Football – Arrow’s Up: 2017 Toms River South Preview
There is nothing like a Friday night football game at Toms River South’s Detweiler Stadium, which provides one of the truly great atmospheres at the Shore. Even in times when the Indians are struggling, students and alumni fill the home stands and signs of school spirit are everywhere.
Seventh-year head coach Ron Signorino Jr. grew up wearing the maroon and white, and following a 2-8 season is hoping for a quick turnaround so the home fans have more to cheer about. South enters this season on a seven-game losing streak but with optimism surrounding a strong group of underclassmen and feeling that good times are not far away.
Junior quarterback Sam Conover was an unknown commodity at the start of last season but gained valuable experience running the flexbone offense due to injuries and ineffectiveness.
Signorino has complete confidence in Conover to make the right decisions and reads, and also lead the offense. The staff is also high on 6-foot-2 freshman Jack Huber, who will likely be with the varsity team from the start.
The featured “A back” will be junior Sam Akinlolu, a tough, hard-nosed player and team leader, but getting his share of carries will be 215-pound senior Teddy Suarez, who shines on the defensive line and will add a different dimension on offense. The slot backs figure to be senior Anthony Coston, who did not play football last year, Jalen Hibbert, who missed all of his sophomore season with an ACL injury, and sophomore Sylas Young, a transfer from Pemberton.
The starting wide receivers will be junior Jorien Harris and 6-foot-2 senior Hunter Roberts. Seniors Angelo Louis and Armani Vasquez, the latter of whom is playing high school football for the first time, are also in the receivers rotation. Figuring into the offensive game plan somewhere will be senior T.J. Scuderi, who was the starting quarterback as a sophomore before taking last season off to concentrate on baseball.
A pair of three-year varsity players in senior center Nick Florio (6-foot-2, 270 pounds) and guard Andre Knowles (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) anchor what looks like a solid offensive line. Senior Tavis Smith (6-foot-2, 265 pounds) and junior Shane Coffee (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) are battling for the other guard spot while the left tackle will be 6-foot-4, 265-pound senior Isaiah Guthridge, a promising college recruit. The right tackle position appears to be a battle between seniors Justin Minniti (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and Evan Raichle (6-foot-1, 225 pounds), and 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior Keith Calloway.
Many of those same names will also line up on the other side of the ball with Guthridge, Knowles, Smith and Suarez part of the defensive line rotation along with seniors Corey Conner, Eric Appignani and Victor Butler. All have good size, and the added depth should be a big help as this year’s team is much deeper than a year ago.
Minniti, Calloway, Raichle and juniors Kenney Johnson and Dominic Spedaliere head up the group of linebackers. The Indians line up in multiple defensive formations but more often than not will go with a four-man front. The defensive backfield may be the strength with Conover and Akinlolu both very capable safeties who will be backed up by Hibbert and senior Damere Randolph. Among those at the cornerback spot are Roberts, Harris, Louis, Coston, Young and junior Nyshawn Small. Scuderi will also likely earn time somewhere in the secondary. Roberts will be the punter and the busy Conover will handle the kicking chores.
While the majority of the Indians’ players will play on both sides of the ball Signorino is encouraged by having more quality players on this team who he can get onto the field, and hopefully that will allow the key players to get more rest. He also has renewed excitement having moved into the role of offensive coordinator with Matt Martin now running the defense. He admitted that over the past few years he served more like a general manager but likes calling the offense, which he did for many years as an assistant before taking over the Indians program.
South opened last fall 2-1 before the collapse began, and ending the losing streak sooner than later would go a long way towards getting the program headed back in the right direction. The season opener at Lacey will provide a stern test, and how quickly the group of underclassmen come together figures to be the key to making Detweiler Stadium an unfriendly place for visiting teams.
At a Glance
Head Coach: Ron Signorino Jr., seventh season.
Career Record: 27-34.
Assistant Coaches: Matt Martin (def. coord.); Bill Rankin (slots/special teams); Kyle Austin (OL); Joe Kelly (LB); Bill Malast (OL/DL); Dan Cicala (DB); Jim Drackowitz (DL); RJ D’Anton (DB); Brian Elias (WR); Ron Signorino Sr. (RB); Ricky Maldonado (RB/strength and conditioning); Brett Hardie, Dave Fanslau, Trevor Signorino, Joey Meyers (Freshmen); Dan Crashewsky (athletic trainer).
2016 Record: 2-8 (2-5).
Big Shoes to Fill: Senior Leadership
Todd Stueber, Nick Page and Cooper Guzzi were not only standout two-way starters but team leaders, and their graduation leaves a void. Several seniors need to step up and fill that.
X-Factor: Sam Akinlolu, Sr., RB/S; Teddy Suarez, Sr., RB/DL
For the flexbone to be successful the “A back” has to put up numbers, and these two are the guys being counted on. They are also defensive standouts.
Glue Guy: Sam Conover, Sr., QB/S/K
He emerged last season as a real bright spot considering he was not even among the top 3-4 quarterbacks when the season began. One of those guys that coaches are counting on.
Impact Newcomer: Sylas Young, So., RB/DB
A transfer from Pemberton who will likely get playing time on both offense and defense.
Pivotal Game: Sept. 15 vs. Toms River East
Winning at Lacey in the opener will be a tough task so potentially ending the losing streak or moving to 2-0 the following week against a sister school will be a must if the Indians are to turn it around.