Football – Restocking the Stable: 2016 Brick Memorial Preview
On the surface, Brick Memorial is very much in a transition year having to replace an All-Shore quarterback and one of the best groups of two-way linemen the program has ever produced. There will be plenty of changes for the Mustangs in 2016, but expectations are not among them.
“We do it the same way we always do: train hard in the offseason and our staff does a really good job evaluating our players and seeing what best fits their talents,” said Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie. “It’s really business as usual.”
“It’s not a rebuilding year for us,” said junior running back Tony Thorpe. “We have great players coming up, we just have to keep a strong mentality and play with the same intensity.”
Lost to graduation are quarterback Tim Santiago and standout linemen Mike Nobile, Anthony Nobile, Chris Hayes and Jimmy Tango, among others, so there are plenty of question marks at those positions. Brick Memorial does return a strong junior class, however, that will hopefully lead the program one year removed from claiming a share of the Class A South division title and reaching the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV final.
Under Currie, option football has been the name of the game for the Mustangs. It still will be this season, but Brick Memorial will be out of its customary flexbone look in favor of a pistol formation.
“It’s still option football and is still about the quarterback making decisions, but the window dressing is a little different,” Currie said.
Junior Grant McKelvey takes over as the starting quarterback and certainly has some big shoes to fill in following Santiago, who ran for 1,706 yards and 18 touchdowns for the No. 5 offense in the Shore Conference. McKelvey was in a battle with fellow junior Justin Hans, but Hans suffered an injury during a scrimmage and is likely out until the middle of the season.
“Any time you lose your starting quarterback (Santiago) it’s going to hurt, but the bottom line is Grant is a very good football player and that usually makes a very good quarterback,” Currie said. “He makes very good decisions.”
The fullback once again is Thorpe, whose emergence last season took Brick Memorial’s offense up a notch. He ran for 1,305 yard and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore.
“Tony is our workhorse and we’re going to rely on him a lot,” said junior Blaine Netterman.
“It’s a big year for me,” Thorpe said. “I want to be even better than last year and do what I have to do to be the best.”
Netterman started both ways as a sophomore last season and will play H-back in the new-look offense. His ability to make plays in the open field and provide a perimeter threat will be a great complement to Thorpe’s punishing, downhill style.
“He’ll catch the ball out of he backfield a lot and we’ll move him around to try to get him the ball in space,” Currie said.
The tight ends are senior Augustino Camacho, senior Kyle Sywanycz and junior Mike Sullivan. Senior Tay’von Ford saw some time at wide receiver last season, but the rest of the group is new with seniors Kishaun Carter, Derek Robertson and Joe Manso.
The lone returner on the offensive line is 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior Justin Szuba at right guard. The Monmouth University recruit will look to lead a group that has junior Joe Castellano at left tackle, junior Willie Garner at left guard, senior Tyler Beck at center and junior Keidon Roettger at right tackle.
“I like the mentality of being a mentor, but it’s definitely a shift from last year where I was the underdog,” Szuba said.
Brick Memorial’s 4-3 defense was also a top-10 unit in the Shore last season, allowing 14.7 points per game. The challenge here is once again replacing a defensive line that was disruptive and dominant. Szuba is also the only returning starter here and will line up at defensive tackle. The other defensive tackle is junior Max Campiofiori with Garner and Roettger as the defensive ends.
“Our biggest question mark is how we’re going to be on the offensive and defensive lines,” Currie said. “We lost arguably the best lines in school history, and when you lose that the next group always pales in comparison. That’s not a knock on those kids, who have worked hard and prepared to have a good season. They’re ready to make those positions their own and perform at a high level.”
All three linebackers are new starters with Beck in the middle, Thorpe on the strong side and Ford at the weak side. Ford played some defense last year, but it was in the secondary. Junior Tyler Gonzalez will also see time at linebacker.
Netterman is the only returning starter in the secondary, and returns at strong safety. Junior Dylan Vill and senior Anthony Garcia are the cornerbacks, and Manso is the free safety.
“Blaine will be our best defensive player, hands down,” Currie said. “The way we play defense the most important positions are the ‘mike’ linebacker and the two safeties. We need those guys to step up and have good years.”
“I have a lot more confidence now,” Netterman said. “Last year I was a little bit nervous, but now I know I’m relied on more.”
Junior Bryce Troncone is the leading candidate to replace All-Shore kicker and punter Matt Cuppari at both positions. .
With No. 2 Toms River North, No. 5 Jackson Memorial, No. 10 Brick, plus nonconference games against defending Central Jersey Group V champion South Brunswick and perennial power Sayreville, the Mustangs don’t have the luxury of easing any new players in. It’s all about learning on the fly.
“I feel like we’ll get better as the year goes on because we have young kids, but also a talented junior class,” Currie said. “The question is how quickly we get better. That’s the real key for us.”
Head Coach: Walt Currie, 10th season.
Career Record: 59-39.
Coaching staff: Mike Cintron (def. coord./LB); James Bright (spec. teams/DB); Keith Farr (WR/DB); Vincenzo Diodato (RB); Bill Brunner (OL); Mike McArthur (DL); Ryan Graham, Bob Merola, Brian Hibbs (freshmen); Sue Penrod (athletic trainer).
2015 Record: 9-3 (6-1).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Grant McKelvey, Jr., QB
McKelvey steps into the most important position on Brick Memorial’s offense and has to replace a quarterback that ran for over 1,700 yards with 18 touchdowns and also set the school record for rushing yards in a game.
X-FACTOR: Line play
The biggest question mark for Brick Memorial is how quickly it can find its groove in the trenches on both sides of the ball.
GLUE GUY: Blaine Netterman, Jr., HB/DB
A two-year, two-way returning starter, Netterman will be asked to do a lot for the Mustangs on both sides of the ball.
IMPACT NEWCOMER: Tyler Beck, Sr., OL/LB
Beck isn’t a younger player, but will be stepping into a pair of starting roles at key positions.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 10 vs. Brick
This game usually draws one of the biggest crowds all season, and for good reason. The intensity between the two teams is second to none and the impact is usually felt for at least a couple weeks.
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.