Football – New Pieces to the Puzzle: 2017 Freehold Township Preview
In the first two seasons of Cory Davies’ tenure at Freehold Township the Patriots have made consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in program history and tied the single-season for wins. They’ll try to continue the upward trend in 2017, but the challenges they’ll face are unlike anything they’ve dealt with the last two years.
The good news is the Patriots are coming off a 7-3 season and an appearance in the Central Jersey Group IV playoffs. The bad news is that to build upon that success they will have to break in new starters at almost every position, most notably all the skill players in their pass-heavy Air Raid offense.
“The challenge has been just to get reps for them, because they’re athletic,” Davies said. “We have seven or eight wide receivers that can play and will get on the field and a young quarterback that’s learning the offense. The biggest thing is to get them battle-tested against live action. We think we have the ability to do well, but they’re young and there’s going to be growing pains.”
Stepping in at quarterback is junior Nick Reardon. He’ll look to follow in the footsteps of Charles Sabbagh, who threw for 2,176 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. Sophomore Brendan Doel will be the backup.
“I’m really excited for the upcoming season, me and the receivers have worked all offseason and have really clicked well,” Reardon said. “It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m ready for it.”
“Reardon has a very good arm and he’s coming along, but we’ll see how well he does when he’s tested in real games,” Davies said.
Senior Pat Laricy and Kevin Doherty, both of whom were starting defensive backs last season, look to be the top two receivers along with fellow seniors James Romeo and Artie Bader and juniors John Manfre, Anthony Simonelli, David Jolly and Ryan Tanner.
It will be a running-back-by-committee rotation for the Patriots with seniors Mike Cenname and Damian Rybaltowski, junior Gaven Ferraro, sophomore Nic Nasso and senior newcomer Ja’Zeem Foster.
The offensive line features the only two returning starters on the offensive side as 6-foot-1, 285-pound senior Jake White is the center and 6-foot-1, 235-pound junior Max Pirozzi will be at guard. Junior John Ferguson will be one of the starting tackles along with senior James Spucches, and senior Rob Lidondici, junior Lorenzo Pantano and sophomore Jarrid Markowitz will also see playing time.
The Patriots have four starters back on defense where they will change their front to a 3-3-5 multiple stack look. Both Rybaltowski and senior Eric Quartey started along the defensive line last year and both have been moved back to stack linebacker. Cenname will start at middle linebacker. Junior Zach Barilka at middle linebacker and seniors Artie Bader and Derek Rivera at stack linebacker will also see playing time.
“With the change in the defense I think it’s going to be very good with me and Damian coming off the edge and forcing pressure,” Quartey said.
“Eric Quartey is a heck of a football player and so is Damian Rybaltowski,” Davies said. “We’ll move them around to get the most out of them.”
Seniors Ryan Fiolek and Tom Haley look to be the starting defensive ends with Pantano, Markowitz, junior Andre Douyon and sophomore Jake Mollica also seeing time along the defensive line. The strong safeties/outside linebackers are seniors Rich Norton and Kyle Melone. Foster, Ferraro and senior Chandler Mortimer will also see time.
Laricy and Doherty are both returning starters in the secondary after solid junior seasons. Doherty was tied for fourth in the Shore with four interceptions last season and will return at cornerback. Laricy had three interceptions last season and will move from cornerback to free safety to replace four-year starter Anthony Lotti. Senior Eddie Bracey along with Manfre, Ferraro and Simonelli are competing for the other cornerback spot opposite Doherty. Junior Mike Woods will back up Laricy at free safety.
“Laricy and Doherty are two pretty good defense backs, and we’re going to need them with some of the teams on our schedule,” Davies said.
The Patriots will also have to replace first-team All-Shore kicker Tyler Schulman, punter Shawn Poole and long snapper Jon O’Brien. Junior Carl Gilmartin will take over the kicking duties along with former soccer player Colin Taptich. Mortimer will be the punter and seniors Scot Lavelle and Nick Silveredes will compete to be the starting long snapper.
With teams like Manalapan and Howell, the Ashante Worthy-led Freehold Colonials and an improved Marlboro team, it’s going to be an uphill battle for the inexperienced Patriots. But for the seniors, the goal is to go out on top.
“Our goals are the same as anybody else’s: we want A North and we want that ring,” Quartey said. “Whatever people want to think is up to them, but we have our goals and we’re going to do what we have to do.”
At a Glance
Head coach: Cory Davies, third season (24th overall).
Career record: 101-124.
Coaching staff: Derek Reichenbecher (def. coord./DL/RB); Gene Blanco (DB/WR); Bill Dague (OL/LB); Mike Burlew (freshmen HC); Brick Glick, Kevin Popek (freshmen); Ed Von Nessen (def. asst.); Ryan Davies (quality control/analyst); Cindy Carter (athletic trainer).
2016 record: 7-3 (4-2).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Pat Laricy, Sr., WR/DB
Laricy was a starter on defense last year, but on offense he’ll move into the No. 1 wide receiver spot that was occupied by first-team All-Shore player Anthony Lotti. Laricy will also shift from cornerback to free safety to assume Lotti’s role on defense.
X-FACTOR: Skill players
The Patriots have new starters at quarterback, running back and all the wide receiver positions, so there are plenty of unknowns. In an offense such as theirs it’s all on them to come together and be productive.
GLUE GUY: Eric Quartey, Sr., LB
Quartey is one of six returning starters who will look to keep the Patriots in contention for a playoff spot and in Class A North.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Nick Reardon, Jr., QB
Reardon gets the call to take over the Patriots’ most important offensive position.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 9 at Freehold
“The Duke” will be on the line when rivals Freehold and Freehold Township meet in Week 1. There’s always momentum to be gained from winning a rivalry game, and knocking off a returning state semifinalist would be a huge boost t for the Patriots.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.