I-nvesting in Run: 2018 Matawan Football Preview
To reason that there is no “i” in Matawan is to ignore creative license.
The vowel is actually quite prevalent around the Huskies, not in spelling but in defining perhaps how they'll conduct their offensive business this fall. Span through the program’s deep history, find some of its most powerful versions and, chances are, they featured dependable running backs dashing through gaps out of the I-formation, a scheme that will once again be en vogue along Atlantic Avenue.
The timing is perfect, coinciding with a veteran offensive line cohesive in execution and a feature back in Devin Williams, a senior eager to heighten his profile through a more extensive workload.
“We’re going to pound the rock,” stated Matawan head coach John Kaye. “We’ll feed Devin 20 to 25 times a game. He’s going to be an old-fashion Matawan I back in the image of Craig Mitter and Greg Rice.”
Just to be mentioned in the same breath as Huskie icons says a lot about Williams. As a junior, he worked alongside 2018 grad Devonte Spann, who led Matawan with 917 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 162 carries. Yet, Williams modestly showed flashes of his own brilliance, averaging a team-best 6.3 yards per haul en route to collecting 426 yards and five scores on just 68 attempts, numbers that are inclined to increase dramatically. His quick reads, slick cuts, immunity to initial contact and acceleration through holes are all attractive features prepared to be detonated.
But, as any back knows, the work is a collaborative effort, reliant on opportunities being available to exploit. Such chances will be carved by those up front, a collection of beef, brawn and experience poised to power the Huskies within their new digs in the Patriot Division.
Left tackle Bruno Ciaglia (6-0, 225), left guard Lucas Castaneda (6-0, 225), center Zack Dukes (5-10, 220) and right guard Nick Wyman (6-1, 225) are a mature quartet of polished seniors who will be joined by sophomore right tackle Nick Glende (6-3, 240). Sam Onuha, who played within the Huskies’ system as a freshman before moving to Georgia, has returned to provide depth with his shadowing 6-4, 250-pound frame.
The idea to establish the run should take pressure off first-year quarterback Trevor Garland. The 6-foot-1 senior will have the luxury of Williams and senior E-Unique Gittens-Russell, a 5-foot-8 scatback, darting from the backfield while consuming a defense's attention. As numbers inside the box increase to neutralize the ground attack, Garland can make the most of a sizable group of wide receivers that includes 6-foot-4 senior Noah Colleton, 6-foot-2 junior Zaire Williams and 6-foot-2 junior Mark Kawka, who could fluctuate between fullback and a slot receiver.
“We’ll ask Trevor to make the simple throws but we also want him to be able to put the ball up and let our big targets go and get it,” said Kaye. “Noah and Ziare can make plays on each side of the ball.”
Instrumental to Matawan’s passing game, Colleton and Ziare Williams will be just as essential in shutting down opponent’s aerial pursuits. Williams and Gittens-Russell are the frontrunners to nail down the corner spots in the secondary. Colleton and Devin Williams split time at one safety while working with heady junior Marcandrew Gagneron, a fierce presence down the middle of the field.
The defensive box will be stocked with assertive heat seekers programmed to apply maximum pressure in various blitz packages. Castaneda, Ciaglia, Dukes, Onuha, junior Nikeson Lovinsky and sophomore Baldemar Rojas are in the mix across the defensive line with seniors Yubir Rojas and Nick Hartigan, junior Brandon Rodriguez and intriguing freshman Rocko Brzezniak comprising a stout linebacking crew.
Brzezniak, is a powerful ray of promise for Matawan whose reputation is more noted in baseball circles, where he is already a distinguished first baseman who wields an imposing bat and has Division 1 interest.
The kicking game has been perennially strong for the Huskies, who have produced Adam Elliott and Mike Creamer in recent years. Sophomore Andrew Myerson hopes to follow in their prolific footsteps and give Matawan dependability on PATs and field goals. Senior Lawrence Wilson will handling punts and Devin Williams and Gittens-Russell offer play-making potential on returns, making for a formidable special-teams ensemble.
The schedule has undergone an overhaul with Matawan picking up five brand new divisional foes in Jackson Liberty, Barnegat, Pinelands, Shore and Mater Dei Prep competing in the Patriot. The new confines signaling a step in the right direction by the conference, according to Kaye.
“The schedule is good for football. You’re going to have a competitive game every weekend,” he noted. “It’s encouraging”.
So is the forecast for Matawan.
At a Glance
Head coach: John Kaye, seventh season (12th overall)
Career record: 62-43-1
2017 record: 2-8 (1-5)
Coaching staff: Charlie Marsh (co-def. coord./DB/asst. head coach); Nick Citro (co-def. coord.); Ken Mandeville (RB); Jamiel Sims (LB); Nick Christathakis (OL/DL); Scott Davis (WR); Matt O’Brien, Bob Wietecha (freshmen); Buddy Scott, Sonny Jackson (volunteers); Matt Goetz (athletic trainer).
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Devin Williams, Sr., RB/S
A lot is expected from the versatile Williams. He will be the centerpiece of a run-oriented I-formation and be a lurking disruptor in the secondary at safety. Matawan anticipates his playmaking on both sides to be a tone setter.
X-FACTOR: Air game
First-year quarterback Trevor Garland can ease into his role by feeding Williams out of the backfield. But, with 6-foot-4 senior Noah Colleton, 6-foot-2 Ziare Williams and 6-foot-2 junior Mark Kawka having potential size advantages against coverage, spinning deep balls to encourage his receivers to elevate for possession is too inviting to ignore.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Rocko Brzezniak, Fr., ILB and Sam Onuha, Jr., OL/DL
Brzezniak (6-foot, 205), a promising baseball prospect, impressed in the weight room with his effortless muscle, which Matawan hopes transcends into a force at inside linebacker. Onuha, who played within the system as a freshman before moving to Georgia, is back for his junior year and to supply depth on the offensive and defensive lines.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 8 at Mater Dei
It’s no secret that Mater Dei is the team to beat in the Patriot Division and Matawan gets to measure itself against the frontrunner to kick off its 2018 campaign. The Huskies will gain an immediate appreciation for playing fast and smart, principles to apply in subsequent matchups with Pinelands, Jackson Liberty and Barnegat that will give them a sense of their standing within the division by the end of September.