Continue the Culture: 2021 Manchester Township High School Football Preview
Manchester Township High School has not had much success on the football field during its program history. Going into last season they had not produced a winning season since 2010 and in the history of the school, the Hawks have qualified for the state playoffs just twice and have never won a playoff game.
However, first-year head coach Brian Wilkinson was not afraid of the challenge, having helped Pinelands rise from the ashes in 2013 and previously having success at Toms River South. It did not take long for the Hawks to shock the Shore as they knocked off Lacey in Week 1 and, despite losing their final two games, finished 5-3 and gave the returning players a taste of what winning is all about.
While they return one of the Shore’s top quarterbacks there will be plenty of new faces on the field as the Hawks graduated a host of talented seniors, including third-team All-Shore running back Josh Glenn, wide receiver Gavin Clark, offensive lineman Tom Smith and linebacker Nick Uberti, all of whom were selected for the canceled All-Shore Gridiron Classic.
While Manchester returns only eight starters (four on offense and four on defense) the Hawks do boast a unique talent in 6-foot-5 senior quarterback Savon Myers, who was a second-team Shore Sports Network All-Shore selection after throwing for 1,400 yards and 15 toucheowns with just four interceptions. Myers has a very strong arm and likes to throw the ball downfield, and while two of his top receivers have graduated he’ll have senior D’Maari Brown back as his favorite target. The 5-foot-7, 165-pound Brown is a three-year starter who caught 27 passes for 377 yards and 2 touchdowns last fall. Wilkinson calls him a “Swiss Army Knife” who can do just about anything on the football field.
With Glenn gone after accounting for more than 1,100 yards of offense in 2020, look for the running game to rest with senior Josh Irizarry and a trio of underclassmen in junior Eli Casalan and sophomores Jomar Velliard and Josh Love. Three of the five spots on the offensive line appear set with returning starters Christopher Pasos (6-foot-2, 265), David Larangeira (5-foot-10, 180) and sophomore Gavin Herr (6-foot-1, 265). In the mix for the other spots are Jake Otten (So.), Domonic Terrero (Sr.), Tito Sobayo (Jr.) and Calvin Spicer (Jr.).
The strength of the defense appears to be up front with three-year starter Kingborn Morris at one end position while seniors Diondre Johnson (DE) and Pasos (DT) make up the rest of the three-man group. They will have to play well while a brand-new group of linebackers led by Casalan and senior Evan Tafrow gain some experience. Junior Landon Hinton is in the mix for a starting spot along with junior Christian Pasos and sophomores Gio Tripodi and Malik Bellamy. The secondary is young and will feature four new starters with Aidan Wheeler (Jr.) and Irizarry at cornerback and Love holding down the strong safety spot with juniors Dante Tyrone Benjamin and Danny Saggau looking for time as the weak side safety. The Hawks also bring back an outstanding kicker in junior Evan Weiner, a third-team All-Shore selection in 2020 after kicking three field goals, including a long of 37 yards.
One of the signs of progress in the program is the Hawks not only have 51 players on their varsity roster but nearly 30 freshmen. A little winning can sometimes go a long way.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=Returning Starter, 3RS=3rd Year Returning)
QB: Savon Myers, Sr., RS
RB: Josh Irizzary, Sr.; Eli Casalan, Jr.; Jomar Velliard, So.; Josh Love, So.
WR: D’Maari Brown, Sr., 3RS; Tyrone Benjamin, Jr.; Na’Zir Morris, Jr.; Amari Petty, Sr.
OL: Christopher Pasos, Sr., RS
OL: Gavin Herr, So.
OL: David Larangeira, Sr.
OL: Jake Otten, So.; Domonic Terrero, Sr.
OL: Tito Sobayo, Jr.; Calvin Spicer, Jr.
DE: Kingborn Morris, Sr., 3RS
DT: Christopher Pasos, Sr,. RS
DE: Diondre Johnson, Sr., RS
LB: Eli Casalan, Jr.; Gio Tripodi, So.; Malik Bellamy, So.
LB: Evan Tafrow, Sr.
LB: Landon Hinton, Jr.; Christian Pasos, Jr.
LB: Josh Love, So.; David Estrada, So.
CB: Aidan Wheeler, Jr.
CB: Josh Irizzary, Sr.
S: Dante Tyrone Benjamin, Jr.; Danny Saggau, Jr.
S: D’Maari Brown, Sr.3RS
K/P: Evan Weiner, Jr., RS
Head Coach: Brian Wilkinson, 2ND season (13th overall)
Career Record: 49-70
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Charlie Diskin (offensive coordinator/QB); Rich Stratton (OL); Amani Richardson (WR); Alex Lunn (RB); Paul Findlow (DL); Tom Malek (Secondary); Sam Ichabone & Erik Lang (Frosh). Tiffany Whalen (Athletic Trainer).
PLAYER TO WATCH: Savon Myers, Sr., QB
When you are a returning second-team All-Shore selection who put up big numbers as a junior clearly the focus is on you. Myers has to get used to many new faces with receiver D’Maari Brown the only other skill position starter back. How he adjusts to those new players and handles knowing other teams will focus on stopping him will end up being a key for the Hawks to compile a second straight winning season.
PLAYER UNDER THE RADAR: D’Maari Brown, Sr., WR/S
The speedy Brown averaged 14 yards per reception last fall and if he gets the ball in open space then look out. Count on opposing teams looking to shut him down so he’ll have to find ways to get open. He’s a solid safety on defense and can do a little bit of everything.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Josh Love, So., RB/DB
Watch out for this 5-foot-6 sophomore speedster who will be in the mix at both running back and defensive back.
The Hawks are going to play a lot of young players as 28 of the 51 players on their varsity roster are sophomores. They may have caught some teams off guard early last season but don’t expect a repeat as everyone knows about Myers and Brown. Manchester moves up a bit in class playing in the Patriot Division and will need a couple of early wins to keep the momentum going from last season.
DID YOU KNOW?
Since its first full varsity football season in 1977, Manchester has never posted consecutive winning seasons. The last time the Hawks had consecutive non-losing seasons was from 2008 to 2010 when Gerard O’Donnell led the team to final records of 5-5, 5-5 and 6-4, respectively.
Thursday, Sept. 2 – vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Barnegat, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – vs. Shore, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – at Point Boro, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – vs. Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 9 – vs. Asbury Park, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16 – at Lakewood, 1 p.m.