Small schools aren’t supposed to be able to withstand massive graduation losses. Rebuilding years happen at Group I and Group II schools more than anywhere else. At some point there’s going to be a gap in talent an experience. Right? Well, Shore is not your average Group I program.

“If you look at paper and see we graduated 19 starters you’d think we’re done.” said Blue Devils head coach Mark Costantino. “But we fully expect to win every game and defend our titles.”

The two-time defending NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I and three-time defending Class B Central champs have to replace almost their entire starting roster from last season’s group that went 12-0 and finished ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive scoring in the conference. The reason Shore’s expectations haven’t diminished is a group of talented players that have been waiting their turn are now set to be starters, plus a talented sophomore class that will make an immediate impact.

“It’s kind of corny but the saying ‘tradition never graduates’ is true here,” said senior Matt Pennell. “We are instilled with that mentality since freshman year. We play every game like it’s our last.”

Shore seniors Josh Campi (23), Matt Pennell (4) and Mike Devine (52). (Photo by Ray Richardson).

Pennell is a returning starter on both sides of the ball and returns to quarterback Shore’s Delaware Wing-T offense. Pennell was the third option behind standout running backs Doug Goldsmith and Jack Britton last year, but was still able to account for 461 passing yards on just 44 attempts while scoring 12 total touchdowns. He’ll be relied upon much more as a senior.

“He forces me to do things we normally don’t do,” Costantino said. “His level of play has gone up so much on offense, and on defense he sees everything. We’re scoring more throwing than running in the preseason. He can score on every play.”

Senior Josh Campi will start at fullback after playing a lot last season, and will also see time at halfback. Sophomore Quadir Lawson, junior John Salerno and senior Lucas Jackey will also see time in the backfield. Senior Mark Russo returns at halfback after getting a lot of playing time last season, and junior Bailey Crochet is also in the mix at halfback. Sophomore Jack McCrae, who is currently injured but expected back soon, will also be at running back.

At wide receiver are sophomore Gil Goldsmith and senior Jared Carroll. Goldsmith will also see time in the backfield. The tight ends are senior Paul Christopher and junior Matt O’Donnell.

Senior Mike Devine is the lone returning starter on the offensive line and will be at left tackle. Junior Mike Rosati, a defensive standout, will also play along the offensive line at left guard. The center is senior Alex Clifton, the right guard is senior Tim O’Brien and the right tackle will be either junior Dan Mendillo or sophomore Sam Aromando.

Shore’s defense has been among the best in the conference over the past few years and will look to keep that streak going in its 3-4, 4-4 base. Devine and sophomore Vinny DeMaio, a Long Branch transfer, are the defensive tackles with Mendillo, Aromando and senior Kofi Awa also in the mix. The defensive ends are Rosati and junior Jason Van Brundt, who played at Red Bank Catholic last year. Clifton and O’Donnell will also see time at defensive end.

“Rosati dominates,” Costantino said. “As the year went on he was tremendous. His motor is never off. He’s a scholarship kid, and we’re very fortunate to have him on the team.”

Campi is the middle linebacker with O’Brien, Salerno and junior Matt Altomare also working in. Christopher started the last three games of the season at outside linebacker and will be a full-time starter this year. Lawson is the other outside linebacker with Jackey and juniors Jake Altomare and A.J. Shirley also in the mix.

The secondary has Goldsmith, Russo, Crochet and junior Ryan Morris working in at cornerback. Pennell is back as the safety for the third straight year. McCrae will also see time at safety when healthy.

On special teams, Goldsmith is the kicker and Christopher is the punter.

The Blue Devils will be challenged by a radically different Mater Dei Prep program and an improved Point Beach squad, but until some other team finds a way to take them down, the Class B Central and Central Jersey Group I titles run through the little school in West Long Branch.

RELATED: Shore Regional 2016 football schedule

Head Coach: Mark Costantino, 25th season.

Career Record: 165-85-1.

Coaching staff: Mike Whitacre (OL/DL); Jon Remedio (OL/DL); Pete Vincelli (RB/DB); Bob Biasi (WR/LB); Jack Levy (vol., QB/DB); Chris Riley (vol., QB/WR/DB); Joe Rankin, Marty Mullarney, John Vaccarelli; Joe Amuicci (athletic trainer).

2015 Record: 12-0 (5-0).

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Josh Campi, Sr., RB/LB

Campi will start at fullback and middle linebacker where first-team All-Shore player Doug Goldsmith played last season.

X-FACTOR: Inexperience

The Blue Devils have a reputation for reloading, but until the first-time starters get it done on the field there are some question marks.

GLUE GUY: Matt Pennell, Sr., QB/DB

A three-year starter on defense and a two-year starter at quarterback, Pennell is the Blue Devils’ most experienced player.

IMPACT NEWCOMER: Gil Goldsmith, So., RB/WR/DB

The promising sophomore with a winning pedigree will start on both sides of the ball.

PIVOTAL GAME: Oct. 8 at Mater Dei Prep

The Seraphs have some impact transfers and a new head coach who is a proven winner, so Mater Dei looks to be Shore’s primary challenger in B Central.

 

Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at badders@allshoremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights. 

 

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