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Last season, Ocean’s identity centered around quarterback Tyler Douglas and an impressive collection of skill players that produced the Shore Conference’s No. 4 scoring offense and helped lead the Spartans to an 8-1 record and a division championship. Ocean has similar goals this season but will go about it with a different set of strengths.

Douglas was a First Team All-Shore selection and the 2022 Shore Sports Network Most Valuable Player. He is currently a freshman at Temple University. Mateo Andrews was his top target and one of the Shore’s best wide receivers who also earned an All-Shore nod. CJ Flannigan made an impact on both sides of the ball as a receiver/running back and was also the Freedom Division Defensive Player of the Year. Those three plus standout defensive linemen Shane Garrett and Ben Trench have graduated, so the team will look a lot different in that regard.

This season’s version of the Spartans will rely on a fast and physical defense and an experienced offensive line to lead the way while its skill players get up to speed.

Ocean’s multiple-spread offense has six starters back but will need to replace its leading passer, rusher, and receiver from last fall. Senior Bobby Paglia takes over at quarterback and will be joined in the backfield by senior Nick Iacouzzi, who started games last season. Junior James Sobieski returns as a two-year starting wide receiver and will be joined by senior Stephen Falco as the main wideouts.

Leading the way will be an offensive line that returns four starters. Senior center Nick Caruso enters his fourth year as a starter and is coming off a junior season in which he earned a Second Team All-Shore selection. The 6-foot-2, 290-pounder is committed to Merrimack College and gives the Spartans an experienced anchor to lean on. Senior Giancarlo Polazzalo (5-11, 210) returns to be a three-year starter and will be at left tackle, senior Reuven Isreali (5-10, 240) is a returning starter at left guard, and senior Ben Girard (6-0, 220) is a returning starter at right tackle. Joining those four will be junior right guard Ray Sexton (6-0, 220).

The Spartans’ offense was electric last season with Douglas at the helm, and while it’s unrealistic to expect the same type of production without an FBS-level quarterback, having a strong offensive line is a great place to start and should help the new starting skill players make the transition.

The team’s defense was in the middle of the pack allowing 18.3 points per game last season and returns six starters in a multiple-formation scheme that utilizes a 3-4 base. Girard and senior linebacker Willie Canavan are returning first team all-division selections.

Girard returns for his third year as a starting defensive end after recording 51 tackles last season. Junior Danny Farina is the other defensive end and junior Abimeal Andre is the defensive tackle.

Three starting linebackers return with Canavan and Falco at inside linebacker and senior Michael Poniros at outside linebacker. Canavan made a team-high 83 stops a season ago. Sophomore Josh Calixte steps into a starting role at outside linebacker.

The secondary has two returning starters with Sobieski at free safety and junior Malcolm Beale at cornerback. Sophomore Mickey McGovern is the other cornerback and junior Michael “Boomer” Volek is the strong safety.

Both specialists return with senior Mike Sorrentino as the kicker and Poniros as the punter.

Ocean captured the Freedom Division title last season, beating out Red Bank, Brick Memorial, Brick, Neptune, and Toms River South with a perfect 5-0 division mark. This season, the Spartans will be in the Constitution Division with Asbury Park, Holmdel, Manasquan, Shore Regional, and St. John Vianney.

The Spartans won’t have one of New Jersey’s top quarterbacks leading the way this season, but the team does have an experienced group of seniors that understands what it takes to win games on Friday nights. If the first-year starters and younger players progress quickly, Ocean should once again be in the mix for a division championship.

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At a Glance

Head coach: Don Klein, 17th season

Career record: 89-69-1

2022 record: 8-1

Offense: Multiple spread

Defense: Multiple

Coaching Staff: RJ Read (Offensive Coordinator); Phil Green (Defensive Coordinator); Jim Simonelli (Special Teams Coordinator/DB); Rich Read (OL); Jason Wombaugh (OL); Marcque Ellington (WR/Freshmen); Joey Alderelli (WR); Anthony Tedesco (DL/Freshmen); Erik Mammano (LB); Blaine Netterman (DB/Freshmen); Katelyn Zimmerman (Athletic Trainer).


Circle the Date: Week 3 – Thursday, Sept. 14 at Shore Regional

The two schools are proximity rivals and are now rivals within the Constitution Division. Shore lost its season-opener to Manasquan but the division is obviously far from decided. This could be a pivotal game for both teams.


Player to Watch: Nick Caruso, Sr., C

Caruso is Ocean’s top returning player after earning Second Team All-Shore honors last season. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound senior is committed to Merrimack College.


Impact Newcomer: Bobby Paglia, Sr., QB

Paglia will take over as Ocean’s starting quarterback.


Big Shoes to Fill: The skill players

Shore Conference MVP Tyler Douglas is the marquee loss but the Spartans have production to replace at several offensive positions, including at wide receiver where Mateo Andrews had 572 yards and seven touchdowns and Flannigan caught 18 passes for 322 yards and four touchdowns.



Thursday 8/31Lacey7pm
Friday 9/8Asbury Park7pm
Thursday 9/14@Shore7pm
Friday 9/22St. John Vianney7pm
Friday 9/29Raritan7pm
Friday 10/6@Holmdel7pm
Friday 10/13@Freehold Township6:30pm
Saturday 10/21@Manasquan1pm



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