Football – The Way We Were: 2016 Manasquan Preview
‘Losing’ and ‘Manasquan’ usually don’t appear in the same sentence, so it’s pretty striking to see the Warriors go 3-7 in back to back seasons. That doesn’t sit well with anybody in the program, starting with the players who grew up learning about the great tradition of the Big Blue Warriors.
“Going 3-7 two years in a row, that’s been burning us up quite a bit,” said senior Jack Mallett. “We met as a team after the season and said we’re not doing this again.”
To return to glory, Manasquan is getting back to basics in a sense. Practice is physical, it’s demanding and it’s focused. It’s also been fun.
“Last year it was hard to motivate them after a 3-7 season because it hung like a cloud,” said Manasquan head coach Jay Price. “But this year, with this senior class, they know they’re not bound by past record. If I told you after going 6-14 the last two years that practice is fun you’d think I’m crazy, but practice has been fun again.”
The Warriors are banking on a better mindset and commitment to pinpoint execution leading them back into contention in the rugged Class B North division and Central Jersey Group II bracket.
“Everybody is looking at us a little different, and we need to change that,” said senior Tommy Meyer. “All offseason we’ve busted our butts trying to get back to the way we were.”
The Warriors return five starters in their I-formation offense that is aiming at consistency above all else.
“We have some explosive players, we just have to be more consistent and fundamental,” Price said. “We need mistake-free drives.”
The quarterback competition is between senior Jerry Maher and junior Tommy Antonucci. Both bring vastly different skill sets to the table.
“They’re pretty opposite when it comes to personality,” Price said. “Tommy is an intense competitor and Jerry is a more laid back, cerebral type of competitor. Everyone is moving toward the zone read and RPO, and that’s more Tommy’s forte, where Jerry is more of a pocket passer, game-manager guy.”
Meyer is the fullback with Mallett and sophomore Jack Fabean also slated to see time. Junior Connor Morgan returns as the starting running back and could be in line for a breakout season. Sophomores Francis Marshall and Canyon Birch will also see time in the backfield.
Senior Adam Schreck returns as the starting tight end with Mallett also seeing time when the Warriors use an H-back look. One of the explosive players Price spoke of is senior wide receiver Damaso Jaime, who had some huge games last season. Senior Kyle LeBlanc also returns as a starter with sophomore James Pendergist and senior Pete Mills also at the position.
The Warriors return just one player up front, so there is the challenge of getting the new linemen up to speed. Senior Dylan Pacetti returns at left tackle next to senior Matt Hanlon at left guard. Junior Evan Hilla is the center, senior Dan Fiske is the right guard and the right tackle will be either senior Nick Pierro or sophomore Ben Barry.
Manasquan’s 4-3 defense features five returning starters. Pacetti and Schreck are returning starters at defensive end while Barry and Pierro are the new starting tackles. Senior Dimitrius Morgan is also at tackle with senior Tom Pollock and sophomore Anders Scala backing up.
Mallett is the returning starter at middle linebacker with Fabean pushing for playing time. The strong-side linebacker is Hill and the weak-side linebacker is Meyer, but sophomores Mike LaPoint and Birch are give the incumbents a run for their money.
In the secondary, Jaime is a returning starter at cornerback and Antonucci will start after playing some last year. Pendergist and James Mele will also be at cornerback, although Mele has to sit out 30 days after transferring from Red Bank Catholic. LeBlanc is a returning starter at safety and will be joined by Marshall. Senior Joe Ostberg will also play safety.
“Last year we had a lot of brand new starters and now that experience is showing,” Price said. “The younger kids who are coming up are not your typical sophomores. When they come in there’s no drop off. Coach Kubu used to say for every sophomore you start you lose a game, but not with these kids. They have already started to overtake the guys in front of them.”
On special teams, Schreck is the kicker and Antonucci is the punter. Pendergist could also see time kicking.
The schedule in Class B North is very tough with No. 1 Middletown South, No. 7 Ocean and No. 8 Middletown North, plus Red Bank Catholic. It doesn’t matter to the Warriors, however. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to return to glory.
“Going 3-7 the last two years has made us work even harder,” Schreck said. “We need to carry ourselves with more confidence and continue to push forward.”
Head Coach: Jay Price, sixth season.
Career Record: 28-24.
Coaching staff: Lou Certo (off. coord.); Brian Lee (QB); Billy Bersche (OL); Darrell Falkenberg (RB); Matt Voskian (DL); Jay Price (DB); Eric Howland (LB); Larry Kelly (LB); Rich Griffith, Andy Cefalo, Dave Hallion (freshmen)’ Kevin Hyland (athletic trainer).
2015 Record: 3-7 (2-4).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Ben Barry, Sr., DL and Nick Pierro, Sr., DL
Barry and Pierro are first-year starters on the defensive line and will help replace Rob Hart, who was an all-Class A Central lineman last year as a senior. Both are 6-foot-3 and over 260 pounds.
The Warriors allowed a very un-Manasquan-like 31.6 points per game last season. The offense put up points, but the defense yielded too much. A big improvement there would probably translate to a winning record.
GLUE GUY: Jack Mallett, Sr., FB/LB
An emotional leader who has ratcheted up the intensity during training camp, Mallett will start on both sides of the ball.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Francis Marshall, So., FB/DB
Marshall took a break from football last season but is back in the program as a member of a standout sophomore class.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept 10 vs. Long Branch
The game Warriors have circled Week One on their calendars as they are eager to get back on the field and restore the program’s winning ways.
Football 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.