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Building a program from the ground up is a task that requires a focused vision, commitment, and, most of all, patience. New football programs usually take a while to get to the point where they are competitive on a yearly basis, but ever since Barnegat High School opened in 2006, the Bengals have been remarkably consistent.

In head coach Rob Davis’s 14 seasons leading the program, Barnegat has just four losing seasons, and three of those were 4-6 records in the school’s first four years. The Bengals always seem to be the hunt, and with multiple starters returning on both sides of the ball that’s exactly the place they hope to again find themselves in 2020.

Barnegat returns seven starters on offense, seven on defense and has depth all over the field that will allow it to limit the number of two-way players, or at least rotate players in to keep everyone fresh. There is a nice mix of returning starters and promising newcomers, plus a sophomore class that is loaded with talent.

Barnegat will look to gas opposing defenses with an up-tempo, no-huddle spread offense. Senior Matt Xiques takes over as the quarterback and will have plenty of returning starters surrounding him. Senior Nik DiLeo returns as the running back and senior Robert Armstrong moves to fullback after starting at guard last season. Senior Dorsey Criss is back as a starting wideout. Although Barnegat will have to replace All-Shore lineman Griffin Jackstadt, the group in the trenches has four returning starters and averages about 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds at the guard and tackle positions.

The Bengals’ 3-4 defense has experience in all three levels, starting with senior defensive ends TJ Stokes and Robert Armstrong as returning starters. Both inside linebackers are returning starters with DiLeo and senior John Porcelli manning the middle. In the secondary, senior Andrew Vernieri is back as a cornerback and senior Kris Pollack returns to start at free safety.

While the schedule has drastically changed for many teams, Barnegat will face several familiar opponents this year, tangling with the usual Ocean County teams and squaring off against Manasquan and Shore, two Monmouth County teams they have played against in recent years.

  

At a Glance

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

Offense: Spread no-huddle

QB: Matt Xiques, Sr.

RB: Nik DiLeo, Sr., RS

FB: Robert Armstrong, Sr., RS

TE: Keenan Paul, Jr.

WR: Dorsey Criss, Sr., RS;

WR: Shikeith Gordon, So. or Kyle Eslinger, So.

WR: Naseim Lee, So. or Andrew Vernieri, Sr.

LT: Connor Darmstatter, Jr., RS

LG: Travis Hoffman, Sr.

C: Anthony Bucca, Sr., RS or Bryon Ortiz, Jr.

RG: Kenny Minor, Jr., RS

RT: TJ Stokes, Sr., RS 

Defense: 3-4

DE: TJ Stokes, Sr., RS

NT: Connor Darmstatter, Jr.

DE: Robert Armstrong, Sr., RS

OLB: Jared Schworn, Jr.

MLB: Nik DiLeo, Sr., RS

WLB: John Porcelli, Sr., RS

OLB: Jerry Weir, Jr.

CB: Andrew Vernieri, Sr., RS

CB: Shikeith Gordon, So. or Naseim Lee, So.

SS: Victor Brescia, Sr.

FS: Kris Pollack, Sr., RS 

Special teams

K: Matt Xiques, Sr., RS or Kyle Eslinger, So.

P: Matt Xiques, Sr., RS

 

Head coach: Rob Davis, 15th season

Career record: 77-67

Team record last five years:

2019: 5-4

2018: 7-3

2017: 5-5

2016: 5-5

2015: 3-7

Assistant coaches: Paul Covine (Defensive Coordinator); Mike Burke (DL); Mike DeTroia (OL); Andrew Villiez (DB); Andrew Petruzzi (RB); Pat Moran (Special Teams Coordinator/WR); Ken MacIver (gameday coach); Zach Brebner (freshmen); Mike Leone (freshmen); Brian Fitzpatrick (middle school); Derek Rizzo (middle school); Zach Andrews (middle school); Lauren Tribley (athletic trainer).

 

Player to Watch: Nik DiLeo, Sr., RB/ILB

DiLeo ran for 545 yards and six touchdowns on an average of 6.4 yards per carry to earn second-team all-division honors. He will be entering his third year as a two-way varsity starter.

 

Player Under the Radar: TJ Stokes, Sr., RT/DE

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Stokes gives Barnegat a big body up front on both sides of the ball as a right tackle and a defensive end. Davis said Stokes has received college interest from Division 1 FCS and Division 2 schools.

 

Impact Newcomers: Shikeith Gordon, So., WR/DB and Naseim Lee, So., WR/DB 

Both Gordon and Lee are members of a promising sophomore class and will get their opportunity to make an impact in the passing game and as cornerbacks.

 

Top position group: Offensive line

Despite losing All-Shore lineman Griffin Jackstadt to graduation, Barnegat returns four starters up front. The guard and tackles are all at least 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.

 

Big Shoes to Fill: Travis Hoffman, Sr., OL

Even though the offensive line is a strength, the one spot that won’t be manned by a returning starter is at left guard where Hoffman will step in and take the place of Griffin Jackstadt, who was an All-Shore player last year and is currently a member of the football team at the University of Pennsylvania.

 

X-Factor: Quarterback play

Senior Matt Xiques was the Bengals’ starting kicker and punter last season but will jump into an even bigger role now as the quarterback of Barnegat’s fast-paced offense. He’ll won’t have a ton on his shoulders given the Bengals have an experienced running back and offensive line, but he can elevate the offense with consistent playmaking ability.

 

Season Schedule

Friday, Oct. 2 – at Pinelands, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 9 – at Shore, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 16 – vs. Central, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 23 – at Manchester, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 30 – vs. Lacey, 7 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 6 – vs. Manasquan, 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.