “Kung Fu Fighting” are all famous for being one-hit wonders. While Central Regional’s 7-2 record in 2016 was one of the Shore Conference’s true surprises, it was the kind of season second-year head coach Justin Fumando knows you need to have annually if you want to build a consistent winning program.
Fumando knows what building a winning program is all about having been a part of one as an assistant at Manalapan before taking the Central job and turning around the Golden Eagles’ fortunes in just one season. Many will likely expect a bit of a dip with the graduations losses of record-setting running back Mike Bickford and two-way standout Denis Corbin, but Fumando is not one of them. Sure, the duo was a big part of Central’s success, but a full offseason in the weight room and a taste of winning have the returning Golden Eagles looking to fly high again this fall.
Fumando is a big believer in offseason strength and conditioning programs and he only had a few months to implement one before last season because he was hired in the spring, but it was a different story this winter and spring and many Central players have reaped the rewards of that work.
Right at the top of the list is junior quarterback Joe Fowler, who has added about 30 pounds of “good weight” and at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds is an imposing sight behind center. Fowler threw for 722 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore and with Bickford’s 1,737 yards on the ground taken to Kean University, expect those numbers to rise. His main targets will be junior Darius Martorano and converted quarterback Eli Allen, a talented athlete who coaches had to get on the field.
The tight end position is a strength with 6-foot-2, 230-pound senior Blake Horgan and impressive freshman Danny Taris.
One of the big reasons for Central’s success last year was its offensive line, but four of the five starters graduated so the group is a bit of work in progress. The good news is the return of senior Brandon Voss, a ferocious 6-foot-2, 290-pounder who has been moved from guard to right tackle where he should be among the best in the Shore Conference. Voss will need to show leadership for his new line mates, including junior center Derric Esporrin and junior guards Raul Rivera and Nick Provenzano. Battling for the starting left tackle spot is a trio of seniors in Brandon Stevens, Trevor Barber and Vance Pelino.
The featured running back in the Golden Eagles’ Power I formation will be sophomore Kavon Chambers, a speedy and shifty tailback who saw action as a freshman and could be one of the top breakout performers in Class A South. Chambers will not have to do it alone as senior Lino DelGiudice and sophomore Landon Richardson will get their share of touches.
Defensively, Central will line up in a 3-4 with senior Royal Parks manning the nose guard spot and flanked by Imre Homoki, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound senior volleyball player making his varsity football debut. The other defensive line position will be filled by sophomores Elijah Copes, Hunter Dasti or Kyzion Collins and pencil in junior Troy Warren for some quality time as well.
The back eight should be the strength of the defense with DelGiudice and junior Cody Anderson
filling the inside linebacker spots and Horgan and senior Ryan Emmetts taking care of the outside. All four are sure tacklers who can fill gaps and cover the outside as well.
Fumando is high in his praise of senior safeties Jonathan Gonzalez and Neil Harrington, who can come up to stop the run and cover the deep pass as well. The cornerback rotation is made up of seniors Jonathan Banks and George Britting along with sophomore Jamar Lively.
The kicking duties will be handled by senior Shane Black, who is solid from about 40 yards and was 24-for-28 on extra points last season. He will also be the punter.
The Golden Eagles swing into action early, hosting Southern in Week 0 on Friday, September 1.
It was a come-from-behind win over the Rams last year in the season opener that set the stage for a 7-2 season which saw Central face Toms River North in the regular season finale for the division title. Central lost that game, but the fact they were in that position was quite an accomplishment for Fumando and his rather young staff. Winning has also attracted about 20 more players into the program this season, which should help with depth.
A “program” was precisely what Fumando wanted to build most when he took over as Central’s head coach and there’s a feeling that’s exactly what is being accomplished.
No one-hit wonders for the Golden Eagles.
Head Coach: Justin Fumando, second season.
Career record: 7-2.
Assistant Coaches: Chris James (off. coord./QB); Jarrett Pidgeon (def. coord. /ILB); Matt Kiefer (OL); Dennis Pidgeon (defense); Terrance Hardy (DB); Tom Tarver (WR); Pat Reilly (TE); Raul Rivera (OLB); James Plummer (RB); Rocco Manfre (freshmen HC); Connor Heil, Walter Karasiewicz, Shawn Darling (freshmen); Devin Slovenik (athletic trainer).
2016 Record: 7-2 (6-1)
Big Shoes to Fill: Kavon Chambers, So., RB
Replacing the school’s all-time leading rusher Mike Bickford is about as big as the shoes get. Chambers averaged over six yards per carry in limited action last fall as a freshman and has shown some spectacular flashes during practices and scrimmages. He will need to give Central a consistent ground game which will open things up for Fowler and the passing game.
X Factor: Offensive line
They don’t get the headlines but the offensive line last season was a big reason why the team averaged about 270 yards rushing per game. However, with four of the five graduated early in the season it will be up to the lone holdover, All-Division senior Brandon Voss, to help nurture the new guys.
Glue Guys: Lino DelGiudice, Blake Horgan and Jonathan Gonzalez
Central is a two-platoon team but these three though will see action on both sides of the ball with Horgan a two-way starter who won’t leave the field much.
Impact Newcomer: Imre Homoki, Sr., DE
The 6-foot-6 volleyball player is making his football debut as a senior and will need to protect the edge, which Denis Corbin did so well last year. He’ll also be counted on to provide a pass rush from the outside and use those long arms and jumping ability to make an immediate impact.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 6 at Brick Memorial
You can really take your pick in a wide-open Class A South division, but a mid-season road game against what should be an improved Brick Memorial squad could be crucial to Central's playoff hopes.