Full Speed Ahead: 2020 Toms River North Football Preview
Behind the right arm of one of the best quarterbacks in program history, two of the Shore Conference’s best wide receivers and plenty of heft along the line of scrimmage, Toms River North is aiming to once again be among the best teams in the Shore Conference.
With the COVID-19 pandemic drastically altering the structure of the 2020 high school football season, there will be no tangible championships at stake this fall. That is certainly a disappointing reality for a championship-caliber team, but the Mariners still have plenty to play for. With a schedule that includes Jackson Memorial and Donovan Catholic, Toms River North has the chance to plant its flag as the best team in Ocean County.
Toms River North has three returning Shore Sports Network first-team All-Shore selections at its disposal with senior quarterback Jake Kazanowsky and senior wide receivers Zach Goodale and Zac Browne. Senior running back Jordan Grey also returns along with hulking senior linemen Jaden Schlosser (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) and John O’Donnell (6-foot-4, 285 pounds) from an offense that averaged 32.5 points per game and led the Mariners to a 9-2 record in 2019.
Kazanowsky had a great junior season en route to being named SSN Offensive Player of the Year, throwing for 2,144 yards and 23 touchdowns to lead the Shore in both categories. His frame is now up to 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds and this will be his third season as the Mariners signal-caller.
“He’s gotten bigger, and with the brain that’s in his head; he’s so smart and intelligent. He knows the offense like (the coaches) do,” said Toms River North head coach Dave Oizerowitz. “He’s a very smart kid overall and it translates to the football field.”
Kazanowsky’s best asset is his ability to scan the field and find the open man. It’s routine for him to go through multiple reads on a given play, which is why Toms River North’s passing game is tough to predict.
“That’s why we’re tough to defend,” Oizerowitz said. “Kazanowsky is not looking at one guy, he’s going through his progressions and if you’re open, he will find you.”
Having two All-Shore wide receivers certainly helps. Goodale, who is committed to Rutgers, established himself as a big-play wideout last season with 21 receptions for 587 yards and seven touchdowns, an average of 28 yards per catch. His seven touchdown grabs were tied for tops in the Shore. Browne’s 34 receptions and 542 yards were both fifth in the Shore and he hauled in five touchdown passes. Kazanowsky will spread the wealth, so new starters Shane Saad and Ryan Dean along with tight ends Ty Kazanowsky, Gabe Rispoli and Nick Baiocco will also get their opportunities to make plays.
Senior Jordan Grey is a 1,000-yard rushing candidate after seeing significant action as a junior. The Mariners also have highly-regarded 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman Micah Ford at running back. Oizerowitz expects him to see plenty of reps with both he and Grey on the field at the same time.
The aforementioned offensive line has three returning starters with Schlosser back at left tackle while O’Donnell shifts from tight end, where he was used mostly as a blocker anyway, to left tackle. Senior Jamie Hans returns as the left guard while Justin Smith jumps in as the center and Michael Dowd is the right guard.
Toms River North’s defense allowed 21.6 points per game last season, which put it in the bottom third of the Shore Conference. Some of that was the result of playing a loaded schedule in the American Division – in which they emerged as division champions, by the way – but defensive consistency has been a point of emphasis heading into the season.
“We’ve addressed it and we want to be more consistent, but you could see the scores and think we’re not good on defense,” Oizerowitz said. “You have to take into consideration the division we played in last year, it was the toughest in the history of the Shore Conference. It was a matter of making stops when we had to. Nobody stopped anybody cold.”
In Toms River North’s 3-4 defense, O’Donnell is a three-year starter and this year moves from outside linebacker to defensive end. Senior Jake Szigeti returns as the starting nose guard. Senior C.J. Felton is the lone returning starter among the linebackers as the Mariners have to replace key players Matt Spalletta and Vinny Palmieri in the second level. Toms River North plays mostly a two-platoon system but the secondary has been a haven for two-way players. Grey is a returning starter at cornerback and Goodale is a three-year returning starter at free safety. Brown will also play both ways as the corner opposite Grey.
Whatever the adjusted goals are for Toms River North, the Mariners have the pieces in place to accomplish all of them. Now, it’s just a matter of lining up and executing.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Power spread
QB: Jake Kazanowsky, Sr., 3RS
RB: Jordan Grey, Sr., RS and Micah Ford, Fr.
FB: CJ Felton, Sr. and Josh Kaye, So.
TE: Ty Kazanowsky, So./Gabe Rispoli, Sr./Nick Baiocco, So.
