A Brotherhood Beginning: 2019 Point Boro Football Preview
The Point Pleasant Boro football team knows their 3-6 season of a year ago was below their standards, a message that’s been made clear from second-year head coach Brian Staub. While trying to build on what he put in place a year ago, Staub faces the challenge of replacing eight starters in his Flexbone offense. Yet another starting quarterback will be under center for the former Brick Memorial signal-caller, with Junior Nick Tuzzolino earning the job out of camp.
“In our offense, the quarterback needs to get the ball to the right guy at the right time, take care of the ball, and show great leadership,” remarked Staub – whose team gave away too many possessions through growing pains on offense a year ago.
Changing their fortunes in close games is the most obvious way for Boro to turn their record around but doing so may take some new play-calling trends. Although the Panthers offensive line features two of its three returning starters, center Dan Meccia and left tackle Chris Boud, it’s a pair of newcomers at wide receiver that has Staub prepared to open up the attack.
Twin brothers Sam and Cole Young have been staples of the Point Boro basketball and baseball programs. As seniors, they’ve decided to bring their athletic talents and natural size to the football team for the first time. Both will start at receiver and are equally difficult for opposing defenders to corral in open space.
The Panthers backfield will still be the engine to the offense, lining up seniors Colby Biggs and Jake Magley with Tuzzolino. Staub was quick to compare Magley to dynamic “L-backs” of the past for Boro such as Brandon Cipriano and Kyle Komanitsky.
Reliable options in both the running and passing game are exactly what the Panthers are looking for in 2019, with a more experienced staff preparing to guide Boro back into postseason contention. On defense, Boro returns only two starters but is known for a hardnosed style on that side of the ball.
The Panthers have put an emphasis on creating negative plays and turnovers under second-year defensive coordinator Shane O’Connor.
Player to Watch: Colby Biggs (Sr. RB/LB 5-11 185)
Biggs is expected to be a workhorse for the Panthers at running back this season. Staub listed the transitions of Tuzzolino and Biggs as key factors for his team’s success. The Panthers open the season at home against Barnegat followed by a tough road trip to Donovan Catholic. Both games were losses on the schedule for Boro a year ago.
Getting off to a better start may be as simple as relying on a senior back like Biggs. Nimble enough to work through arm tackles at the line while finishing runs with power, Biggs can set the tone for this developing Boro offense.
Projected in a starting linebacker role as well, Point Boro is expecting their defensive line to create penetration and flow to the ball, allowing Biggs to be in on plenty of tackles.
Player Under the Radar: Jake Magley (Sr. RB/CB)
Building a more dynamic offense won’t come easy for Boro, but there’s reason for excitement every time Magley touches the ball. A patient runner with great vision, Magley has the trust of his coaches as the change-of-pace back for the Panthers.
Staub himself was hesitant to name Magley as the Panthers’ under the radar player, due to the importance of their entire rushing attack, but described his position as a “main spot”.
Point Boro’s secondary also has a strong chance to be one of their most improved units, adding Magley at cornerback to play underneath the Young brothers at safety. With so much athleticism in the back seven, the Panthers secondary must be prepared to come down and play the run.
Top Unit: Offensive Line
Up front, the Boro offensive line will be breaking in three new starters in 2019. Their experience comes at the right spots, with returning players at center and left tackle. Inconsistent line play hurt the Panthers a year ago, and while there will be room for improvement throughout this season, the development of this group should solidify the offense.
Offensive line coach Ryan Canary is a longtime and passionate member of the Boro coaching staff. The Panthers added former standout lineman Kyle Ryan as an assistant this season, as well. Like Canary, Ryan brings infectious energy onto the field and motivates his players to improve technically – bringing collegiate experience as a former starter at Albright.
Point Boro will be successful if…
In the words of their head coach, the Panthers need to maximize their possessions and keep the ball off the ground to be successful this season. Making the transition away from James Fara was a tall order for Boro last season, the current Monmouth University Hawk who led the Panthers to the 2017 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 final.
Learning from that experience, Staub and his staff have a committed quarterback in Tuzzolino. If his line offers the support the Panthers need to gain positive yards on the ground, this team will be in a very similar position to last year – contesting games in the fourth quarter.
