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From 2015-2017, Point Boro enjoyed a great three-year stretch in which it went 27-5 with three division titles and a trip to an NJSIAA state sectional championship game. But following that season, the mass exodus through graduation began.

The fantastic senior class of the 2017 season matriculating out of the program left huge voids at many spots, and the result was a 3-6 year during head coach Brian Staub’s first season at the helm. Last season was similar in that many first-year starters and sophomores were tasked with leading the way, and the result was another sub-par season.

However, in year three with Staub as the Panthers’ head coach, there are plenty of reasons for optimism. The silver lining of the past two seasons is that there is now a good mix of juniors and seniors with starting experience who are ready to lead the Panthers back to contender status.

In Point Boro’s Flexbone triple-option offense, it all starts with the quarterback, and junior Charlie Vitale is the main reason the Panthers are optimistic entering 2020. Vitale took the reins of the offense last season as a sophomore and had a very good year with 527 yards rushing and eight touchdowns plus 745 yards passing and six touchdowns. A standout quarterback in an option offense is everything and Vitale is ready to be the Panthers’ difference-maker.

L-R: Josh Henderson, Patrick Frawley, Charlie Vitale, Nick Rebimbas and Nick Tuzzolino. (Photo by Steve Meyer).

“Last year he really stepped up and showed poise and confidence running the offense,” said Staub, who himself was a standout triple-option quarterback when he led Brick Memorial to the 2008 Central Jersey Group 4 state title. “This year he’s so far ahead, quicker with his reads and checks. He’s really the true definition of a dual-threat quarterback. He can run it like a tailback, get the ball to the right guy at the right time in our offense and he can throw it over and behind the defense.”

Vitale will have even more on his shoulders in the early going after starting fullback, senior Nick Tuzzolino, suffered an injury and is likely to miss the first couple of games. Tuzzolino ran for 552 yards and five touchdowns last season.

“Charlie has high expectations for himself and sets a high standard but we have a philosophy of ‘next man up’ in our program,” Staub said. “It’s a chance for some of your younger guys to show what they can do in that all-important “A” back position.”

Look for sophomore Tyler Gordon, senior Andrew Mattson and freshman Jake Croce to get carries in Tuzzolino’s absence.

Helping the cause is an offensive line that features three seniors, two of which are returning starters in Josh Henderson and Patrick Frawley. Senior Nick Rebimbas was set to be a starter last season until a bout with mononucleosis derailed his junior season.

While the offense needs to improve on the 18.9 points per game it averaged a season ago, the more pressing concern is on the defensive side of the ball where the Panthers allowed 29 points per game, which ranked 40th out of 43 teams.

“Priority No. 1 is stopping the run,” Staub said. “In high school football you have to stop the run and put offenses in obvious passing downs. We just need to control the line of scrimmage better, have more tackles for loss and play tough on third-down situations. And we’ve been stressing forcing turnovers all camp.”

Frawley, a Shore Sports Network third-team All-Shore selection, leads a solid group of defensive lineman from his defensive end position in Point Boro’s 3-3 stack scheme. Rebimbas is also a returning starter at inside linebacker. The other returning starter on defense is Tuzzolino, so his spot will have to be manned until he returns from his injury.

Point Boro has the unenviable task of starting the season with a road game against the Wall, the reigning No. 1 team in the Shore that will once again begin the season as one of the best teams in New Jersey. After that, the Panthers should be competitive in every game with a chance to get back to their winning ways.

 

At a Glance

Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)

Offense: Flexbone

QB: Charlie Vitale, Jr., RS

FB: Nick Tuzzolino, Sr., RS; Tyler Gordon, So.; Andrew Mattson, Sr.; Jake Croce, Fr.

SB: Gavin O’Connor, Sr.; Connor Cilento, So; Kenny Hagel, Sr.; Devin Morris, Jr.

WR: Aaron Stencil, Sr., RS; Brian Duda, Sr.

LT: Nick Rebimbas, Sr.

LG: Luke Wilson, Jr.

C: Justin Tuzzolino, Jr.

RG: Josh Henderson, Sr., RS

RT: Patrick Frawley, Sr., RS

Defense: 3-3 stack

DE: Patrick Frawley, Sr., RS

NT: Josh Henderson, Sr.

