2023 Brick Township Football Preview
It’s been four years since the Brick Township High School football team posted a winning record, an eternity for one of the Shore Conference’s iconic programs. But with multiple players back and a defense that feels it can be a standout unit, there is optimism the Dragons can make a run at the Independence Division title and return to the NJSIAA playoffs.
Brick is coming off consecutive 4-5 seasons in which the Dragons were in the playoff hunt but came up just short due to some late-season defeats. A physical defense has been the tone-setter for many of Brick’s top teams throughout its illustrious history and the Dragons believe they have the pieces in place to return to the upper echelon of the Shore’s defensive rankings. Brick was tied for 14th in the Shore in scoring defense at 17.1 points per game with one shutout last season and returns a total of seven starters in its 3-4 alignment under the direction of longtime defensive coordinator Brian McNamara.
Senior linebacker Jake Toye (6-3, 225), a Shore Sports Network Second Team All-Shore selection last season, leads the group of returners on defense along with fellow senior and three-year starter Will Walsh. The pair will be Brick’s inside linebackers and both are coming off solid seasons as juniors. Toye posted 51 tackles, 3.5 sacks, and 7 tackles for loss last season while Walsh recorded 55 tackles and nine tackles for loss. At outside linebacker is another returning starter in senior Ezra Meyers, while senior Travis Trempy, who started at running back last season, is the other outside linebacker. Also at inside linebacker are seniors Alex Azevado and Vincent Vargas, while senior Frankie Bevacqua, sophomore Matt McGuigan, and junior Sean Savannah are in the mix at outside linebacker.
Senior Aiden Lowenstein is a returning starter at defensive tackle. He will be joined by senior Juan Navarrete as the other defensive tackle and junior Tom George as the nose guard. Junior Chris Quick, sophomore Robert Yakovchuck (6-3, 255), sophomore Martin Marlowe, and sophomore Lou Krashias have also been working in at defensive tackle while sophomore Seamus Shave (6-1, 280) is also at nose guard.
Four starters return in the secondary with both cornerbacks and the free safety back. Junior Jayden Johnson and sophomore Germaine Rice are the starting cornerbacks with senior Ethan Galvan, junior Joe Leskowski, junior Nick Newcomb, and sophomore Braden Rostek backing them up. Senior Christian Booker returns as the starting free safety while junior Gavin Maffei and senior Justin Viera have been working at strong safety. Junior Mike Lopresti backs up Booker at free safety.
Brick’s defense was its strength and kept the team in games last season, but in order to make that unit’s efforts stand up the offense will need to improve on its production from scoring just 14.9 points per game a year ago (tied for 32nd in the Shore).
The Dragons’ multiple-set offense features five returning starters and some promising newcomers. Brick will have a pair of seniors to choose from – or deploy simultaneously – at quarterback with Booker (6-0, 185) and Ryan Bontorno (6-2, 215) competing for the starting job. Trempy returns as Brick’s starting running back after rushing for 541 yards and four touchdowns last season. Senior Ezra Meyers (6-0, 210) and sophomore Justice Morgan (5-10, 170) round out the group of running backs.
Johnson is a returning starter at wide receiver and will be joined by Rice, who impressed as a freshman, along with Maffei, Savannah, Newcomb, and Viera. In addition to his defensive presence, Toye is a valuable asset to Brick’s offense because of his versatility. He will be Brick’s H-back and the Dragons will use him both on the ground and through the air lining him up at various spots. Sophomore Logan Vitale will back up Toye in that role.
Rounding out the offense is a group of linemen that boasts three returning starters. Navarrete (6-1, 265) is a returning starter and will play left tackle, Walsh (5-11, 205) returns as the right guard, and Lowenstein (5-10, 260) is a returning starter and will play right tackle. The new starters on the line are Yakovchuck at left guard and Marlowe at center. Pushing for playing time are George (LT), Azevado (LG), Vargas (C), Krashias (RG), and Shave (RT).
On special teams, senior Kurt Weiboldt returns as the starting kicker and Toye will serve as the team’s punter.
Brick finished tied for second in the Freedom Division last season behind Ocean and even in the standings with Red Bank Regional and Brick Memorial. The Dragons are aligned to the Independence Division this season with Brick Memorial, Barnegat, Freehold Boro, Freehold Township, and Matawan. The rival Mustangs boast standout quarterback Connor Dietz and a handful of other top returners while Matawan is coming off a division title last season and returns multiple All-Shore level players. The Huskies could be considered the favorite but Brick is certainly in the mix to challenge for the division title and get back to its winning ways.
At a Glance
Head coach: Len Zdanowicz, 9th season
Career record: 44-35
2022 record: 4-5
Coaching staff: Brian McNamara (Defensive Coordinator/DB); Matt Fuller (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Bob Grace (RB); Andrew Cruz (OL); John Dolan (WR); Jared Kight (DL); Chad Dougherty (MLB); Christian Malta (OLB); Kurt Weiboldt (Special Teams Coordinator; Scott Lloyd (Strength & Conditioning); Jay Groschel (Head Freshmen Coach/Offensive Coordinator); Chris Blackburn (Freshmen Defensive Coordinator); Wayne Neidermeier (Freshmen); Pete Fusco (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 8 – Friday, Oct. 20 at Brick Memorial
The rival schools have played their annual game on Saturdays in recent years but this season’s clash will be on a Friday night and take place during the final week of the regular season. A division title, playoff seeding, or a playoff berth altogether could be on the line and the atmosphere should be electric.
Player to Watch: Jake Toye, Sr., LB/HB
Toye was a Second Team All-Shore linebacker last season and also a valuable offensive player as an H-back. If Brick returns to title contention this season he will be among the players who lead the way.
Impact Newcomer: Ryan Bontorno, Sr., QB/LB
Bontorno has spent time at Red Bank Catholic and Donovan Catholic over the past two seasons but has returned to Brick for his senior year. He is working at quarterback alongside fellow senior Christian Booker and is also listed as a potential linebacker on the roster.
Did you Know?
Brick special teams/kicking coach Kurt Weiboldt holds two All-Shore Gridiron Classic records, kicking a single-game record three field goals and tying for the longest field goal in the game with a 52-yard FG in 1990.
|Friday 8/25||Toms River East||6pm|
|Friday 9/1||Jackson Liberty||6pm|
|Friday 9/29||Jackson Memorial||6pm|
|Friday 10/6||Freehold Township||6pm|
|Friday 10/13||@Middletown North||7pm|
|Friday 10/20||@Brick Memorial||6pm|