Almost Famous: 2020 Middletown South Football Preview
As a perennial state-title contender, Middletown South is usually loaded with All-Shore talent on both sides of the ball. This year’s Eagles team may very well end up being the same, but entering the 2020 season, Middletown South is kind of a no-name group by its usual standards.
“I think a lot of people look at us and see that we have some guys back but no big names, and it’s true, we really don’t,” said Middletown South head coach Steve Antonucci. “We don’t have a big-name tailback or that one name who everybody knows, but we do have many guys who can become that.”
This year’s roster features senior linebacker Liam Murphy, who earned first-team all-division status in the elite American Division last season, plus three more players who were second-team all-division selections. There are six starters back on offense and seven back on defense, including three players who will be three-year starters. There may not be any household names, but there is not a lack of talent.
“I feel really good about this group,” Antonucci said.
The offensive line looks to be a major strength in Middletown South’s multiple spread offense, starting with senior three-year starter Brendan Bigos at right tackle. Senior Alex Higgins returns as the starting right guard and junior Jake Williamson is back as the starting center. Junior Jack Latore looks to be the left tackle while junior Matt Cody is working at left guard along with Aidan Caruso, Ian Schwerdt and St. John Vianney transfer Dante Miranda.
Senior Joe Stanzione will be a three-year starter at tight end, as will senior Luke Albrecht at wide receiver. Senior speedster Matt Mauro will step in at running back with freshman Donovan Summey also pushing for playing time. The quarterback battle is between junior Tom Schork, who was a starting wideout last season, and sophomore Madden Stanley.
Defensively, Middletown South’s 3-4 unit has all three linemen back as three-year starters and three out of four spots in the secondary manned by returning starters. Just as with the offense, the Eagles’ defensive line looks very strong with Bigos and Stanzione as the ends and senior Ian Rahil as the nose tackle.
Murphy returns as a starting inside linebacker and will be flanked by junior Jack Willi. The outside linebackers look to be junior Mark Tardy and senior Nick Trezza with senior Nick Altilio and sophomore Jason Wagner also in the mix.
Schork and junior Matt Grab are back as the starting cornerbacks and senior Tom Mauro is the returning starter at strong safety. The free safety will be either Albrecht or senior Tom DeMarco.
Middletown South had maybe the Shore’s toughest schedule last season when it finished 5-5 and the same argument can be made this season with games against Long Branch, Mater Dei, Rumson-Fair Haven, Wall, Red Bank Catholic and Middletown North.
“It’s punishing week-in and week-out,” Antonucci said. “If we go through the same injuries and attrition as last year it’s going to be a struggle, but I think that will be a challenge for everybody.”
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Multiple spread
QB: Tom Schork, Jr., RS or Madden Stanley, So.
RB: Matt Mauro, Sr.; Donovan Summey, Fr.
TE/FB: Joe Stanzione, Sr., 3RS; Jason Wagner, So.
WR: Luke Albrecht, Sr., 3RS; Francis Brown, Sr.; Matt Grab, Jr., Logan Colleran, So.
LT: Jack Latore, Jr.
LG: Matt Cody, Jr.; Dante Miranda, Jr.; Aidan Caruso, Jr.; Ian Schwerdt, Jr.
C: Jake Williamson, Jr., RS
RG: Alex Higgins, Sr., RS; Dante Miranda, Jr.
RT: Brendan Bigos, Sr., 3RS
DE: Brendan Bigos, Sr., 3RS; Jack Latore, Jr.
NT: Ian Rahill, Sr., 3RS; Alex Higgins, Sr.; Jake Williamson, Jr.
DE: Joe Stanzione, Sr., 3RS
OLB: Mark Tardy, Jr.; also Jason Wagner, So.; Nick Altilio, Sr.
ILB: Jack Willi, Jr.
ILB: Liam Murphy, Sr., RS
OLB: Nick Trezza, Sr
CB: Matt Grab, Jr., RS
CB: Tom Schork, Jr., RS
SS: Tom Mauro, Sr., RS
FS: Luke Albrecht, Sr. or Tom DeMarco, Sr.
K: Mike D’Amato, Sr., RS
P: Mike D’Amato, Sr.
Head coach: Steve Antonucci, 23rd season
Career record: 195-54
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Al Bigos (Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator); Joe Trezza (DB/WR); Nick Trezza (OL/DL); Steve Roberts (Special Teams Coordinator/DL); Marc Tomo (LB/TE); Jeff Martin (RB/DB); Tuck Isherwood (quality control); Rob Murchie (freshmen); Kevin Higgins (freshmen); Zach Even-Esh (strength coach); Stacy White (athletic trainer).
Player to Watch: Tom Schork, Jr., QB/CB
Schork was a starting wide receiver last season and a second-team all-division selection but will move to quarterback this year. He is competing with sophomore Madden Stanley but appears to have a leg up.
“He whistles the ball all over the place,” Antonucci said. “He can throw it, he can run it, and in our offense he’s going to be a pain in the butt. He’s going to be a good one.”
Player Under the Radar: Joe Stanzione, Sr., TE/DE
Stanzione is will be a two-way, three-year starter and is coming off a junior year where he earned second-team all-division honors in the stacked American Division.
Impact Newcomer: Logan Colleran, So., WR
With Luke Albrecht the lone returning starter among the wide receivers, Colleran has a chance to see significant playing time.
Top position group: Defensive line
Seniors Brendan Bigos, Joe Stanzione and Ian Rahill will all be entering their third year as starters along the defensive front and could comprise one of the Shore’s best units.
“We really have six guys we think can rotate throughout the game,” Antonucci said. “You’ll see a difference with us in terms of our size and our line is pretty deep on both sides of the ball. Some guys are two-way players but we can give those guys significant breaks in the game and not lose much.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Matt Mauro, Sr., RB/SS
It isn’t a direct replacement, but Mauro will step into positions that were occupied by first-team All-Shore player Chris Lotito last season. Lotito was one of the Shore’s most versatile players with contributions at running back, safety, quarterback and on special teams.
“Mauro has stepped up to be the No. 1 guy at running back and he has legit speed,” Antonucci said. “He has a great burst and if he gets in to the open he’ll run forever.”
X-Factor: Quarterback play
The team is high on what junior Tom Schork can bring to the quarterback position. If he ends up being a dynamic dual-threat playmaker the Eagles could have one of the best offenses in the Shore.
Friday, Oct. 2 – vs. Long Branch, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9 – vs. Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17 – at Mater Dei, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23 – at Rumson-Fair Haven, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 – vs. Middletown North, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6 – at Wall, 7 p.m.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.
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