WR: Zach Goodale, Sr., 3RS; Zac Browne, Sr., 3RS; Shane Saad, Sr.; Ryan Dean, Jr.
LT: Jaden Schlosser, Sr., RS
LG: Jamie Hans, Sr., RS
C: Justin Smith, Jr.
RG: Michael Dowd, Jr.
RT: John O’Donnell, Sr., RS
DE: John O’Donnell, Sr., 3RS
NG: Jake Szigeti, Sr., RS
DE: Gabe Rispoli, Sr.
OLB: Ty Kazanowsky, So.
ILB: C.J. Felton, Sr., RS
ILB: Ty Boland, So.
OLB: Ryan Rempo, So.
CB: Jordan Grey, Sr., RS
CB: Zac Browne, Sr.
SS: Kenny Warner, Sr.
FS: Zach Goodale, Sr., 3RS
K: Ryan Dean, Jr.
P: Jake Kazanowsky, Sr.
Head coach: Dave Oizerowitz, 8th season (10th overall)
Career record: 56-38
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Mike Oizerowitz (Offensive coordinator/WR/DB); Bill Dowd (OL); Anthony Penna (RB); Nick Zaza (QB/DB); Gabe Roonan (Special teams/LB); Charlie Monanian (DL); Bob Cassidy (DL); Athletic trainers: Kendall Culver and Mike Bronstein.
Player to Watch: Jake Kazanowsky, Sr., QB
The reigning SSN Offensive Player of the Year, Kazanowsky is entering his third year as the Mariners’ starting quarterback and has thrown for 3,581 yards and 41 touchdowns in two seasons. He is among the best quarterbacks in New Jersey and as he goes so does Toms River North’s offense.
Player Under the Radar: John O’Donnell, Sr., RT/DE
O’Donnell is changing positions on both sides of the ball and Toms River North expects him to have his best season to date.
“People don’t realize how athletic he is for us,” said Oizerowitz said. He’s going to very difficult to block at defensive end. He’s so big and strong and has great hands from wrestling.”
O’Donnell was a district and region champion during this past wrestling season and is also a standout golfer.
Impact Newcomers: Ty Kazanowsky, So., TE/OLB and Micah Ford, Fr., RB
Toms River North has a very good sophomore class and the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Kazanowsky is among those set to make an impact this season. He is in line for plenty of snaps at tight end and is set to start at outside linebacker.
“Ty has a chance on both sides of the ball,” Oizerowitz said. “We have talent coming up to augment the junior and senior classes and he’s one of them.”
It’s rare for a freshman to push for varsity playing time at any school let alone a successful Group 5 school, but Ford enters with plenty of promise.
“We think very highly of him,” Oizerowitz said. “He’s probably as talented a freshman we’ve had come into Toms River North since I’ve been here. He’ll fit right in with our spread offense. We’ll be moving guys all over the place so we’ll probably be running more personnel packages than usual. It’s good because he and Grey mesh well together and will be on the field together a lot of the time.”
Top position group: Wide receivers
This is a no-brainer considering the Mariners have two returning first-team All-Shore wide receivers in seniors Zach Goodale and Zac Browne. The two combined for 55 catches, 1,129 yard and 12 touchdowns last season.
Big Shoes to Fill: Ryan Rempo, So., OLB
Recently-graduated Matt Spalletta was a do-it-all, three-way standout for Toms River North last season and a first-team All-Shore selection for his contributions as a linebacker/safety hybrid, a wildcat quarterback and a special teams demon. Rempo won’t have to do all that, but he will step into Spalletta’s vacated role at outside linebacker.
“And he knows it,” Oizerowitz said of Rempo’s tall task of replacing Spalletta. “He was a very good youth football player and is very athletic, and like Matt, he also wrestles. That position is a hybrid position like a strong safety who can come down and set the edge and also cover. Those are the things Rempo brings to the table. He’s a converted strong safety, he’s tough, he’s athletic and he knows how to use leverage and hand fight. And he knows from watching Matt play how to win with that body type. He brings that same skill set.”
X-Factor: Consistent defense
In 11 games last season, Toms River North had three games allowing 14 points or less but also three games allowing between 29 and 43 points, albeit the Mariners did win all three of those high-scoring contests. Given how good their offense should be once again, a consistently stingy defense would elevate them to new heights.
Friday, Oct. 2 – at Toms River South, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9 – at Brick, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 16 – vs. Southern, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23 – vs. Jackson Memorial, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 – at Toms River East, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6 – vs. Donovan Catholic, 7 p.m.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.