2015 Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year: Dylan Rogers
If there is a player that best exemplifies the controlled chaos of Middletown South’s ferocious defense, it’s senior linebacker Dylan Rogers.
A tackling machine and a heat-seeking missile on blitzes, Rogers, the 2015 Shore Sports Network Defensive Player of the Year, concluded his tremendous career by helping the Eagles finish off the program’s 10th sectional championship with a perfect 12-0 season and finish as the No. 1 team in New Jersey. The final game of his career was a vintage Rogers performance, as he was all over the field in a 35-7 win over Phillipsburg in the North Jersey Section 2, Group IV championship game with 15 tackles and four sacks.
One of New Jersey’s top linebackers, Rogers finished the season with a program-record 132 tackles, breaking the record his set last season with 122, and recorded 11 sacks for the No. 1 scoring defense in the Shore Conference. He also had 23 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback pressures, a forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and a defensive touchdown.
“He plays with reckless abandon, but under control,” said Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. “When you look up linebacker he’s the perfect definition of the position. That’s Dylan, he’s exactly what you want. He has a motor like no one and an excitement to find the football. And when he gets there he wants to do damage.”
“Plus he’s a very sharp kid. He’s the one checking all of our pressures and such out there.
Middletown South’s defense allowed just 7.4 points per game and recorded four shutouts, and allowed just one opponent to score over 20 points in a game. That came in Week One, a 41-21 comeback victory over South Brunswick where the Eagles scored the final 38 points of the game en route to a perfect season.
South Brunswick went on to win the Central Jersey Group V title, and the Eagles also posted a 21-3 win over Central Jersey Group IV finalist Brick Memorial where Rogers led a unit that shut down the Mustangs’ explosive triple-option rushing attack. Middletown South also had victories over playoff teams Manalapan, Freehold and Freehold Township, and beat rival Middletown North both in the playoff semifinals and on Thanksgiving. The latter gave the Eagles the Class A North division title, their first since 2009. In every important game Rogers made an impact.
“Every year he got better and better and you could start comparing him to the (all-time great Middletown South linebackers),” Antonucci said. “He always stepped up in the big games, too. He was the guy making the plays everywhere against Jackson (23 tackles in last year’s state final), Phillipsburg, Brick Memorial or any other huge game we played. He was the player that stood out.”
The Rogers-led defense helped Middletown South end a nine-year state title drought - an eternity for a program of its pedigree. The Eagles were 0-5 in their last five strips to the finals, including a loss to Jackson Memorial in last year’s Central Jersey Group IV final. This season they finished the job to become the ninth Middletown South team to finish a season undefeated and the first since the Knowshon Moreno/Nick Macaluso-led 2005 team.
“We wanted to have a legacy like the (2005 team) did and have them talk about our team like they talked about their team,” Rogers said after the championship victory over Phillipsburg.
Rogers will continue his football career at the collegiate level, according to Antonucci. He has not received any official offers yet, but his senior film has generated extensive interest from the FCS Patriot League and Division II programs.