2015 Toms River South Football Preview: Plenty of Question Marks
Rebuilding is a dirty word for most coaches, but sometimes it’s a reality they have to accept reluctantly.
Toms River South has lost a large number of talented players to graduation over the last two years, and the impact is likely to be felt this fall. Despite all those holes to fill, fourth-year head coach Ron Signorino Jr. sees some very positive signs and feels a foundation has been built and the program is on solid ground.
“We’re going to battle,’’ Signorino said. “Our senior group has learned from last year when we stubbed our toe a bit. Hopefully we won’t make some of the same mistakes.”
The Indians were a disappointing 5-5 in 2014 despite considerable preseason hype and high expectations. Gone are stars Tymere Berry, Khaleel Greene, Quentin DeCarlo and Joe Odebode, a quartet of outstanding seniors who gave Toms River South fans plenty to cheer about over the last two seasons. Berry is the hardest to replace as the three-year starter at quarterback zig-zagged through opposing defenses for 1,257 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns while throwing for another seven scores before moving on to play at Monmouth University.
His replacement was expected to be junior Matt Shiffer, but back and shoulder problems have sidelined him for this season and forced Signorino and offensive coordinator Matt Martin to experiment during the preseason. The best pure quarterback on the roster is sophomore T.J. Scuderi, but running the pistol flexbone offense is a lot to ask of someone who a year ago was on the freshman team. The hope is that as he becomes familiar with the offense Scuderi can take over, but for right now , the likely starter is senior Jaden Kosh, who clearly will be a running back playing quarterback.
The 6-foot, 210-pounder would normally be the ‘A’ back, but now will do most of his running after taking the snap from center. If that’s the case, then expect senior Dashaun Alexander to take Kosh’s spot in the backfield along with another senior, Marquise Alexander. Signorino said the move of Kosh makes sense because the Indians want one of their best players at that position.
“In a perfect world, T.J. would grab the offense and we can move Jay back to where he’s best at,’’ Signorino said.
“I’m pretty comfortable playing quarterback, as I’ve had a lot of snaps and reps there during the summer, and I think I have it down pretty well,’’ Kosh said.
Heading up a group of talented slotbacks is rugged senior Tyler Sosa, a 175-pound dynamo who has drawn rave reviews from the coaches for his leadership on the field and in the classroom. Fellow senior Mike Cutillo and junior Cooper Guzzi will also get their share of touches along with juniors Drew Laing, Timmy Velazquez and David Hibbert. The wide receiver spot is led by seniors Isaiah Parker, R.J. Laing and Malcolm Gillespie, along with juniors Mike Faone and Jason Porter.
The offensive line has to replace graduated seniors Jimmy Allen and Mike Rutter, but returns 6-foot-3, 295-pound senior center Kyle Hebrew to anchor the group up front. Senior Devin Murray, junior John Debudo and sophomore Nick Florio are in the mix at guard, with the starting tackles to come from a trio of juniors in Todd Stueber, Nick Page and Jake Iadevaia.
The defense allowed over 21 points per game last season, but gave up 38.3 points per game against Class A South’s top three teams. The Indians will once again line up in a 4-2-5 formation. It’s the aspect of the team Signorino is most excited about.
“We’re making a concerted effort to get after it on defense, and we should be much improved on that side of the ball,’’ he said.
Murray, Stueber and Faone will hold down the defensive end spots while the middle will be occupied by Hebrew, senior DJ Rodriguez, Marquise Alexander, Iadevaia and sophomore Matt Piccoli. Kosh made 101 tackles alongside DeCarlo at linebacker last fall, and expect those numbers to rise this season. He’s all over the field and will lead a corps that includes seniors Jacob Newton and Christian Camarazza along with Page.
Joining Kosh as a high-energy defensive leader will be Sosa, who will play free safety. The strong safety will be Alexander or Velazquez with Drew Laing in the mix. Other safety candidates include Cutillo, and juniors TJ Rockhill, Dominic O’Brien, and David Hibbert. Parker, Gillespie, Guzzi and Porter will all see action at the cornerback spot, and Sosa will handle all the punting and kicking.
After being a contender in Class A South the last couple of years, there are some who feel the Indians may take a step back with so many new faces in new places. Kosh is not one of them.
“I believe we are going to be a lot better than people think we are because I’ve been playing together with most of these kids since flag football days, and I know what we can do and so do they,’’ Kosh said. “It’s all about playing a role, and I think we can do big things this year.”
Among the changes at Toms River South this fall will be new bleachers and bathrooms on the home side of venerable Detwiler Stadium along with a spacious new press box for the “Voice of the Indians,” who helps create an atmosphere second to none in the Shore Conference.
The Indians will open their season at home against Donovan Catholic before playing both Toms River East and North on the road. By that time they’ll know more about the quarterback spot and the prospects for what will certainly be a challenging season.
“We’re a better team because these guys really care for one another,’’ Signorino said.
Only time will tell if that togetherness will result in a challenging and frustrating season, or one in which the victory bell will be rung often at the home of the Indians.
Head Coach: Ron Signorino, Jr., 5th season
Career Record: 20-21
Assistant coaches: Matt Martin (Offensive Coordinator/RB), Bill Rankin (QB), Brett Hardie (WR/Spec teams), Kyle Austin (DL), Joe Kelly (RB), Ray Guzzi (DB), Jimmy Drackowitz (DL), Bill McDonnell (LB), Bill Malast (OL), Dan Cicala (DB), Bill Rankin Sr., Dave Fanslau, Trevor Signornino, Scott Komf (Freshman).
2014 Record: 5-5 (2-5)
Big Shoes to Fill: Jaden Kosh, Sr., QB; T.J. Scuderi, So., QB
One of these two is the most likely candidate to have to replace one of the Shore’s most electrifying players, current Monmouth University freshman Tymere Berry, at quarterback for the Indians.
Glue Guy: Tyler Sosa, Sr., RB/S/K/P
Sosa is very athletic, with the ability to run around or through opposing defenses. He also will need to help lead the defense from his safety spot, where he will provide plenty of run support.
X-Factor: The Passing Game
The Indians did not throw with a lot of success last year, but then again it had Berry running all over the place. Defenses will stack the box and make Kosh or Scuderi prove they can hurt them throwing the ball.
Impact newcomer: T.J. Scuderi, So., QB
If Scuderi can take over the starting job and allow Kosh to go back to his natural running back spot, the Indians will be much better off as the season progresses.
Pivotal Game: Sept. 18 at Toms River East
Both teams will need to scratch and claw for victories, so the winner of this Week Two cross-town matchup has the better chance of being close to .500 this season.