Next in Line: 2018 Point Boro Football Preview
One year after a large and impactful senior class led Point Boro to an 11-1 record, a third straight division title and a trip to a state sectional final, the Panthers are back with another talented senior class that will look to keep the good times rolling.
Gone are standout players like quarterback James Fara, running backs Brandon Cipriano and Tanner Gordon, linemen Gabe Fattizzi and Anthony Bonavito and safety Trevor McNamara, but even though the names on this season’s roster aren’t as noteworthy, the Panthers are confident it will not be that way for very long.
“We had a really good senior class last year but all our juniors were ready to play,” said senior quarterback/linebacker Garrett Romer. “A lot of them could have stepped right in and played but had such a good senior group in front of them.”
“Last year we had a senior-heavy group with a lot of talented kids, but so was the junior class, and that made our depth very good,” said senior Trent LiVolsi. “Those juniors that are now seniors are definitely ready.”
Romer, LiVolsi, Kyle Komanitsky and Scott Franceschini all started as juniors and return to lead a group that features eight new starters on offense and eight new starters on defense. The Panthers also have a new head coach as Brian Staub takes over for Matt Cilento. The adjustment to having a new head coach has been seamless, however, considering Staub was the team’s offensive coordinator. Him stepping into his first head-coaching job and Dave Drew ascending from the freshmen level are the only changes.
“It’s been no change at all,” Romer said. “He brings the same energy so there’s no step back.”
“It allows us to be comfortable and continue to build off what we did last year,” LiVolsi said.
Staub played quarterback at Brick Memorial where he ran the triple-option offense and led the Mustangs to the 2008 Central Jersey Group 4 championship. He then played collegiately at Springfield College. He was an assistant at Brick Memorial before coming to Point Boro.
“When you get to coach the type of kids we have – high-character, high-effort kids – and you get to coach with some of your best friends on a great coaching staff it’s a great time,” Staub said. “The administration has our back, the community is great, so it’s an honor to come out here and coach.”
Point Boro’s flexbone offense was No. 7 in the Shore last season averaging 32.5 points per game, so the task is to keep the machine running with a host of new starters. Romer takes over at quarterback for Fara, who was a Shore Sports Network First Team All-Shore selection after rushing for 1,628 yards and 24 touchdowns while also throwing for 611 yards and seven touchdowns. Romer has been a quarterback throughout his career but was stuck behind Fara. Now he gets his chance to engineer what has been a high-octane offense.
“He’s such a tough kid and he’s a great leader,” Staub said. “And as good as Fara was the last two years I think Romer reads it (the option) better. He’s not as athletic but he’s going to get the ball to the right guy at the right time, and when our quarterback has that point-guard mentality we’re a pretty good offense. That’s what he brings.”
‘I’m just really excited and ready to do the best for my team,” Romer said.
Taking over at fullback (‘A’ back) for Gordon will be LiVolsi, who moves to a skill position after playing guard last year. Senior Bobby Cooper will also see time in the backfield. The slot backs are Komanitsky, who started at wide receiver last year, along with senior Christian Aurin, who saw limited action. There’s also Izzy Wilson, a transfer from Neptune, who is in line to get carries as a slot back. Last season, Cipriano was a major weapon out of the slot with 825 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on an average of 11.9 yards per carry plus 25 catches for 451 yards and five touchdowns. Gordon added over 700 yards rushing, so there’s a lot of production to replace.
“We’re excited to see Trent run the ball and we think we have a good 1-2 punch with Garrett and Trent touching the football almost every single play,” Staub said. “Last year it was speed at those positions where this year it’s more of a physical mentality – get north, get 4-to-5 yards a clip. We’re excited to have Garrett and Trent back there and we think they’re going to be pretty good.”
Seniors Dylan Kleinfeldt and Ryan Visco will be the wide receivers. Point Boro’s passing game is mostly about catching a defense off guard for big plays, so that pair should have a few opportunities each game to make a major impact.
Franceschini is the lone returning starter on the offensive line and will be at right tackle. Junior Dan Meccia steps into the all-important center position, and to his right at guard will be junior Chris Boud. The left tackle will be senior Ryan Stencel and the left guard position has seniors Austin Ormsby and Michael Mayfield working in.
