Building on Success: 2022 Barnegat High School Football Preview
Even though the transition to a new coach for the first time in program history went about as smooth as possible, there were still questions surrounding Barnegat entering the first year under head coach Paul Covine.
Those questions were answered positively in 2021 as the Bengals went 6-4 and qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs. Barnegat has been one of the most consistent programs in the Shore Conference ever since Rob Davis shepherded the program to the varsity level nearly 20 years ago, and that did not change with Covine taking the helm. Now, Barnegat is looking to build off that success and make a run at a division title and another postseason berth.
The Bengals' multiple spread offense returns five starters, including one of the Shore Conference's top running backs in senior JoJo Bivins. As a junior, Bivins had a breakout season by rushing for 1,356 yards and 21 touchdowns to finish eighth in the Shore in rushing and fifth in total points with 126. He will be the focal point of the offense, but of course, it takes more than one cylinder to make an engine run.
Experience is scattered throughout the starting offensive lineup beginning with Bivins and senior fullback Max Giaccone in the backfield. Senior wide receiver Shikeith Gordon is also a returning starter, as is sophomore Cole Toddings, who started at tight end as a freshman. The quarterback position remains undecided at this point of training camp with a pair of juniors, Matthieu Worthy and Jake Harashinski, battling it out for the starting job.
The offensive line will be breaking in four new starters. The lone returner is junior right guard Nick Porcelli. The rest of the projected starters are junior Sean Baronowski at left tackle, senior Chris Marriot at left guard, junior Anthony Costello at center, and junior Gianni Antonelli at right tackle.
The strength of Barnegat's 3-4 defense is in the middle where three of four linebackers are returning starters. Senior inside linebacker Connor Armstrong is the leader of the unit and will be joined by Giaccone inside and Toddings outside as returning starters. Senior Seth Freiwald is the other outside linebacker and returns after seeing playing time last season.
The down linemen are seniors Rodney Burke and Connor Pappas at defensive end and Marriot at nose tackle. Three of four starters return in the secondary. Sophomore Myquan Rush started as a freshman and is back at strong safety while senior Kyle Eslinger is the returning starter at free safety. Gordon is the starter at one of the cornerback spots and senior Alan Nelson is in line to start on the opposite side. Gordon tied for the team lead with two interceptions last season.
On special teams, Eslinger returns as the starting kicker while the punter spot has yet to be cemented.
Last season, Barnegat finished fourth in the Patriot Division behind Point Boro, Shore, and Asbury Park and in front of Manchester and Jackson Liberty. After the annual realignment, the Bengals are now in the Liberty Division with traditional Class B South rivals Manchester, Jackson Liberty, and Pinelands, plus Toms River East and Matawan. It should be a competitive division and, on paper, one that the Bengals appear favored to win.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Multiple Spread
Returning starters: 5
QB: Matthieu Worthy, Jr. or Jake Harashinski, Jr.
RB: JoJo Bivins, Sr., RS
FB: Max Giaccone, Sr., RS
WR: Shikeith Gordon, Sr., RS; Alan Nelson, Sr.
TE: Cole Toddings, So., RS
LT: Sean Baranowski, Jr.
LG: Chris Marriot, Sr.
C: Anthony Costello, Jr.
RG: Nick Porcelli, Jr., RS
RT: Gianni Antonelli, Jr.
Returning starters: 6
DE: Rodney Burke, Sr.
NT: Chris Marriot, Sr.
DE: Connor Pappas, Sr.
OLB: Cole Toddings, So., RS
ILB: Connor Armstrong, Sr., RS
ILB: Max Giaccone, Sr., RS
OLB: Seth Freiwald, Sr.
CB: Shikeith Gordon, Sr., RS
CB: Alan Nelson, Sr.
SS: Myquan Rush, So., RS
FS: Kyle Eslinger, Sr., RS
K: Kyle Eslinger, Sr., RS
Long snapper: Cole Toddings, So., RS
Holder: Shikeith Gordon, Sr.
KR: JoJo Bivins, Sr., RS; Johnnel Johnson, So.; Myquan Rush, So., Shikeith Gordon, Sr.
PR: Shikeith Gordon, Sr.; JoJo Bivins, Sr.; Johnnel Johnson, So.
Head coach: Paul Covine, 2nd season
Career record: 6-4
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Kevin Smith (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Andrew Petruzzi (RB/Director of Football Operations); Pat Moran (DB/Special Teams Coordinator); Mike Burke (TE/FB/DL); Mike Leone (OL); Greg Hyslop (WR); Wayne Jackson (gameday volunteer); Mark McCoy (Head Freshmen Coach); Joe Treen (Freshmen asst.); Dan Dugan (Freshmen volunteer); Brian Fitzpatrick (Head Middle School Coach); Dereck Rizzo (Middle School asst.); Rob Jergenson (Middle School asst.) Lauren Tribley (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: JoJo Bivins, Sr., RB
Bivins had an excellent junior season by rushing for 1,356 yards and 21 touchdowns to finish eighth in the Shore in rushing and fifth in the conference in total points. He is the horse the Bengals will try to ride to a division title and another playoff appearance.
Player Under the Radar: Shikeith Gordon, Sr., WR/DB
Gordon, who has an FCS scholarship offer from Marist, tied for the team lead with two interceptions last season and enters this year as the Bengals' No. 1 wide receiver and No. 1 cornerback.
Impact Newcomers: Matthieu Worthy, Jr., QB and Jake Harrashinki, Jr., QB
There's an open competition to be Barnegat's starting quarterback and Worthy and Harrashinki have been battling it out throughout the offseason. Given the obvious importance of the position, the winner will get the opportunity to make a significant impact.
Rivalry Game: Sept. 9 vs. Pinelands
The traditional Class B South and southern Ocean County rivals will square off in Little Egg Harbor during Week 2.
Sept. 1 - @Freehold Township, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 - vs. Pinelands, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 - vs. Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 - @Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 30 - @Asbury Park, 6 p.m.
Oct. 7 - vs. Manchester, 7 p.m.
Oct. 14 - vs. Point Boro, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 - @Matawan, 7 p.m.