Football: Preseason Camp Preview – Class B Central
With Shore Conference football camps set to get rolling in August, Shore Sports Network will take a look at each of the six divisions as we head into the preseason, continuing here with Class B Central.
We will have in-depth previews of each team in the Shore Conference starting in mid-August as camps get underway.
CLASS B CENTRAL
Who’s in, who’s out?: Everything is the same in the Shore Conference’s small-school division.
Random fact: With the retirement of Hall of Famer Mike Ciccotelli at Keyport, Shore Regional’s Mark Costantino becomes the longest-tenured coach in Monmouth County. He is entering his 23rd season with a career record of 142-84-1.
Returning All-Division players
Joe Wegrzyniak, Sr., RB/LB, Point Beach (SSN 1st team All-Shore pick)
Tysaun White, Sr., WR/DB, Mater Dei Prep (3rd team All-Shore)
Jaedon Stephens, Jr., WR, Asbury Park
James Bedell, Sr., OL/LB, Shore Regional
Mike Frauenheim, Sr., RB/DB, Point Beach
Jake Monteiro, Sr., K, Shore Regional (2nd team All-Shore)
Tyquis Davis, Sr., RB/LB, Asbury Park
Doug Goldsmith, Jr., LB, Shore Regional
Mike Moore, Sr., DB, Shore Regional
Jake Fioretti, Sr., QB, Point Beach
Can anyone break up another Shore Regional-Point Beach showdown for the division title?
Not likely. Once again, these two look like two of the best teams not only in this division but also in Central Jersey Group I, where Point Beach is the defending champion after beating Shore in last year’s final for its first state title in program history. A week before that game, Shore beat Point Beach to claim the division crown, so this has developed into a nice rivalry since Point Beach’s rise from the ashes under coach John Wagner in 2011.
I would give Point Beach the edge coming into this season given what the Garnet Gulls have returning. Senior fullback Joe Wegryniak, a SSN first-team All-Shore pick who set a school record with 1,581 yards rushing and had 17 touchdowns, is back along with three-year starter Jake Fioretti at quarterback and another talented back in senior Mike Frauenheim. That means all of the main cogs in Point Beach’s punishing Wing-T offense return outside of graduated wideout Noah Yates are back, although they have to replace standout lineman Sean Struncius and others up front. Wegrzyniak also led the team with 92 tackles, 17 of them for a loss, so he returns at linebacker to anchor the defense. Frauneheim and Fioretti give them a strong secondary that has to replace Yates, who led the Shore with nine interceptions last year. Junior Tanner Smith also returns after making 64 tackles, including 11 for a loss, as a sophomore.
Shore Regional has to replace leading rusher Brian Miller and starting quarterback Matt Muh as well as top linemen Matt Proto and Chris Okupski, but has enough talent returning to still be right there for a title. Senior Jake Monteiro, one of the state’s top kickers, is back for his third varsity season. Junior Doug Goldsmith moves into the star-making role at Shore of fullback/linebacker and should be the catalyst of the offense as well as a defensive stalwart with senior linebacker James Bedell. Senior defensive lineman Mitchell Canditto also returns after leading the team with 4.5 sacks, and senior Mike Moore returns to anchor the secondary after picking off three passes last year. Junior running back/defensive back Jack Britton also looks to play a bigger role after making an impact as a sophomore. If the newcomers can get up to speed quickly, it should once again be the Blue Devils and Garnet Gulls slugging it out for division and state titles. The difference is that it won't be on Thanksgiving any more, as Shore will now play rival Rumson-Fair Haven in its Thanksgiving game, while Point Beach does not have a Thanksgiving game now. The teams will square off at Shore Regional on Halloween.
Will Mater Dei Prep build on its breakthrough season?
The Seraphs had their first winning season and won their first state playoff game since 1999 in finishing 6-5 last year after a decade of being mired near the bottom of the standings. They took advantage of the crossover schedule with the Greater Middlesex Conference, as five of their six wins came against teams outside the Shore.