Point Boro’s defense has been stout over the last couple years and last season finished fourth in the Shore in scoring defense, yielding just 12.9 points per game with one shutout. The Panthers’ 3-3 stack alignment has three returning starters with one veteran at every level. Along the line, LiVolsi is back as a defensive end after recording 65 tackles last year and being selected to the Class B South All-Division team. Scott Franceschini is the other defensive end while senior Billy Borowsky is the nose guard. Borowsky is a standout wrestler who helped the Panthers capture a state sectional championship last season, and his decision to come out for the football team is a major plus.
Romer is a returning starter at middle linebacker and is coming off a season where he made 107 tackles and was an SSN Third Team All-Shore selection. The outside linebackers are Kleinfeldt and Paul Franceschini.
The five-man secondary features strong safety/outside linebacker hybrids, who will be Cooper and Aurin with Wilson also in the mix. Komanitsky is a returning starter at cornerback with junior Jake Magley joining him on the outside. Senior Jonathan Nguyen, who was with the program as a freshman before moving to Florida, is back and steps in as the starting free safety.
Cilento was also the architect of Point Boro’s defense, so taking the reigns as defensive coordinator will be Shane O’Connor.
“We have had a good, solid defense year-in and year-out so we’re certainly trying to keep that going,” Staub said. “Coach Matt Cilento did a great job with the 3-3 stack and his right-hand man for several years was Shane O’Connor. We do have some key guys back in that three-level scheme where LiVolsi has the line, Romer has the middle and Komanitsky has the third level, so we’re excited about that.”
“Just like the last couple years we have a group of fast and scrappy kids that can hit and like to get in other people’s faces,” LiVolsi said. “That’s our type of defense. We’re not just going to sit back, we’re going to meet you at the line of scrimmage.”
On special teams, Joe Picoli will be the kicker and Komanitsky will be the punter.
The Shore Conference’s new divisions have Point Boro in the Liberty Division with Colts Neck, Manasquan, Monmouth Regional, Neptune and Raritan. It’s a stark departure from the days in B South, but the Panthers do have a history playing both Monmouth and Raritan, and their former long-standing rivalry with Manasquan was renewed last season during the playoffs.
Point Boro scored a 27-6 victory over Manasquan in last season’s Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals, propelling the team to a sectional final for the first time since 2008. This year they’ll open up the season by welcoming the Warriors back to Al Saner Field.
“It definitely gives you a boost knowing you’re playing a rival,” LiVolsi said. “You have to be ready and prepared, and it pushes you.”
Point Boro is trying to get to a place where it contends for championships every season, and 2018 will be an important part of that process considering the number of new starters. This season will offer a glimpse of the depth and sustainability of the entire program.
“We know we lost a lot but the seniors are really stepping up and we again have a lot of seniors this year,” Staub said. “We’re trying to get to the point where Point Boro doesn’t rebuild, we just reload. We can’t say that yet, but that’s certainly the goal. The kids are hungry to prove themselves. Point Boro football is at a good point right now and we’re just trying to keep it going.”
At a Glance
Head coach: Brian Staub, first season
Career record: 0-0
2017 record: 11-1 (7-0 in B South)
Coaching staff: Shane O’Connor (def. coordinator); Tom Orrok (special teams, RB/LB); Ryan Canary (OL/DL); Dave Drew (WR/LB); Dave Johnson (WR/DB); Ty Hughes (FB/LB); Eddie Kendall (OL/DL); Pat Brady, Dan Drzymkowski, William Pirall (freshmen); John Madden (athletic trainer).
Defense: 3-3 stack
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Garrett Romer, Sr., QB
Romer was a Third Team All-Shore linebacker last season, but on offense he takes over at quarterback where James Fara was a First Team All-Shore selection. Fara was fourth in the Shore with 1,628 yards rushing and 24 touchdowns and also threw for 611 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The quarterback has a lot on its plate in the triple-option offense, so the Panthers’ offensive success largely depends on how well Romer plays.
X-FACTOR: Offensive line play
Point Boro has just one returning starter on the offensive line, and while the men up front play a crucial role for every team, they are even more important for a team that runs the ball on almost every play.
KEY NEWCOMER: Billy Borowsky, Sr., DL
A wrestling standout for the Panthers, Borowsky came out for the football team this year and earned the starting job as the nose tackle in Point Boro’s 3-3 stack defense.
PIVOTAL GAME: Sept. 7 vs. Manasquan
The former Thanksgiving rivals met in the playoffs last season where Point Boro took a 27-6 win to reach the Central Jersey Group 2 final. Now they’re both members of the Liberty Division, and the season-opener could go a long way toward determining the division champion.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.