Shore Sports Network 2015 Preseason Football Top Ten
The 2015 season is now just days away and the Shore Conference is as competitive as ever. Take a look at the Shore Sports Network 2015 Preseason Top Ten:
Led by one of the best coaches in the Shore, Steve Antonucci has a team that could go wire to wire this year as No. 1. While no coach or team likes the dreaded top spot in preseason, the Eagles come off a 9-3 record in 2014 which included a tough last-minute loss (21-18) in the finals of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV playoffs to Jackson Memorial. They have many key players returning off that team. Running back/defensive back Cole Rogers is as good as they get. His twin brother Dylan Rogers (122 tackles) is perhaps the best linebacker in the Shore. Quarterback Matt Mosquera is a very capable leader and probably the best returning kicker in the State. He hit 14 of 15 field goals and was 44-for-44 on extra points. With nine state titles and 20 trips to the finals, you can see why this program is as good as it gets.
It was 38 years between state championships, but 2014 saw RBC beat Delbarton 45-20 at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 7 to win the second championship in program history. The Caseys return senior quarterback Eddie Hahn (1,500 yards passing and 530 yards rushing, 32 total touchdowns). Hahn, who committed to UConn over the summer, was dealt an early-season blow as he sustained a knee injury in RBC's first scrimmage on the turf of Montclair High School. Surgery was successful and he is expected to miss all of preseason and one or two regular season games. The Caseys must replace their running game and that will be the key to success in 2015. They have two big-time lineman to run behind: Liam Smith (Duke commit) and Ryan Oneides. Dylan Murphy returns at linebacker to lead the defense, and may see time at running back this year. Last year, RBC's 40-game Shore Conference winning streak was snapped by Jackson Memorial (33-27 in OT). The two will meet again this year with revenge on the minds of the Caseys.
The first somewhat controversial members of the Top 10 are the Mariners. Not that they don't deserve to be in the Top 10, but because they are ranked ahead of Jackson. The Mariners are loaded. QB Mike Husni is as tough as they come running the football and has an arm that has improved from last year. Running back /safety Asante Moorer, a hard-nosed runner capable of running over you or around you, running back/defensive back Damion Carrington, running back/defensive back Bryce Watts and up-and-coming super sophomore running back Daryn Blackwell lead an offense that has multiple weapons. Blackwell is the nephew of Toms River North and Monmouth University basketball star Alex Blackwell. Defensively, Da'Shon Copes (12 sacks and 91 tackles) leads a group that must step up if the Mariners want to beat Jackson. The Mariners were 6-5 in 2014 and that should improve this year. Circle October 9 at North,when Jackson pays a visit in a huge A South contest.
The Lancers were 10-1 last year with their lone loss coming in state semifinals against Delbarton (38-26). They were primed to win it all this year under head coach Mike Ciccotelli before he was suddenly released by the school. No reason was given and the Lancers quickly hired Derek Sininsky as their new head coach. Sininsky has head coaching experience at a number of schools and he will inherit a loaded team. If they are to get to the next level quarterback Anthony Brown (2200 yards passing and 25 touchdowns to go with 800 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns) must play at that same level. Already committed to Boston College, Brown has many weapons to go to this year. Khalil Haskins, a two-way star, touches the ball in a variety of ways and is very talented. Running backs Calvin Beaty and Tyler Tedeschi will get carries from the backfield. Transfer players Marcque Ellington (Neptune), a 6-foot-6 receiver, and running back Chris Chukwuneke (JP Stevens), one of the top returning backs in Middlesex County, will help the offense. Junior linebacker Micah Clark leads a defense that will be aggressive. Clark has already received interest from Alabama and Ohio State. Sininsky must have his team ready as they travel to a loaded Matawan team, which is coming off a state championship, in Week One.
The Jaguars have perhaps the best backfield duo in the Shore in junior Mike Gawlik (1,165 yds and 21 touchdowns) and Vinny Lee (another 1,000-yard rusher). These two make the Jags a big-time team. Dan Barker takes over the quarterback spot and much will rest on his shoulders and arm as teams bunch the middle to try and stop the run. Seniors Dylan Smith and Austin Ostrander will anchor the lines. Head coach Walt Krystopik's squad came on strong last year after a 30-24 overtime loss to Brick in Week four to finish 11-1. They avenged that loss with a 44-0 victory over the Dragons in the sectional semifinals before beating Middletown South in the finals of the Central Group IV playoffs for their fourth state sectional title.
The Bulldogs finished 9-3 last year with a second consecutive state sectional title (a 21-0 win over Delaware Valley) and their fourth overall championship. They will look for their third in a row this year with returning players like junior quarterback Mike O'Connor (900 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns, 485 yards passing with touchdowns) and junior running back Mike Veccharelli. Veccharelli has the task of replacing SSN fist team all-shore running back Charlie Volker (3450 yards rushing as a junior and senior), who is now at Princeton University. Also getting some carries will be Lachlan Hull. The passing game will become a bigger part of O'Connor's game this year because of the game breaking talent of 6-foot-6 sophomore receiver Elijah McAllister, who already has interest from Temple. Up front the Bulldogs have James Oncea, Tim Leonard and AJ Kelly. Linebackers Mike Ruane and James Amelia lead a very aggressive defense. f Rumson wins a third championship in a row it will be in Central Jersey Group III, as they have been moved from Group II.
The Huskies came out of nowhere to win a state championship last year with a very impressive 27-7 win over Carteret in the driving rain at Kean University. Impressive because of frosh quarterback George Pearson and the way he threw the ball that rainy night. Now a sophomore, Pearson's talent is unlimited. Big, strong-armed and experienced, he will again lead the charge for another state championship. The true leader of the Huskies is Aliem Shaw, a feared linebacker in the Shore the heart of a very good Matawan defense. Matawan gets No. 4 St. John Vianney on opening night. Last year it was a 31-10 win for the Lancers which propelled them to a 10-1 season. That loss by Matawan stuck in the minds of the Huskies, and they circled September 12 on this year's schedule. Expect fireworks at Matawan on opening night.
Another state championship winner from 2014 is in the Top 10. The Braves finally won that coveted first championship with a 21-7 victory over previously unbeaten South Brunswick. Gone are most of the players who led the Braves to that championship, but they still deserve the respect to be in this year's Top 10 because of the program that head coach Ed Gurrieri has built. Joe Sellmeyer was the driving force up front which accounted for 2,500 yds rushing and 41 touchdowns. He returns with a new crop of runners behind him this year. At 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds he's a nice base to build around.
The Mustangs and their option attack are always tough to defend, and this year is no different. They return senior quarterback Tim Santiago, who ran the offense well after taking over as the starter early last season. He is fast and strong and makes good decisions, just the attributes you want your quarterback to have. Santiago has worked on his throwing, which makes him a bigger threat this year. Matt Cuppari returns at wideout and will also do the kicking. Up front, the Mustangs have the brothers Nobile (Mike and Anthony). Both are big, strong and tough to block. How far they go depends on that option attack, which at times is mistake prone.
The "Big Red" get the final spot because they may have the best running back around in Tyler Thompson. Thompson, coming off a season-ending leg injury in 2014, looks to be fully recovered. He is a big and strong runner who has speed and boasts multiple FBS offers. After the loss of Thompson in 2014 the Big Red finished 5-6 and won in the first round of state playoffs as the No. 8 seed, but fell 23-20 to eventual champion Matawan in the semifinals. Junior quarterback Kenny Pickett got valuable playing time as a sophomore, which will help him lead Ocean this year.