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If 2019 was building from the ground up, then this season's version of the Colts Neck Cougars is poised for another roaring performance on the football field on a team comprised of 13 seniors, 21 juniors and 23 sophomores leading the way.

"We have a good young nucleus that we're excited about," head coach Matt Ahearn tells the Shore Sports Network.

Ahearn saw a quick turnaround from his first to the second season going from 3-7 in 2018 to 8-2 in 2019, yet they still didn't reach their goal of making the playoffs or winning the division, in which they trailed Neptune (2nd) and Toms River East (1st).

"The seniors have done a great job so far of reminding these younger guys who thought that they did something last year that 'yea, we won 8 games but we didn't finish in the top two in our division, we didn't make the playoffs and these are all goals that they set as a team and individually and we didn't do any of that," Ahearn said. "Even though we did things last year, we didn't do what we wanted to do."

The Cougars only lost seven seniors to graduation last year and Ahearn is counting on the "young pups who became seasoned vets" in 2020 like 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior quarterback Tommy Fallon who underwent a baptism-by-fire in starting seven varsity games as a freshman before taking the job outright last season.

"Tommy just has to keep improving on his reads, the passing game and the run game and getting us in the right calls and lined up," Ahearn said. "He's also gained some weight and with that comes the arm strength. He's also getting more mature and that's helping out. This year, he's growing in confidence and the team is very confident in him as their leader."

At A Glance

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

Offense: Multiple-I

QB: Tommy Fallon, Jr., 3RS

RB: Joe Barsky, Sr.; John Manos, Jr.; Jake Lupo, Sr., RS at fullback

WR: Matt Scully, Sr., RS; Cade Chrebet, Jr., RS; Nick Villani, Sr., 3RS

TE: Chris Montefusco, Sr., RS

LT: Dan Volpe, Jr., RS

LG: Nick Catena, Sr.

C: Matt Jannucci, Jr., RS

RG: Logan Lupo, Sr., 3RS

RT: Ryan Whalen, Jr., RS

Defense: 4-3

DE: Delano Marcelus, Sr., RS

DT: Mike Spinelli, Sr.

DT: Jesse Lugo, Sr.

DE: Chris Montefusco, Sr., RS

OLB: John Manos, Jr., RS

MLB: Anthony Bonanno, Jr., RS

OLB: Joe Barsky, Sr., RS; also Will Surdez, So.

CB: Nick Villani, Sr./Matt Celli So.

CB: John Runfolo, Jr.

SS: Tommy Fallon, Jr., RS

FS: Matt Scully Sr., RS

Special Teams

K: Christian Monteforte, Jr., RS; also Matt Bellonio, Jr.

P: Tommy Fallon, Jr., 3RS

Long snapper: Louie Guerra, So.

 

Head Coach: Matt Ahearn, 3rd season

Career Record: 11-9

Team Record Last Five Seasons: 

2019: 8-2

2018: 3-7

2017: 2-8

2016: 4-6

2015: 2-8

Assistant Coaches: Jim Portela (Defensive Coordinator/QB/DB); Dom Pollifrone (Special Teams Coordinator/OL/DL); Bill Hill Jr. (WR/DB); Ryan Byrne (RB/LB); Doug Zockoll (TE/DE); Dylan Hroncich (RB/LB); Ryan Schoer (OL/DL); Tom Bonham (Freshmen); Joe Conaghan (Freshmen); Dan Drashinsky (Freshmen); Adam Mintz (Freshmen); Eric Nussbaum (Athletic Trainer).

 

Player To Watch: Tommy Fallon, Jr., QB

Fallon is the trusted leader of the Cougars offensive attack both by his teammates and his coach, who is counting on his continued growth and maturity calling plays on the field. Fallon put on 25 pounds in the offseason and Ahearn said the arm strength has picked up on the junior quarterback, who led a team that scored 270 points last season. In a short season, if Fallon finishes developing, the Cougars will have an even more lethal attack on offense and could be a threat come playoff time.

 

Player Under the Radar: Matt Scully, Sr., WR/DB/QB

Scully is Mr. Versatility for the Cougars as he possesses the skills and abilities for Ahearn to put him in different positions depending on the plays being run on offense.

"He's our do-it-all guy, the jack of all trades," Ahearn said. "He'll play a little quarterback, a little running back, a little slot receiver for us, so he's going to be doing a lot of stuff for us on offense as well as defense."

 

Impact Newcomer: Will Surdez, So., WR/LB

There's been a good crop of talent coming up from the freshmen team the last couple seasons and those players have made immediate impacts on the varsity level as sophomores (or in the case of Tommy Fallon as an actual freshman). Will Surdez is one of the players Ahearn is looking to make some plays in a deep wide receiver core as well as making big stops on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker.

 

Top Position Group: The offensive line

For a young team that quickly improved last season, Colts Neck returns 34 players, including several key offensive linemen. The group is led by returning starters Dan Volpe (junior left tackle, 6-5, 290), Matt Jannucci (junior center, 6-1, 270), Logan Lupo (senior right guard, 6-1, 225) and Ryan Whalen (junior right tackle 604, 280) and adds senior Nick Cetena at left guard.

"We have some guys that got a lot of experience last year," Coach Ahearn said. "We're really excited about those guys gelling and meshing this season."

 

Big Shoes To Fill: Joe Barsky, Sr., RB, John Manos, Jr., RB, and Jake Lupo, Sr., RB

Romeo Thomas set the bar high running the ball for the Cougars, piling up 2,242 rushing yards between his junior and senior seasons along with 27 touchdowns. Barsky, Manos and Lupo will split most of the time at running back this season Ahearn said and they will have to form a triumphant trio to make up for the offense that Thomas left behind when he graduated. For the Cougars to be successful they need the running game to be top-notch.

 

X-Factor: Executing plays

The Cougars vastly improved on both sides of the ball last season by scoring 270 points and giving up 111 compared to the 2018 campaign when they scored 149 points and gave up 249. They return a ton of talent this season including Fallon, Volpe and Scully, and in order for the team to have success in a shortened season, they will need to execute each play on offense and defense like a surgeon with a knife, it can't be wasted and it has to be done correctly.

 

2020 Season Schedule:

Saturday, Oct. 3 – vs. Marlboro, noon

Saturday, Oct. 10 – at Freehold, noon

Saturday, Oct. 17 – vs. Howell, noon

Friday, Oct. 23 – at Freehold Township, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 30 – at Manalapan, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 7 – vs. Monmouth, noon

 

You can follow Vin Ebenau on Twitter and Instagram and email at vin.ebenau@townsquaremedia.com.

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