The Colts Neck Cougars are a team looking to roar their way back into a winning program after going 12-38 from the 2014 season thru the end of last season.

It won't be easy turning the program in a positive direction as head coach Matt Ahearn enters year number two in Colts Neck, and is looking to his players to give their best efforts at practice heading into and during the regular season.

"We have to come prepared to practice everyday and learn how to practice fast," Ahearn said. "We are looking to build from the lower levels. Building from the ground up is important for us. Last year, our freshmen team was 8-1 and this year we're hoping for similar results."

Ahearn is counting on players like senior left tackle Tom Lidondici and senior right tackle Jackson Sparacio on the line as well as senior running back Romeo Thomas, junior outside linebacker Joe Barsky and junior tight end/defensive end Chris Montefusco to help bring along the younger players such as starting sophomore outside linebacker Joe Manos and sophomore quarterback Tommy Fallon, who started seven games last season.

The goals for the Cougars aren't a division title or the playoffs but to take things one play, one series at a time and, if they play well, things will start to turnaround.

"If we take care of the small things, the big things will take care of themselves," Ahearn said.

From left to right: Thomas Lidondici, Aidan Horan, Romeo Thomas, Ibrahim Diallo and Jackson Sparacio of Colts Neck (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Player to Watch: Romeo Thomas (Sr. RB 5-8, 185)

Thomas came out of nowhere to have a very solid season out of the backfield for the Cougars in 2018. He rushed for 960 yards on 137 carries and you can expect him to see a bulk of the carries this year, a workload that will be a big boost for him to get over 1,000 yards and surpass his eight touchdowns from a year ago.

Player Under the Radar: Tommy Fallon (So. QB 6-2, 205)

As a freshman, Fallon had a baptism by fire by playing seven games on the varsity level. The experience of coming in as a freshman and playing against some tough teams built up valuable experience for the incoming sophomore.

Top Unit: The Running Backs

It's a long road back to becoming a winning program again in Colts Neck but there are a couple of positives for the Cougars moving forward and that's their youth with large sophomore and junior classes and then with their running backs. The running game, led by Senior Romeo Thomas who could be a 1,000 yard rusher this season, is built for short term and long term success.

Colts Neck will be successful if…

The offense comes together and finds ways to score. Thomas is their lead running back and Fallon could be the quarterback the Cougars have been dreaming of for the last few seasons. The Cougars offensive line is their most wholesome strength and needs to make holes for Thomas and Jake Lupo.

On The Road Again...and Again:

The Cougars have a daunting first half of the season on the schedule and what complicates matters is that the first three contests - and five of their first six overall - are on the road with the only home game in that span against Toms River East.

"We have a young team and a lot of young players that are cutting their teeth this year so that's our challenge right away...to catch them up to speed because we have a tough one with Freehold Township right away and then Marlboro and Matawan," Ahearn said.

The Great Unknown 

There's some mystery to who the Cougars will become this season and in the years ahead. But, there's also hope that things will turnaround soon before long. They're searching for their identity and we could find out very early in the season who they are or it could be something we find out in the second half of the season.

At A Glance

HEAD COACH: Matt Ahearn, 2nd season

CAREER RECORD: 3-7

2018 RECORD: 3-7 (1-4 in the Liberty Division)

ASSISTANT COACHES

Jim Portela (Def. Coordinator)

Jeff Papcun (RB/LB)

Ryan Byrne (OL/DL)

Bill Hill (WR/DB)

Mike Negron (QB/DB)

Doug Zockoll (TE/DL)

Tom Bonham (RB/DB)

Ryan Kroeger (OL/DL)

Joe Cognahan (Freshmen)

Adam Mintz (Freshmen)

Dan Drashinsky (Freshmen)

Eric Nussbaum (Athletic Trainer)

OFFENSE: Multiple Pro

DEFENSE: 4-3

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Dan Volpe (So. LG 6-5, 260)

The 2018 freshmen Cougars went 8-1 and players like current sophomore Dan Volpe are among the those who made that happen. On a line filled with seniors and juniors, Volpe is the only underclassmen who will have to use his height and size to lay down some pancakes and boost the offense for the Cougars.

X-FACTOR: Defense

Colts Neck was outscored 248-149 during the 2018 season with the only close loss being a 20-14 defeat at the hands of Neptune Township in Week Three. For the Cougars to make some noise this season, their defense, led by players like senior defensive tackle Tom Lidondici, junior outside linebacker Joe Barsky and senior cornerback Rahim Diallo will need to bear down and make some big plays.

IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Delano Marcelus (Jr. DE 6-2, 210) and Rahim Diallo (Sr. CB 5-11, 185)

There are two transfers coming to the Cougars this season from Maryland and Washington state. Delano Marcelus and Rahim Diallo have impressed in training camp and could help the Cougars in a big way this season.

"They've really stepped it up for us and shown what they can do and how they can buy into our program," Ahearn said.

PIVOTAL GAME: September 14 at Marlboro

It's a tough task to play your first three games of the season and five of the first six on the road but that's what's facing the Cougars. The Week Two matchup against Marlboro is pivotal because it will set the tone for the season on whether there's signs of moving forward toward a winning atmosphere, staying the same or taking a step backwards.

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