DE: Connor Reynolds, So.; Matt O’Donnell, So.

ILB: Nick Rebimbas, Sr., RS

MLB: Andrew Mattson, Sr.

ILB: Gavin O’Connor, Sr.; Tyler Gordon, So.

CB: Connor Cilento, So.; Kyle Messeroll

CB: Devin Morris, Jr.; Kenny Hagel, Sr.

SS: Nick Tuzzolino, Sr., RS; Jake Croce, Fr.

SS: Thomas Welch, Jr.; Sam Muraglia, So.;

FS: Charlie Vitale, Jr.

Special teams

K: Matt Henry, Sr., RS

P: Aaron Stencil, Sr.

 

Head coach: Brian Staub, 3rd season

Career record: 6-12

Team record last five years:

2019: 3-6

2018: 3-6

2017: 11-1

2016: 8-2

2015: 8-2

Assistant coaches: Shane O’Connor (Defensive Coordinator); Tom Orrok (Special Teams Coordinator/RB); Ryan Canary (OL); Dan Drzymkowski (DL/OL); Dave Johnson (WR/DB/K); Kyle Ryan (OL/DL); Ty Hughes (FB/DB); Eddie Kendall (DL); Pat Brady (freshmen); Dave Drew (freshmen); John Madden (athletic trainer).

 

Player to Watch: Charlie Vitale, Jr., QB 

Vitale will be entering his second year as Point Boro’s starting quarterback after a successful sophomore season in which he ran for 527 yards and eight touchdowns and threw for 745 yards and six touchdowns. If he can take the next step in his development, Point Boro’s triple-option offense will be a load to handle.

Point Boro quarterback Charlie Vitale. (Photo by Steve Meyer).

 

Player Under the Radar: Patrick Frawley, Sr., OT/DE 

A third-team All-Shore selection on defense last season, Frawley posted 52 tackles with 5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and 2 fumble recoveries.

“I think Pat is one of the more underrated defensive players in the entire Shore Conference,” Staub said. “I would put him up against anybody. He’s a great competitor and really added some size in the offseason to go along with his great first step off the line. Teams are going to walk away knowing who No. 57 is.”

 

Impact Newcomer: Connor Cilento, So., RB/DB and Connor Reynolds, So., DE

Cilento could be a two-way starter as a slot back and a cornerback. Reynolds is in line to start at defensive end and will look to provide an edge presence on the opposite side of the line from All-Shore senior Patrick Frawley.

“Cilento has a high football IQ and ran our freshman team as the quarterback really well,” Staub said. “He’ll be at “L” back, which has been one of the more explosive positions in our offense.”

“Reynolds is mature beyond his age. He combines great strength and speed at the defensive end position.”

 

Top position group: Offensive backfield 

With Charlie Vitale at quarterback, Nick Tuzzolino, Tyler Gordon, Andrew Mattson and Jake Croce at “A” back and Gavin O’Connor, Connor Cilento, Kenny Hagel, and Devin Morris, as the slot backs, the engine of Point Boro’s offense has talent and depth.

 

Big Shoes to Fill: Aaron Stencil, Sr., WR and Brian Duda, Sr., WR

Last season, Point Boro was able to coax standout baseball player Sam Young into playing football, and the result was a 20-catch, 382-yard, 5-touchdown season for the 6-foot-5 senior. With Young no longer an option, it will be up to seniors Aaron Stencil, a returning starter, and Brian Duda to provide the production in the passing game.

  

X-Factor: Offensive line 

Three starters return along the offensive line with seniors Josh Henderson and Patrick Frawley at right guard and right tackle, respectively, and senior Nick Rebimbas at left tackle. Junior Luke Wilson is the left guard and junior Justin Tuzzolino is the center.

“They’re really coming along and we like what we see up front from them,” Staub said. “We have three senior leaders who are great competitors and they really set the tone.” 

 

Season Schedule

Friday, Oct. 2 – at Wall, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 9 – at Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 16 – vs. Manasquan, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 24 – at Monmouth, noon

Friday, Oct. 30 – vs. Neptune, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 6 – vs. Lakewood, 7 p.m.

 

Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at bob.badders@townsquaremedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.