Football – Learning Curve: 2016 Barnegat Preview
Barnegat’s football program may be just 11 years old, but the Bengals have become accustomed to winning year after year. Last year’s 3-7 record marked the fewest wins in program history, which was due in large part to the graduation of an outstanding senior class that included two FBS recruits and another to an FCS school.
“As a freshman we saw the team go to the state championship, and I think all of us want to experience that again,” said senior linebacker Eric Becker. “We got our feet wet last year so we have more experience.”
“We’re putting all the pieces together and getting back to that tradition of getting to the playoffs every year,” said senior Connor Lustenberger.
The Bengals return four starters in their spread offense, starting with both Lustenberger and fellow senior Joe Monaco at quarterback. The two split time last season with Monaco throwing for a team-high 560 yards and five touchdowns.
The only player on the roster who found the end zone other than the quarterbacks is backup running back Jake Schmitz, so there is still plenty of inexperience at the skill positions.
Junior Juan Abraham is the starting tailback with Schmitz, senior Shemar Jarrett, senior Alioun Diagne and sophomore Charlie Cotton backing up. The H-back is Becker and the wide receivers are senior Jacques Picault, senior Hunter Mauro and sophomore Dupreme Holland. Mauro is a returning starter but had just one reception last season. The tight end is 6-foot-3 sophomore Sean Morris, who is part of a promising 23-player 10th-grade class.
Senior Andrew Meaney is one of two returning starters on the offensive line and will play guard. Alongside him is senior Bryan Madej. The other starter is the center, senior Kyle Kessinger. The tackles are senior Mike Baker and 6-foot-3, 260-pound Allentown transfer Steve Pitiak.
Barnegat returns four starters in its 4-3 defense. Junior Levin Musawa is a returning starter at defensive end and leads the defensive linemen. Madej is the other defensive end while sophomores John Pannone and Anthony Grimes will start at defensive tackle. Morris and Meany will work in at end, and Pitiak and junior Julian Schoenberger will also see time at tackle.
Becker returns as a starting outside linebacker with senior Dennis Sullivan also getting the nod as a starter. Sophomore Brian Ewan returns after starting at middle linebacker as a freshman.
Schmitz is the only returning starter in the secondary at strong safety. The corners are Mauro and Cotton and the free safety is sophomore Sean Madej.
On special teams, Lustenberger will be both the kicker and punter again. Senior Kirston Beaucicault and junior Nico Adorno are the return specialists.
Last season the Bengals lost two fourth-quarter leads to Donovan Catholic and Jackson Liberty, which is something that still sticks with them.
“We really let a couple get away from us,” Becker said.
“We don’t want to have the same feeling as last year,” said Barnegat head coach Rob Davis. “The best thing for this season was last year. We open with Donovan Catholic and we lost to them here last year. We had the lead with three minutes left and ended up losing in overtime. If you can’t get excited for that rematch…it has to come from within.”
The Bengals have an uphill climb this year, but they feel they can compete in what looks to be a wide-open Class B South race.
“B South is wide open, there’s more parity than ever,” Davis said
Head Coach: Rob Davis, 11th season.
Career Record: 55-49.
Coaching staff: Kevin Smith (def. coord.); Greg Oravets (DL); Mike Burke (RB); Paul Covine (LB); Mike D’Ambrosio (QB; Mike DeTroia (OL); Vinny Casale (asst.); Lauren Tribley (athletic trainer).
2015 Record: 3-7 (2-5).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Dennis Sullivan, Sr., LB
Sullivan steps in as a starting linebacker and replaces all-Class B South selection Josh Bowen.
The Bengals are still a a very young team so it remains to be seen how the new starters will develop.
GLUE GUY: Connor Lustenberger, Sr., QB
Lustenberger returns at quarterback and has also played safety. He’ll also be the kicker and punter.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Steve Pitiak, Jr., OL/DL
The 6-foot-3, 260-pound Allentown transfer will start on the offensive line and serve as a backup at defensive tackle.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 9 at Donovan Catholic
The Griffins came from behind in the fourth quarter last season to eventually win in overtime, and the Bengals have been waiting for revenge ever since.
Football editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.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.