New Cat Looks To End Playoff Drought: 2022 Pinelands High School Football Preview
It's been a long, long, long roam in the wilderness for the Pinelands Wildcats longing for 18 years since their last playoff appearance.
There have been a few coaching changes over the years, as well, in an effort to get this program to the next level.
A familiar Shore Conference face is now taking the reins to lead the Wildcats in 2022, John Tierney, who had served as an assistant coach at Lacey High School under the legendary Lou Vircillo before ending up at back Pinelands where he is a teacher, has earned the bump up to head coach.
It's been an open and welcomed change for the players who've embraced Tierney as their new leader.
"Number one is just the players' reception to me being named (head) coach, and welcoming in the new coach, especially from the seniors' point of view," Tierney tells Shore Sports Network. "A lot of times, when seniors get new coaches, they're just kind of like, 'oh, this guy, he may not play me, he may look to younger players because it's a building process, but the seniors have been absolutely awesome. They definitely are leaders of the team, and leaders in the program, so that's one thing that's really stood out to me so far."
That bond is a key to the success of the program this season, as, in part, it will allow open growth and development of the underclassmen, many of whom played for Tierney as he worked at the middle school and freshmen levels in recent seasons.
"It's kind of weird because I was with this sophomore class when they came through in seventh grade, so I coached them in seventh and eighth grade and then I coached them their freshmen year, so I know them very well," Tierney said. "I know the juniors pretty well because I coached them when they were in eighth grade. I never coached these seniors so it's been a little process in getting to know each other, but it's going really, really well."
It'll be the team chemistry and the execution of plays on both sides of the ball that'll spark something special out of the 2022 season for the Wildcats.
At a Glance
Offense: Multiple I
QB: Ryan Allen Sr.; Ty Kline, So.
RB: Jaimin Parkinson, So.; Jack O'Brien, Sr.; Connor Bonicky, Sr.; Eric Kobilnyk, Fr.; Devonte Bonds.
TE: Mike Hall, Sr.; Mehki Hall, Sr.; Angelo Schemichen Sr.; Luke Crotty, Sr.; Matt Davis, So.,
WR: Anthony Rucci, Sr.; Mike Frawley, Jr.; Steve Bordan, Sr.; Liam Villinger, Jr.; Nick Schiattarella, 5'9, 155; Kia Santa Cruz, So.
LT: Ryan Cox, Sr.; Andrew Hoffman
LG: Anthony Aguanno, So.; Tyler Glass, Jr.
C: Salvatore Esposito, Sr.; Tyler Glass, Jr.; Cooper Sobon, So.
RG: Joseph Pufahl, Sr.; Thomas Griffen, Sr.
RT: Jayden Hadzovic, So.; Brady Fence, So.
DE: Mike Hall, Sr.; Stanley Saenger, Sr.
DT: Qasi Goode, So.; Anthony Aguanno, So.
DT: Ryan Cox, Sr.; Tyler Glass, Jr.
DE: Ethan Woods, Jr.; Mekhi Hall, Sr.
OLB: Devonte Bonds; Eric Kobilnyk, Fr.
ILB: Jack O'Brien, Sr.; Nick Sheridan, Jr.
OLB: Chase Martin, So.; Shane Gordan, So.
CB: Mike Frawley, Jr.; Nick Schiattarella
CB: Connor Bonicky, Sr.; Kia Santa Cruz, So.
SS: Liam Villinger, Jr.; Logan Russo, Jr.
FS: Steve Bordan, Sr.; Heath Nelson, So.
K: Connor Bonicky, Sr.; Ethan Woods, Jr.
P: Ryan Allen Sr.; Matt Davis, So.
Head coach: John Tierney, 1st season
Career record: 0-0
Team record last five years:
2021 record: 4-5
2020 record: 2-6
2019 record: 1-8
2018 record: 4-5
2017 record: 2-8
Assistant coaches: Joe Adelizzi (Defensive Coordinator/LB); Scott Peterka (OL); Mike Keller (QB); Vinny LoVerde (DB/Special Teams); Gennaro Balletta (WR); George Martian (DL); Vemba Bukula (RB); Dan O'Reilly (Head Freshmen); Marshall Witmer (FR); T.J. Maino (FR); Drew Steelman (Middle School Head Coach); Ryan Anderson (Middle School Asst.); Stacy Childs (athletic trainer).
Player to Watch: Ryan Allen, QB, Sr.
It's a new offensive system under a new head coach for the returning starter at quarterback for the Wildcats this season. Ryan Allen has an impactful and big offensive line in front of him and it allows him to help elevate the offense around him. Coach Tierney is looking to Allen to lead the charge again this season.
"He's been a sponge and studying -- he and our backup quarterback (Ty Kline) have the two most times behind the huddle, they're really studying the offense, you have to know the offense, you have to know all the terminology," Tierney said. "When Ryan plays loose -- he's really, really good."
Players Under the Radar: Connor Bonicky, CB, Sr.; Mike Frawley, CB, Jr.; Liam Villinger, Jr. WR/DB; Steve Bordan, Sr., WR/DB
The defense for Pinelands is the top unit heading into the season and while highlighted by the front seven, there's a secondary who can certainly play big in critical moments. Look to these four players to take that next step and final step in helping keep opponents' offenses out of the end zone this season.
"Our secondary is very senior driven, it's probably our most experienced group, starting with Connor Bonicky (D3 recruit) and Mike Frawley at corner and then our two safeties, Steve Borden and Liam Villinger," Tierney said.
Impact Newcomer: Jaimin Parkinson, RB, So.; Eric Kobilnyk, Fr., RB/LB
There is a lot of depth at the running back position but what stands out most is the athleticism. The sophomore Parkinson and the freshman Kobilnyk are going to get a lot of looks and could be key cogs in the offense for the next few seasons.
"The future looks bright at the tailback spot," Tierney said.
Top position group: Front Seven On Defense
There's a lot of size on the defensive line. There's a new defensive scheme this season, but these players including FCS recruit Mike Hall (DE), Qasi Goode (DT), Ryan Cox (DT), Ethan Woods (DE), Devonte Bonds (OLB), Jack O'Brien (ILB), and Chase Martin (OLB), are up to the task.
"You look at Mike Hall, our defensive end, who is probably an FCS recruit, after the first couple of games this year, he'll get a lot more looks," Tierney said. "Jack O'Brien at middle linebacker -- we have six or seven linebackers who can all play at any time."
Rivalry Game: Sept. 9 at Barnegat
It'll be an important early-season battle between two southern Ocean County teams within the Liberty Division. This will be a good test for Pinelands early in the season after an opener against Point Beach and before they head north to play Toms River East.
Sept. 1 - vs. Point Beach, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 - @Barnegat, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16 - @Toms River East, 6 p.m.
Sept. 22 - @Matawan, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Lakewood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 - vs. Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 - @Monmouth, 12 p.m.
Oct. 21 - vs. Manchester, 7 p.m.