Finding four more tallies in the win column last season (4-6) than in the one prior (0-10), the Donovan Catholic Griffins seeks next-level status and the fight for a Class B South championship under new head coach Tom Tarver.

The former Manalapan head coach from 2000-2003 while also spending seven years as an assistant with the Braves comes to Donovan Catholic to take the reigns from Dan Duddy, who resigned after last season.

It was with Duddy who was the first coach Tarver spoke with to become more familiar with the program.

"I'm humbled that I had a chance to take over a program that he had for 10 years and I just wanted his insight," said Tarver. "Once I got his insight it was just tremendous, he was helpful, and he was encouraging and very supportive of some of the things that I was doing."

Tarver's transition back into a head coaching spot has been "like riding a bicycle", in the matter of talking to fellow coaches, reverting back to all the stored football knowledge, making adjustments, and ensuring the offense and defensive makeup suits the players.

"The kids here are good football players, but sometimes they need a different way of doing things to figure out what works," said Tarver.

The team will look to to install a 3-4 defense depending on the look across the line where we could then see a 4-4 coverage. On offense they are still looking for their identity and will work in multiple sets.

In becoming more familiar with his new team, Tarver has a better understanding of how to have this team elevate it's play to the next level.

"We have great kids, great families, great people here," said Tarver. "It was just a natural fit and I'm very fortunate that it worked out that I could be here coaching, but we have a tremendous amount of players that are just nice kids to coach."

Some of the Griffins say the transition from one coach to another has them humbled to be taught by Duddy, but they love the energy Tarver brings, as well.

"Coach Duddy was an amazing coach, I mean there's no one like him," said senior Donny Rappoccio. "Coach Tarver is bringing a great new energy with a great new coaching staff."

"The transition's been real smooth," said junior Jack Hadley. "Coach Duddy's been there with us, even in the offseason with the transition, helping us with schoolwork. Coach Tarver's taken over the program and we're really excited to see what happens with the season."

"I love Coach Duddy to death and obviously we miss him here but, coach Tarver's a great guy and I'm really excited for the season," said senior Jared Knoeller.

Right now Tarver says there is an open competition for players battling it out for starts and reps, and their hard-working efforts are on full display for the coaching staff.

"The possibilities are endless with this team," said Hadley. "We have a lot of talent coming up so that'll be a huge factor for this year."

While the coaches continue to evaluate to determine who will fill out the depth chart from top to bottom, nothing is written in stone because through the course of camp anything can happen.

"Our running back Matt Baltus has done a nice job, Pete Schlendorf has done a real nice job playing quarterback. Our offensive line has been phenomenal," said Tarver. "We've expected something from those guys and they've been real consistent at showing that they're going to be starters and contributors to this football team."

Head Coach: Tom Tarver, first season, (fourth overall).

Career Record: 21-21.

2015 Record: 4-6 (4-3).

Assistant coaches: R. Fullen (def. coord/LB/TE/S); S. Turner (OL/DL); V. Steriti (WR/RB); G. Hyslop (Special Teams/FB); P. Dowling (DL/head freshmen coach); E. Bruno (QB/freshmen), N. Scerbo (Videographer/Hudl Admin, freshmen).

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Pete Schlendorf Sr., QB/CB

Schlendorf is a senior, however filling in for the versatile Teddy Golubowski of last year's senior class which also featured running back David Calderon, will be critical to the success of the offense. If the line continues it's success Schlendorf will have the time he needs to run the offensive attack.

X-FACTOR: Line play

Tarver says this part of the team has been the most consistent so far, and if they continue that trend the Griffins will be in good shape in Class B South.

GLUE GUY: Donny Rappoccio Sr., OL/DL

A senior up front Rappoccio may be tasked with steering the efforts boys up front.


Hadley has earned rave reviews not just as center, but as a standout long snapper who already has FBS interest.

PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 17 at Lakewood

The Piners are the defending Class B South co-champs and return a talented roster, so the Griffins can make a big statement with a win on the road in Week Two.


Vin Ebenau is a Shore Sports Network Contributor. You can follow him on Twitter @VinEbenau. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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