Football – Spread the Wealth: 2016 Keansburg Football Preview
Second-year Keansburg coach John Bird believes he has a potential playmaker on his roster for this upcoming season and not only did Bird want to turn his up-and-coming sophomore Danny Vital into a full-time, multi-dimensional quarterback, but he also overhauled his offense to make the most of his talent.
A major part of Keansburg’s move from the flex bone offense to the spread this season – the third offense in as many years for the Titans – is the addition Bird made to his coaching staff. Bird’s choice of offensive coordinator to implement the spread and groom Vital is Jim Reid, who was the offensive coordinator last season for a St. John Vianney team that went 11-1 behind All-State quarterback and current Boston College freshman Anthony Brown.
While Bird and Reid would not be so bold as to compare Vital to Brown as a prospect, Bird – who also came to Keansburg from the Vianney coaching staff – believes Vital has the makings of a legitimate playmaker at the quarterback position, particularly at a Group I school that plays in a division with other small schools.
“We’re looking to run the offense that Vianney did with a little more power running because, truthfully, we don’t have Anthony Brown,” Bird said. “Truthfully, though, that Danny Vital is pretty good. I coached Anthony Brown and I’ve coached Danny and he’s getting there. I don’t know if he’ll get to that level but he’s on the right track.”
After an offseason working on his throwing mechanics, Vital is ready to air it out in the new offense after picking up a helping of playing time last year as a sophomore. While the coaching staff is ready to put more on the quarterback’s plate, the offense will be geared more toward a balanced attack this season than it was last year. Keansburg leaned heavily on running back Arkeyel Brown for its offensive production last season and with Brown gone, the message has been for many to fill the void left by one.
“I’ve had some experience in the spread and I like it,” Vital said. “Coach Reid has me working on my footwork and it’s making a difference. I thought I was pretty good throwing the ball before but I’ve gotten a lot better.”
While replacing Brown’s production at the same time a new quarterback learns a new offense might seem like a daunting task for a team coming off a 1-9 season, Keansburg graduated just three senior starters from the 2014 and, according to Bird, has its strongest program numbers in years.
Even with the loss of Brown, Keansburg will be experienced at tailback with junior returnee Joe Osterbye, who will maintain a central role in the offense, even as the Titans move to a more pass-heavy attack. Justin Alessi, Steven McCoy, Julian Castell and Miguel Crespo make up a seasoned group of receivers for Vital to target, and Isaac Monteiro is a potential option at tight end when he is not in the backfield as a lead blocker for Osterbye or the rest of the running back corps.
The experience on the offensive line is a strong point for Keansburg as well, with four starters back in the fold. Senior center Richie Squeo is one of the top linemen in Class B Central and Bird estimates that he will end up a Division III lineman, at the very least. He is joined up front by seniors Jarred Bell and Dylan Ryan, as well as sophomore Paul Liseno – all of whom started last season. The newcomer to the group is senior Vaughn Fitzgerald, who will play right tackle.
“I think the new offense is actually a little easier for the line, at least for me,” Squeo said. “Having that experience definitely helps. We only had three seniors last year so we’ve got a bunch of guys who came back stronger and more confident, plus a few new guys who are going to help. We should be pretty good.”
Like the offense, the defense is full of returning talent. Despite that, Bird is taking the approach of scaling back the playbook in order to allow his players to play faster and freer. Osterbye figures to benefit from that freedom as one of the two middle linebackers, along with Crespo.
“Everything we do is geared toward pursuing the ball,” Osterbye said. “That’s how defense works. I think with the way we’ve been preparing, we’re going to be better at getting to the ball.”
“When you know what you’re doing, you go a lot faster,” Squeo said. “You should always go a hundred percent, but when you’re questioning what you’re doing, there is always some hesitation. If you have less to worry about and you know what you’re doing, you can go a thousand percent.”
Liam Reeks (outside linebacker), Nick Rizzi (defensive end), Zion Jackson (cornerback) and Jashawn Martin (safety) are all in line for starting spots on defense and will be depth pieces on offense. Martin is a transfer from Red Bank Regional, which lost just one game last season and reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III final.
Class B Central proved to be a difficult trek for a rebuilding program like Keansburg, with Shore Regional maintaining its powerhouse status and Asbury Park, Keyport and Point Pleasant Beach all fielding quality Group I programs. Even though Mater Dei Prep looks poised for a climb up the standings, this year might provide more of a chance to Keansburg with Asbury Park and Keyport losing some key skill talent. If the conditions are not quite right for Keansburg to open some eyes this year, the Titans have the kind of junior class that could potentially do so some time in the next two seasons.
Head Coach: John Bird, second season.
Career Record: 1-9.
Assistant Coaches: Jim Reid (Off. Coordinator/QB/LB), Jon Deliso (Def. Coordinator/DB/WR), Sam Kiningham (OL/DL), Shane Bigelow (OL/DL), Uriel Morfin (RB/LB), Jesse Herbert (Media).
2015 Record: 1-9 (0-5).
Big Shoes to Fill: Joe Osterbye, RB/LB
Osterbye is up to the task as it pertains to be being a top player on the team, as he has demonstrated in his first two high school seasons. Now, the junior tailback will be the primary ball-carrier as the Titans seek to replace Arkeyel Brown.
X-Factor: Danny Vital, QB
Keansburg is now a spread team, so they will be asking their quarterbacks to play a different kind of game. If it works out in year one, it is because Vital catches on quickly and shows a knack for making plays.
Glue Guy: Richie Squeo, OL/DL
Squeo is Keansburg’s best player, according to Bird, and embodies the toughness that the Titans teams of the past have exhibited and would like to exhibit again very soon.
Impact Newcomer: Vaughn Fitzgerald, OL
A basketball player with size and some athleticism, Fitzgerald can bring a new dynamic to the offensive line to go with the experience that the other four returnees provide.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 29 vs. Keyport
Not only is this a rivalry game at home, but the Titans will be running out an experienced team against a Keyport team that is replacing almost all of its skill positions. Keyport won last year's meeting by three touchdowns, so with the home game and some more experienced group, it is time for the Titans to close the gap.