The next step in their resurgence will be to contend in Class B Central, where they went 1-4 last season with a lone victory over a one-win Keansburg team. With senior quarterback Christian Palmer back for his third varsity season and weapons like senior Tysaun White and sophomore Eddie Lewis returning, the offense once again has a chance to be high-scoring if they can replace four-year linemen Ron Perez and Matt Eckert. The area that has to improve to challenge the likes of Shore and Point Beach is defense, where the Seraphs gave up 28.6 points per game last season, including 30 against B Central competition. They have some good individual skill talent, but to stand up to the rugged Wing-T running attacks at Shore and Point Beach, they need depth and size up front, so those are two areas of emphasis. The fact that they are in the discussion already shows how far they have come, and now they are out to prove that last year was no fluke.
How will Keyport and Asbury Park look under new head coaches?
New Keyport coach John Paczkowski, a former assistant for the Red Raiders, has the biggest shoes to fill of any coach in the Shore as he takes over for Hall of Famer Mike Ciccotelli, who led Keyport to six state titles in his 36-year tenure. Paczkowski inherits a team that graduated the school’s all-time leading passer, Alex Thomson, so it will most likely lean heavily on a run game that returns junior Ky’sun Pryor, who ran for 596 yards and 5 touchdowns as a sophomore, and senior Chase Bright, who ran for 370 yards and three scores. Junior Desmond Underwood also is an experienced returner who gives their backfield depth, so it comes down to whether they can throw the ball enough to keep tough defenses like Shore and Point Beach from stacking the box. One departure that hurts is the transfer of junior wideout Jeff Sheard to St. John Vianney, as he led the team with 17 catches and five touchdown grabs last year. Pryor also returns on defense after making 55 tackles at linebacker along with Bright, who had 47 tackles and 3.5 sacks last year. A pair of juniors, Matt Acuna and Devon Keegan, lead the defensive line, and Underwood is back in the secondary along with Sheard. Can they score enough against Shore and Point Beach, which held them to 13 total points last year? That will decide if they make a serious bid for the division title.
Asbury Park has run into the roadblock of Shore Regional multiple times over the past two seasons, so the question is whether the Blue Bishops can reclaim their place at the top under new coach Bill Hill, who was Freehold’s offensive coordinator last year and previously the head coach at Toms River South. Asbury Park graduated a three-year starter at quarterback in Robert Barksdale, but has the offensive weapons to be a threat. Senior Tyquis Davis, a three-year varsity starter, returns at running back, and junior Jaedon Stephens, one of the Shore’s most underrated wideouts, is back after making 24 catches for 396 yards and three touchdowns last year. The biggest loss is do-it-all wideout/returner Daquane Bland-Bennett, who had 1,005 all-purpose yards as a senior last year. The main question is who will be throwing Stephens the ball and whether Asbury Park can achieve enough offensive balance to keep teams from ganging up against the run game.
Davis is mainly known as a star linebacker, and he returns to anchor the defense after registering 58 tackles and finishing second in the Shore Conference with 15 sacks last year. The Blue Bishops graduated Class B Central Defensive Player of the Year William Wells, who leaves a void at linebacker after finishing with 120 tackles last year. A primary question on both sides is the line play, which is crucial if teams want to beat Shore or Point Beach. Seniors Josue Williams and Imani Stephenson will be key in that regard, and Asbury Park will have to prove those wrong who believe they are a tier below the division front-runners.
Can Keansburg make a leap forward?
The Titans struggled to a 1-9 season in their first year under coach Chris Damian thanks to a defense that was blistered to the tune of 40 points per game, but they did show some promise offensively that could translate into more success this fall. They lost versatile talent Kason Preston to graduation, but return 6-foot-4 junior quarterback Arkeyel Brown and senior running back Joe Rodriguez, who ran for 342 yards and six touchdowns on six yards per carry last year and also caught six passes for 101 yards and a score. Rodriguez also made 40 tackles last year on defense, where the Titans return their leading tackler, senior linebacker Dylan Alt (58 tackles). Senior defensive end Tyree Sutton, who is one of the best wrestlers in the state, is back after registering five sacks and 10 tackles for a loss last year. The Titans also return an experienced group of linemen on both sides of the ball that includes seniors John Corrigan and Tristan Miksza, junior Dan Bauman and sophomore Richie Squeo, which bodes well for improvement. Brown is an intriguing prospect who moved to quarterback in the middle of last season, so his improvement as an offensive weapon will be important, but it still comes down to getting better defensively in the second year in Damian’s system.