New Outlook: 2023 Neptune Football Preview
Coming off three consecutive losing seasons, Neptune forges ahead toward is Week 1 season-opener at Lakewood with plenty of questions – most of which stem from bringing aboard its fourth head coach in the last five seasons.
Mike Seber takes over the head coaching position for the Scarlet Fliers after Neptune went 6-13 in two seasons under Brian Duffy and four years removed from Neptune’s 6-4 campaign in 2019. Although the record over the last three seasons (8-20) suggests Neptune could be a few years away from a winning record and contending for a spot in the NJSIAA Playoffs, Seber and his staff will have some advantages upon which to capitalize.
Duffy’s track record as a former offensive lineman and line coach helped the Scarlet Fliers develop up front and they will return two third-year starters to the offensive line in seniors Daniel Laughlin and Issac Thomas. Laughlin (6-foot-2, 260 pounds) and Thomas (6-3, 290) will occupy the two guard positions – Laughlin on the left and Thomas on the right – and Thomas will also figure into the defensive line rotation as a defensive tackle.
The rest of the offensive line will feature competition for the remaining three spots and three sophomores are making an impression early. Jeraiya Jean (6-2, 220) and Maliki Matson (6-2, 275) are in line for playing time at the two tackle positions and fellow sophomores Mike MacLennon and Koen Johnson – both returning starters on defense – are the starting center candidates.
In addition to the returning linemen, Neptune will have some experience back at wide receiver and running back. Senior Arron Lawson and junior Cameron Stukes gained experience at receiver in 2022 and senior Eddie Green will shift from wideout in 2022 to running back this season. Junior Jason Peavy is also part of the equation for touches out of the backfield and will form a one-two punch with Green. A group of underclassmen – sophomores Jeremiah Montgomery, Zeke Demillo and William Holland and freshman Zy’air Robinson – will be pushing for snaps at receiver as well and senior David Ramirez is a (6-4, 230) weapon at tight end.
In order to tie it all together, Seber will have to settle on his quarterback and the candidates include a senior and a freshman. Carl Christie is getting his shot as a senior, while rookie Daron Lynch could swoop in as a freshman starter at quarterback at some point this season.
Neptune’s front seven on defense will be players who are playing both sides of the ball and there is enough depth to make it work. Johnson and Jean will be the defensive ends and Robinson makes it an all-underclass rotation on the edge of the line. Inside, Ramirez and Matson are tracking as the starters, with Thomas and freshman Kingston Pinnock also set to contribute at defensive tackle.
MacLennon will lead the linebackers as the man in the middle, with Peavy and Green playing on the outside. Lawson is also a key member of the linebacking corps who should see some defensive snaps as well.
While the front seven will feature some key players on the offense, the secondary will boast just one potential two-way starter. In addition to battling for the quarterback job, Christie and Lynch will also play one of the corners, with senior Dazior Bethea on the other side. Sophomore Kemar Archer and freshman Caleb Brown are pushing toward starting safety jobs, with sophomore Marcus Green, freshman Hassin McMillian and sophomore Jeremiah Montgomery all figuring into the picture as defensive backs.
With pockets of experience surrounded by a large group of underclassmen, Seber and his staff will have a lot of teaching to do throughout the 2023 season, but there is hope for Neptune. The Scarlet Fliers have a more forgiving schedule after finishing 2-7 a year ago and while their playoff fate remains to be determined, an improved record despite a young roster is well within their sights.
Head Coach: Mike Seber, first season
Career Record: 0-0
2022 Record: 2-7
Coaching Staff: Tommy Walsh (Assistant Head Coach); Shane Bigelow (OL/Run Game); Jaheem Woods (QB/Pass Game); Frank Iachetta (Defensive Coordinator); Myson Ledet (DB/RB); Netanis Bean (LB/RB); Frank Martucelli Jr. (OL/DL); Bernard Morrison (WR/DB); Amanda Kelly (Athletic Trainer); Mike Randolph (Player Relations); Rodney Morris (Security); Kevin Frederick (Media Relations); Ronald Puryear (Film/Scouting); Jeannie Green (Fundraising)
Circle the Calendar: Oct. 6 at Central
With such a young roster, the second half of the schedule should be when Neptune hits its stride, as long as the Scarlet Fliers can stay healthy. The first four games of the season should be competitive ones for Neptune, so there are a wide range of potential circumstances that could come with its Week 6 trip to Central – a team coming off a one-win season that is also hoping to benefit from a more manageable schedule.
Big Shoes to Fill: Mike MacLennon, So., ILB
Although he is a returning starter, MacLennon is still just a sophomore and as the inside linebacker and likely starter center, he will be attempting to lead the effort in replacing standout two-way player and four-year starter De’Ondre Banks. In 2022, Banks finished seventh in the Shore Conference with 125 tackles while leading the Neptune defense from his middle linebacker spot and also anchored the offensive line as a guard. With some experience back on the left side of the offensive line and in the front seven, MacLennon will not have to do it alone, but he has the chance to be leader at an early age.
X-Factor: Quarterback Competition
Neptune’s opener at Lakewood will be an interesting one to follow during Week 1 as the Scarlet Fliers look to find the answer to their question at quarterback. That question could take more than one week to answer and with a senior in Christie and a freshman in Lynch battling it out, the player who ends up with the most playing time could set a distinct tone for how Neptune’s season – and perhaps its future – unfolds.
Impact Newcomer: Jason Peavy, Jr., RB/OLB
Peavy is moving into a starting role this season and it is likely to be a prominent one. The junior is going to get his fair share of carries at touches at tailback and on defense, he will be part of a talented group of linebackers as he slots in on the outside next to MacLennon in the middle and Green on the opposite side.
Saturday, Sept. 2 at Lakewood, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 8 vs. Pinelands, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15 vs. Monmouth, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22 at Toms River South, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6 at Central, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14 vs. Freehold Boro, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 20 vs. Toms River East, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 18 at Asbury Park, 10 a.m.