Air-Raiders: 2020 Keyport Football Preview
Under a new head coach and in an offense that strayed far from the traditional run-oriented attack that made it a perennial Group I contender for so many years, the Keyport football team tried something different and lived with the consequences – a 3-6 season and an offense that had trouble protecting the ball.
A year after going to an all-out, pass-heavy spread offense, second-year coach Jason Glezman and his staff are expecting the payoff to come this year.
“It was my first year as a head coach and I think I underestimated how valuable the year before is,” Glezman said. “Last year can really set the tone for the upcoming year and between some of the young guys who were starters for the first time and trying to install a new offense, we asked the guys to do a lot. This year, the seniors are ready. The guys are excited. All the passing game stuff we’re putting in, they are ready for it.”
Despite finishing 3-6, Keyport was within striking distance of winning each of its games and the Red Raiders will bring back a bevy of skill-position talent around returning quarterback Troy Alvarez – conditions that suggest Keyport is on the cusp of a bounceback season, even if it’s only a shortened season.
Projected Starters (RS=Returning Starter; 3RS=Third-Year Starter)
QB: Troy Alvarez, Sr. 3RS
RB: Sean Lachky, Sr., RS; Kymir Britt, So.
WR: Jake Mitchell, Sr. RS
WR: D.J. Thomson, Jr. RS
WR: Zach Connallon, Sr. RS; Jake Ferrara, Sr.
TE: Christyan Azevedo, Jr.
LT: Jake Staeger, Sr. RS
LG: Sean Johnstone, Jr.
C: Dylan Burns, Sr. RS
RG: Daniel Gross, Sr.
RT: Joe Mantino, Sr.
DE: Jake Staeger, Sr.
DT: Joe Mantino, Sr.
DT: Dylan Burns, Sr.
DE: Zach Connallon, Sr. RS
OLB: Sean Lachky, Sr. RS
MLB: Albert Silva, Sr.
OLB: Troy Alvarez, Sr. 3RS
CB: Jake Ferrara, Sr. RS
CB: D.J. Thomson, Jr. RS
SS: Jake Mitchell, Sr. RS
FS: Zivon Crank, Jr.
K: Christyan Azevedo, Jr.
P: Trevor Ahmen, Jr.
At a Glance
Head Coach: Jason Glezman, second season
Career Record: 3-6
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Angelo Marocco (Off. Coordinator), Steve Bower (Special Teams/WR/DB), Jimmy Maguire (Def. Coordinator/RB/LB), Pete Miller (QB/LB), Tyler Alvarez (OL/DL), Jerry Hourihan (OL/DL), Kelly O’Donnell (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Troy Alvarez, Sr., QB/OLB
Alvarez embraced Keyport’s move to the spread offense last year and became the director of an attack that sets a new direction for the Red Raiders program. After finishing eighth in the Shore Conference with 1,204 passing yards, Alvarez now has a better grasp of the offense and more mature weapons at his disposal, giving Glezman some additional optimism that his Red Raiders can take off with his senior signal-caller at the helm.
“Troy is super talented and he’s a really hard-working kid,” Glezman said. “Turnovers were the problem last year but when you watch him going through his reads and calling out assignments, you can really see him figuring it out. His level of understanding is much more advanced than it was last year and I think going through that learning process last year led to some of those interceptions.”
Player Under the Radar: Dylan Burns, Sr., C/DT
The offensive line is one of Keyport’s unknowns, but the bright side for Glezman is it will be a senior-heavy group led by a seasoned veteran at center. Along with tackle Jake Staeger, Burns is one of two returning starters on the Red Raiders offensive line and will also be a regular on the defensive line for the first time as well.
“Only two of our (offensive) linemen started last year but they are playing left tackle and center, which are the two positions you always want to be set at,” Glezman said. “Dylan is a ready steady guy for us as a leader on both lines and we’re excited to see Staeger on that left side of the line.”
Impact Newcomer: Kymir Britt, So., RB
Although this is the last year Keyport will have Alvarez at quarterback, the Red Raiders have a bright immediate future thanks to a tandem of running backs who will break in this season. Britt is the one most likely to seize a role as Keyport’s feature back, as he shares carries with senior Sean Lachky and serves as a big-play threat. Freshman Nazir Treadwell has also opened eyes early in camp and while will work his way into the lineup at a more deliberate pace given his inexperience.
“Britt can fly,” Glezman said. “He is light but he can really move and he has the toughness you want in a running back. Between him and (Treadwell) we have a really dynamic, young duo who could have a chance to really contribute this year.”
Top Position Group: Wide Receivers
Alvarez is only the start of Keyport’s air attack, which will boast three returning receivers with a chance to make a lot of plays if the ball is thrown their way. Junior D.J. Thomson is the standout athlete of the trio, which he showed by catching 18 passes for 301 yards and four touchdowns as a sophomore. Seniors Jake Mitchell and Zach Connallon are also dangerous receivers, with Connallon catching a team-high 19 passes for 271 yards and a two touchdowns and Mitchell joining the receiving corps midseason following his transfer from Mater Dei.
“Thomson has filled out and he is really coming into his body,” Glezman said. “By the end of the year, teams were throwing extra defenders at him and it opened things up for other guys and we saw Zach Connallon really step up and make some plays for us.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Joe Mantino, Sr., RT/DT
Keyport’s biggest loss from last year, by far, was imposing offensive tackle Devon Meza, who is heading into his freshman season at Central Connecticut State. Replacing a dominant force like Meza at the Group I level does not happen with a snap of the fingers, so the Raiders will look to band together to pick up the slack up front. With returning starter Jake Staeger sliding over the left tackle, Mantino will take over on the right side and is one of the seniors who has waited for his opportunity after putting in the work.
“We have three new starters on the line, but those guys are all seniors, they have all been working in the program and learned a lot practicing with last year’s senior group and they know it’s their turn,” Glezman said. “Meza made life very easy on the coaching staff and replacing him won’t be easy. As a coach, you always worry a little bit about replacing guys on the line but with that being said, we’re really not worried about this group. They have been doing everything we’re asking them.”
X-Factor: Ball Security
Turnovers were Keyport’s downfall last year, as the Red Raiders sported a minus-10 turnover margin while losing four games by a one-score margin and the other two by two scores. Alvarez was the primary culprit, throwing 15 interceptions in Keyport’s high-volume passing attack. With Alvarez more polished this season, Glezman doesn’t expect he’ll have to scale back the passing game in order to protect the ball.
“The number one focus for us as a team and a coaching staff is protecting the ball,” Glezman said. “When you lose four games by one score and you have a minus-10 turnover margin, it’s not hard to figure out what went wrong. We were in a new system last year and some of the poor decisions we made were normal for a team in a first-year offense. This year, that decision-making has been a lot better so far and it’s going to have to keep getting better.”
Saturday, Oct. 3 vs. Governor Livingston, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 10 at Monmouth, noon
Friday, Oct. 16 at Shore, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 24 at Keansburg, noon
Saturday, Oct. 31 vs. Point Beach, noon
Friday, Nov. 6 at Matawan, 7 p.m.