From there, it will be up to the Boro defense to limit backbreaking plays and penalties in an effort to close out games that slipped away in 2018.
Fourth and Goal Mentality
Point Boro isn’t exactly senior-laden, but they are in the mindset of expecting better results this season. A four-game stretch last season saw Boro lose by a combined 13 points, instilling the importance of every down on a young roster.
Staub’s been impressed with the sharpness of his defense this offseason, allowing the offense to develop against real competition. The Panthers’ brotherhood mentality is primed to produce a better win output in 2019.
For a team that’s often had some of the more visible players in the Shore, there’s a quieter, humbled demeanor to this year’s Boro squad. With a roster full of players waiting to break out, Boro is focused on the win column in 2019 – allowing the accolades to follow suit.
‘Young’ but Seasoned
At a smaller school like Point Boro, it’s not uncommon to see athletes play multiple sports. Sam and Cole Young were already basketball and baseball starters, adding football to the workload as seniors. Staub is excited about the opportunity to coach the Young brothers this fall, allowing them to play to their strengths as options for Tuzzolino in the passing game.
Make no mistake, the Panthers aren’t going to be lighting up scoreboards through the air this season. Sam and Cole have bought into Staub’s vision for them and are both matchup problems that warrant a big piece of the game plan each week for Boro.
Look for them to stay involved on defense as well, diagnosing plays quickly and with range from the ‘snake’ and ‘cobra’ safety positions on that side of the ball.
At A Glance
Head coach: Brian Staub, second season
Career record: 3-6
2018 record: 3-6 (2-3 in Liberty Division)
Shane O’Connor (Def. coord.)
Tom Orrok (Special teams)
Ryan Canary (OL)
Dave Drew (LB)
Dave Johnson (WR/K)
Ty Hughes (FB)
Eddie Kendall (DL)
Kyle Ryan (OL)
Offense: Flexbone Triple Option
Defense: 3-3-5 Stack
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Nick Tuzzolino (Jr. QB)
The triple-option offense takes timing and nuance to develop, something the Panthers haven’t had the luxury of working into their QBs since Fara’s rise to leading one of the Shore’s best attacks. Point Boro is excited to put a junior under center again with Tuzzolino trying to pick up where senior Garrett Romer did a year ago.
Bringing down Tuzzolino in the backfield is no easy task, allowing Boro to execute their offense with a full array of backs this season. There isn’t much of a standard for passing stats from the position lately at Boro, but Tuzzolino’s mastery of the ground game paired with his ability to hit receivers accurately leave him with big shoes to fill as the center point of this team.
X-FACTOR: Sam Young (Sr. WR/SS 6-5 218)
The taller bookend of the Young twins, Sam is a receiver expecting to put his name on the map with pads on this fall. Translating his basketball and baseball skills to the field well, Young escapes cornerbacks with ease and can win on in-breaking routes with impressive body control.
Giving Young a chance to make a play “above the rim” will never be a bad idea for the Panthers offense, and if Sam is making contested catches with any regularity, a true dual threat look will turn some heads around Point this season.
Sam said it was a “now or never” mentality that brought him back to Boro football, convincing Cole to rejoin and line up across from him at the Y-receiver spot.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Cody Sullivan (Sr. LG/DE 6-0 235)
One more senior that’s also new to the Boro program is left guard Cody Sullivan. Tasked with clearing holes for his backs, Sullivan is a strong run blocker that’s often-seen driving defenders well out of a play. The anchor between the two returners on the Panthers’ line, Sullivan can solidify the left side of this Boro front and offer enough to keep the chains moving.
Also playing as a versatile pass rusher up and down the Boro defensive line, Sullivan may not have his name called a ton this season but will always be in the thick of things helping his teammates grind out games in a fashion that’s proven for Point Boro.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 20 at Raritan
The Panthers’ four-game losing streak started with a battle in Neptune last year but continued with a one-point home loss to Raritan. Point Boro won’t face off against Neptune this season but will see Raritan again at a critical point in the season.
Following perhaps their toughest test at Donovan Catholic, the Panthers play their second straight on the road in Week 3 at Raritan. Recent history between these teams always projects the type of close game Boro is desperate to come out on top of this year, with this tilt potentially going a very long way in determining how the rest of this campaign goes.