Back to the Future: 2023 Manasquan Football Preview
Like many towns in New Jersey, Manasquan’s name is derived from the Lenape Native American language. Depending on which origin story you prefer, it translates to either “place to gather grass or reeds” or “stream of the island of squaws”. But around the Shore Conference, those who have followed area football for the last 35 years think of something else when they hear the name of the town and school mentioned.
No football program in Shore Conference history has more sectional titles than the 12 Manasquan has captured since the NJSIAA playoff format began in 1974. The Warriors’ tradition of excellence is equaled by only a handful of teams among the 42 gridiron squads that call the Shore Conference home. And while they are several years removed from their heyday of winning 10 sectional titles in a 17-year span, the Warriors have remained contenders with a sectional title, two division titles, and an additional appearance in a sectional final over the past seven seasons.
This fall’s version of the Big Blue Warriors is coming off a 5-5 season and two years removed from an 8-3 campaign that included a shared division title. Gone are offensive stalwarts such as quarterback Brett Patten and running back Jhamier Howard, so Manasquan will have a much different look now that the pair of three-year starters have graduated. The team’s identity, however, will be quite familiar.
Manasquan broke tradition a bit over the last three years in regard to its offensive system, adjusting its usual I-formation scheme to feature more spread and pro-style sets that best took advantage of Patten’s dual-threat ability. In 2023, Manasquan will operate mostly out of a multiple-I base again and features five returning starters from an offense that was tied for 12th in the Shore averaging 24.2 points per game last season.
Patten accounted for 2,706 yards passing and 43 touchdowns plus 448 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns for his career and Howard totaled 1,083 yards rushing, 437 yards receiving, and 25 touchdowns during his three varsity seasons. It’s a valid question as to how Manasquan will go about replacing that production.
The quarterback position has been a battle between seniors Austin Griffith and Frank Furfaro. Griffith started two games last season when Patten was injured and Furfaro transferred in from Red Bank Catholic last summer. What Manasquan usually asks of its quarterbacks is to make good decisions, take care of the ball, take advantage of the opportunities a strong running game can present, and lead with a steady hand. They need to be game managers, and that is certainly not meant as a slight. Those quarterback traits have served the Warriors quite well during their championship seasons.
The running back room features seniors Julian Walthall, Will Burns, and Jaxson Herrmann, plus junior Jackson Battaglia and sophomore Dylan Lu. Walthall had a touchdown run last season in limited action while Battaglia and Hermann also experienced some varsity carries. Burns starred on defense and will now step into a role where he will play both tailback and fullback as needed. He and Walthall look to be the Warriors’ primary ball carriers.
Another key loss to graduation for the Warriors is at wide receiver where Jack Dettlinger caught a team-high 24 passes for 420 yards and seven touchdowns last season among his many contributions. Junior Caden Eastmond (5-11, 175) returns as a starter and will be joined by sophomore JD Teza (6-3, 165) and senior Matt Koenig (6-1, 160). The tight ends are sophomore Jack O’Reilly (6-4, 195) and senior Jack Maggs (6-1, 200).
Manasquan’s offensive line has three returning starters. Senior Jack Mead (6-2, 220) is the left tackle, senior Noah Mammeri (5-10, 220) is the left guard, and senior James Gilmore (6-2, 230) returns as the starting right tackle. Junior Pat Loxley (5-10, 220) is at center and 6-foot-6, 255-pound junior Adam Murphy is at right guard. Maggs, senior Brian Lee, and junior Henry Terlizzi (6-4, 270) could also see playing time up front.
The Warriors’ defense returns six starters in its 4-3 scheme that allowed 23.1 points per game last year. Gilmore was a First Team All-Independence Division selection and is at defensive tackle along with Murphy. Mead is at one defensive end spot coming off a season in which he had nine tackles for loss. Maggs is the other defensive end with sophomores Liam Opatasky and Ambrose Masonius also options at end. The other defensive tackles are Terlizzi, Lee, and senior Shaun Etienne (6-0, 240).
The heart of the defense resides with the three linebackers, all of whom are returning starters. Burns had an excellent junior season with 103 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 11 tackles for loss to earn First Team All-Independence Division honors. He is an outside linebacker with Walthall in the middle and Mammeri as the other outside linebacker. Walthall recorded 41 tackles, 1 sack, 5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery last season and Mammeri had 54 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, and an interception return for a touchdown.
The secondary has Eastmond as the lone returning starter at strong safety. Senior Luke Ramirez and junior Matt Schneider (6-3, 170), who is also a standout on Manasquan’s lacrosse team, are the cornerbacks while Teza is at free safety. Schneider and sophomore Matt Antonucci can also play free safety while Lu and sophomore Ace Etienne are in the mix at cornerback and Koenig is the backup strong safety.
The kicking and punting duties will stay in the Dettlinger family with sophomore Joe Dettlinger set to handle both positions.
Manasquan is one of the most intriguing teams in the Shore Conference entering the season. The Warriors have great tradition and a clear identity, but they will be very young with 15 to 16 of the 22 starters being either sophomores or juniors. They are also entering a year in which they have to replace their leading passer, rusher, and receiver.
After contending with Point Boro, Raritan, St. John Vianney, Monmouth Regional, and Holmdel last season in the Independence Division, Manasquan will now play in the Constitution Division with Asbury Park, Holmdel, Ocean, Shore Regional, and St. John Vianney. It’s a truly wide-open division, and if the Warriors can find their footing early they should find themselves right in the thick of the title picture.
At a Glance
Head coach: J. Price, 13th season
Career record: 74-50
2022 record: 5-5
Coaching staff: Pete Cahill (DB); Brian Lee (WR); Jay Price Sr. (DB); Justin Cella (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Ed Kapalko (DL); Darrell Falkinburg (RB); Eric Howland (LB); Billy Bertscha (OL); Matt Voskian (DL); Rich Griffith (Freshmen); John Morris (Freshmen); Bruce Bresnahan (Director of Football Operations); Kevin Hyland (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 0 – Friday, Aug. 25 at Shore Regional
The Warriors and Blue Devils have played each other in each of the past two seasons (both Manasquan victories) and the two tradition-rich programs will now be division rivals in the new-look Constitution Division. Yes, it’s the season-opener for both teams but it could also be a game that ends up deciding the division crown.
Player to Watch: Will Burns, Sr., OLB/RB/FB
Burns was an all-division linebacker last season with 103 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 11 tackles for loss and will have an expanded role on offense as both a tailback and fullback.
Big Shoes to Fill: The skill positions
Manasquan has to replace its starting quarterback, running back, and top wide receiver from last season. Together, Brett Patten, Jhamier Howard, and Jack Dettlinger accounted for of all but three of the team’s touchdowns last season.
Did you Know?
Manasquan head coach J. Price is now the third-longest tenured coach in Manasquan history behind Shore Conference legend Vic Kubu (22 seasons, 1985-2006) and championship-winning coach Hal Manson (14 seasons, 1949-1962).
|@St. John Vianney