Baby Blue Bishops: 2020 Asbury Park Football Preview
Last year, Asbury Park had the youngest starting quarterback in the Shore Conference, with freshman Jai’Sun Brown running the offense in his first fall as a high-school student.
This year, the Blue Bishops will pair their young quarterback with the youngest head coach in the Shore Conference.
Nick Famularo is just eight years removed from his last high-school football season and nine removed from winning a Central Jersey Group I championship with the Blue Bishops. The 25-year-old alumnus is hoping to keep Asbury Park playing for postseason wins, develop a young core led by Brown, set up his players to reach the next level and establish a reputation as a disciplined, well-oiled machine of a football program at Asbury Park.
“I’m all about changing the culture so we have one of the most disciplined teams on the field and in the classroom,” Famularo said. “I want us to change the narrative at Asbury Park and give our kids a change to go to college and compete at the next level.”
With its team full of young skill players, Asbury Park showed flashes of a championship-caliber team while also hitting a few bumps along the way. With a more seasoned group on both sides of the ball and a new coaching staff, the Bishops are hoping for more consistency that comes with more experience.
“The kids are locked in,” Famularo said. “It’s a young group but they are learning how to be leaders and how to come out and work every day.”
Projected Starters (RS=Returning Starter; 3RS=Third-year Starter)
QB: Jai’Sun Brown, So. RS
RB: Na’Jier Massey, Sr. RS; Jashawn Carter, So.
FB/TE: Knasir Alston, Jr., RS
WR: Mikai Jones, Sr. RS
WR: Lydell Brown, Jr.
WR: Corey Thermitus, Sr. RS
LT: Josh Handy, Jr.
LG: Jarred Chathaunt, Sr., RS
C: Elijah Drake, So.
RG: Naheem Crooms, Sr., RS
RT: Donte Moore, Sr. RS
DE: Donte Moore, Sr. RS
DT: Jarred Chathuant, Sr., RS
DT: Josh Handy, Jr.
DE: Naheem Crooms, Sr. RS
OLB: Knasir Alston, Jr. RS
MLB: Emon Morales, Sr.
OLB: Exavier Chathuant, Jr.
CB: Lydell Brown, Jr.
CB: Corey Thermitus, Sr.
SS: Mikai Jones, Sr. RS
FS: Jai’Sun Brown, So.
At a Glance
Head Coach: Nick Famularo, first season
Career Record: 0-0
Record Last Five Years:
Assistant Coaches: Matt Ardizzone, Barry Baity, Isaias Calderon, Lamar Davenport, Lamar Davenport, Keith Killea, Gary Salerno, Matthew Voskian, Rob Ward, Kyle Weedon, William Wells, Islam Joshua, Nancy Saphow (Athletic Trainer)
Player to Watch: Mikai Jones, Sr., WR/SS
Jones has been an impact player for the Blue Bishops since his freshman season and put up the stats to match as a junior. With a freshman quarterback targeting him, Jones hauled in 29 receptions for 624 yards and five touchdowns – the second-highest receiving yardage total in the Shore Conference during the 2019 season. Jones is also in line to reclaim his starting strong safety spot and lead a promising secondary.
“He’s a leader and a captain of this squad,” Famularo said. “He has always been a really talented player and now, me and the rest of the coaches, we have been telling him it’s time to take that next step and be a leader for these young guys. He’s a great route-runner, he looks great physically and now he is ready to show his leadership.”
Players Under the Radar: Jarred Chathuant (Sr., LG/DT) and Donte Moore (Sr., RT/DE)
Asbury Park’s offensive and defensive lines have been a strong suit of the team and the linemen have been unsung heroes within the roster during the championship seasons of the last 15 years. With three starters back on the line for 2020, Asbury Park should again thrive in the trenches and Chathuant and Donte Moore are the enforcers on either side on offense. On defense, Moore can set the edge and get after the passer while Chathuant plugs up the middle.
“We have a few seniors back on the line and they are learning some new things,” Famularo said. “Those guys are experienced players and we got a guy like Donte Moore who is a big, strong kid and a good leader for those guys.”
Impact Newcomer: Lydell Brown, Jr., WR/CB
There will be no shortage of targets for Brown in the passing game and Brown is one of the emerging players in the group of receivers and backs. The junior is poised to see the field in sets with three receivers or more and could even find himself No. 2 on the depth chart, while also holding down one of the two cornerback positions on defense.
“Lydell is a very good athlete who was on the team as a sophomore last year but he is really ready to step up as a receiver and in the secondary,” Famularo said. “We have a lot of guys who are good athletes who put a lot of work in and are still working hard to get better and Lydell is definitely one of them.”
Top Position Group: Skill Players
While Asbury Park is excited about Ja’Sun Brown making plays through the air to Jones, Brown and Corey Thermitus, the Bishops are also looking forward to him handing it off to some quality running backs. Na’Jier Massey and Knasir Alston are proven ball-carriers who can also block, while Jashawn Carter is an exciting sophomore who could work his way into a significant share of carries. A Brown-Carter backfield could be in the works for 2020 and appears to be on tap for the next two years.
“We’re excited about having guys like Massey, Alston and Jashawn Carter to give the ball to,” Famularo said. “They are all good athletes but their all a little bit different.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Josh Handy, Jr., LT/DT
Two-way lineman Haleem Stephens was one of the few seniors to start on last year’s Asbury Park team and Handy is taking over the open left tackle spot on offense while plugging in at defensive tackle on defense. Having three returning seniors in Chathuant, Moore and Crooms on the line with him will definitely take the pressure off and is Handy and sophomore center Elijah Drake get settled in quickly, Asbury Park’s line should be a force again.
X-Factor: Jai’Sun Brown, So., QB
Brown is both an established varsity quarterback and an unfinished product after showing promise as a freshman. He completed just over 50 percent of his passes (64-for-126) for 1,110 years with 10 touchdowns against six interceptions – all encouraging numbers for a rare freshman quarterback. The developmental progression is not always a straight line, so there is no guarantee the numbers will be better this year, but if Brown grows as a leader and competes on both sides of the ball, Famularo and the coaching staff will be happy.
“Coaches from other teams watch him and they are surprised to find out he’s only a sophomore this year,” Famularo said. “He has a great handle on the offense for such a young player and he is starting to become the kid of leader we want our quarterback to be. We have a lot of confidence in Jai’Sun.”
Saturday, Oct. 3 at Manasquan, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9 vs. Point Beach, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 17 at Keansburg, noon
Friday, Oct. 30 vs. Shore, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 7 at Neptune, 10 a.m.