Blue Wrecking Crew: Asbury Park 2019 Football Preview
The Asbury Park football team has enjoyed its fair share of success over the last decade-plus and a lot of that success is associated with some of the standout running banks and receivers the Blue Bishops have deployed over the years.
The offensive and defensive lines, meanwhile, have been somewhat overlooked during that span but it will be hard to overlook what Asbury Park will line up in the trenches on either side of the ball in 2019, especially if the season ends with the Blue Bishops hoisting championship hardware.
“Our line is our strong point,” fifth-year Asbury Park coach Tim Fosque said. “Four of those guys are returning starters and each of those guys has three years of playing experience so on the offensive and defensive side, that’s our strong point. Typically with us, you figure we would have no problem with our skill positions but that’s where we find our youth to be this year.”
Behind an experienced offensive line and a crop of exciting young skill players, the Blue Bishops are hoping to build on a solid showing in the NJSIAA Group I Playoffs that followed an up-and-down regular season.
“That confidence we got from making it to that point gave them a belief that they were good enough to win,” Fosque said. “A lot of kids are back so I’m hoping they remember how last year played itself out.”
Player to Watch: Mikai Jones (Jr., WR/DB, 5-11, 185)
In his first two seasons, Jones has been a big-play threat for the Blue Bishops and will be looking to take the next step as one of the consistent, top targets in the Shore Conference. Playing with a third quarterback in three years will be a challenge but Asbury Park won’t shy away from throwing it, especially with weapons like Jones roaming the field. The junior will also be a key defensive player as the free safety in Asbury Park’s new base eight-man front.
Under the Radar Player: Anthony Swearine (Jr., OL/DL, 5-11, 245)
Senior tackle Donte Moore is Asbury Park’s big lineman who will draw most of the attention in the film room but he is not the only big man up front who will drive the Blue Bishops. Swearine is another experienced lineman who will contribute on both sides of the ball as only a junior.
Top Unit: Offensive Line
Surprise, surprise. Moore, Swearine, Jarred Chathuant, Haleem Stevens and Nahieem Crooms make up an experience offensive line that is comprised of four juniors, with Stevens the lone senior. The group will have a lot on their plate playing both ways over the course of the season, but will get help on the defensive side from Matthew Tomaini and a solid group of linebackers.
“We are big,” Moore said. “We are going to keep getting bigger and the more plays we execute at 100 percent, the better that makes us.”
Asbury Park will be successful if…
The young guns grow up quickly. As mentioned several times already in this space, the line will be a strong suit on both sides of the ball so the challenge the Blue Bishops will face is finding the right mix of backs and receivers to keep opposing defenses honest. With a pair of freshmen figuring to play large roles, it may just be a matter of reps before everything falls into place around the front five.
“The previous two years, all the receivers were tall,” Moore said. “This year, you have receivers of all sizes. We just have to get used to them, hold our blocks longer and hope they do what they gotta do to score touchdowns.
“If those young guys think we’re big, they haven’t seen big. My freshman year, I remember playing Shore and Mater Dei – I was scared. But I toughed it and I hope they can do that too.”
AT A GLANCE
HEAD COACH: Tim Fosque, fifth season
CAREER RECORD: 24-18
2018 RECORD: 4-6 (3-3 in National Division)
Rob Ward (Def. Coordinator/OL/DL)
Lamar Davenport (Off. Coordinator/WR/DB)
Nick Ciambrone (WR/DB)
Matt Ardizzone (QB/ILB)
Gary Salerno (OL/DL)
Keith Killea (RB/OLB)
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Knajee Alston (Jr., RB/LB)
Asbury Park lost four players to transfers, most notably leading rusher Junior Haughton, who moved over to Neptune. In his absence, Alston shifts from slot back to tailback to try to pick up some of the production on the ground. Alston will also contribute in the rotation of linebacker-safety hybrid roles that Asbury Park will employ in its new-look defense.
“He has really been doing a great job working hard to make that transition to tailback,” Fosque said of Alston. “He has some big shoes to fill, but he has been doing a great job.”
X-FACTOR: Jashawn Carter (Fr., RB/DB)
Despite only being a freshman, Carter is ready to help right away and Fosque and his coaching staff will look to find ways to get the dynamic rookie involved from a few different spots on the field. He has the ability to work at tailback, out of the slot or out wide and will be part of the rotation of defensive backs.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Jai’Sun Brown (Fr., QB/LB)
Asbury Park is going on its third quarterback in three years and while Brown’s immediate action under center as a freshman comes partly out of necessity, it is also no fluke if you ask his head coach.
“When you talk about newcomers, (Brown) is one of our newcomers that I’m most excited about,” Fosque said. “Jashawn Carter has also been doing a really good job at tailback and slot back for us in the summer and in camp so I’m really excited to see what those guys bring to the team as they really gain their confidence and get the first few games underneath them.”
PIVOTAL GAME: Oct. 4 vs. Keansburg
If last year is any indication, every game on Asbury Park’s schedule will be a battle and with the way the Group I teams of the Shore Conference being so close last year, every game in the National Division race will be a pivotal one. Last year, Keansburg picked off Asbury Park, 14-6, in the first game of the season, so there is a payback dimension to their October showdown. With that being said – the first three weeks will also present a challenge, with Asbury Park opening with Shore, followed by trips to Ocean County to play Pinelands and Point Pleasant Beach.
“These kids last year were in a lot of tough games – a lot of close games,” Fosque said. “There was no clear domination. They had to work and continue to play for four quarters and the team that made the big plays and stayed the course as far as what they do came out successful. Last year, we had a lot of close games, a lot of tough games and a few games that seemed to be one or two plays away (from a win).”
“No matter what, the team should always stick together because one wrong move can mess up the team,” Moore said. “We can’t be at each other’s throats. We have to stick together and work together.”