On the Line: 2022 Brick Memorial High School Football Preview
Last year, Brick Memorial entered the season with a senior-laden group of linemen tasked with leading the way for a talented yet unproven group of skill players. Fast forward 12 months and the script has been completely flipped.
The most important position in head coach Walt Currie's triple-option offense is quarterback, and the Mustangs found themselves a good one last season with the emergence of Connor Dietz, who set the program's single-season scoring record as a sophomore. Brick Memorial starts in a good place with him back for his junior year, but breaking in a new set of offensive and defensive linemen will test the Mustangs' trench work.
Dietz is one of six returning starters in Brick Memorial's option offense and enters the season with high expectations after a breakout sophomore season. He was fifth in the Shore Conference in rushing with 1,368 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns and 16th in the Shore with 1,010 yards passing and five touchdowns. His 130 total points were fourth in the Shore and set a new Brick Memorial single-season record. Additionally, he and Freehold quarterback Kamore Gill were the only two players to both pass and rush for 1,000 yards each. If he progresses at the expected rate he should turn in another big season.
"Being up to speed with the varsity level means I'm definitely a lot more comfortable this year," Dietz said. "I've spent a lot of time working on my throwing and my footwork and being able to make decisions faster."
The running back position will feature sophomore Kevin Andrews and junior Nicco Maribo. At wide receiver, senior Jeremiah Crispin is a returning starter along with senior Eli Benjamin with junior Jasaan Walker also in the mix. The tight ends are senior Joe Nolan, a returning starter, and freshman Trey Tallmadge, the latter a highly-touted ninth-grader who is the younger brother of former Brick All-Shore linebacker Richie Tallmadge and Brick Memorial two-time wrestling state champion Evan Tallmadge.
The offensive line will once again be comprised entirely of seniors, but whereas last season all five were returning starters, this year four of the five are first-year starters. Senior Jayden Rivera is a returning starter at left tackle and senior left guard Ben Wooley (6-4, 250) slides inside after starting at tight end last season. Senior Jordan Lizardi is the center, senior Armando Vazquez is the right guard, and senior Jayden Aponte is the right tackle. Most offenses go as far as their line can take them so it will be critical for this group to gel quickly and allow Brick Memorial's skill players to find time and space.
Five starters return in Brick Memorial's 4-3 base defense. The defensive line features Vazquez and Wooley at defensive end and Rivera, a returning starter, and senior Rich Gardner as the defensive tackles. The middle linebacker is senior Edwin Vargas and the outside linebackers are Nolan and senior Ibn Taylor. Nolan is a returning starter. Maribo will also see time at outside linebacker. Benjamin and Crispin (2 INTs) are returning starters at cornerback, Dietz returns as the free safety, and senior Anthony Schamber is the strong safety.
On special teams, Maribo was the team's starting kicker last year and is back in that role along with Vazquez. Nolan returns as the team's punter.
Divisional realignment has Brick Memorial moving from the highly-competitive Independence Division (Brick, Lacey, Howell, Middletown North) to the new-look Freedom Division with Brick, Toms River South, Red Bank, Ocean, and Neptune.
"It seems like everybody is excited to be here and that's all that matters to me," Dietz said. "The energy level is way up now that the season is almost here."
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Multiple Option
Returning starters: 6
QB: Connor Dietz, Jr., RS
RB: Kevin Andrews, So.; Nicco Maribo, Jr.
WR: Jeremiah Crispin, Sr., RS; Eli Benjamin, Sr, RS.; Jasaan Whitaker, Jr.
TE: Joe Nolan, Sr., RS; Trey Tallmadge, Fr.
LT: Jayden Rivera, Sr., RS
LG: Ben Wooley, Sr., RS (moved from TE)
C: Jordan Lizardi, Sr.
RG: Armando Vazquez, Sr.
RT: Jayden Aponte, Sr.
Returning starters: 5
DE: Armando Vazquez, Sr.
DT: Rich Gardner, Sr.
DT: Jayden Rivera, Sr., RS
DE: Ben Wooley, Sr.
OLB: Joe Nolan, Sr. RS; Nicco Maribo, Jr.
MLB: Edwin Vargas, Sr.
OLB: Ibn Taylor, Sr.
CB: Jeremiah Crispin, Sr., RS
CB: Eli Benjamin, Sr., RS
SS: Anthony Schamber, Sr.
FS: Connor Dietz, Jr., RS
K: Nicco Maribo, Jr., RS; Armando Vazquez, Sr.
P: Joe Nolan, Sr., RS
Head coach: Walt Currie, 16th season
Career record: 81-74
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Rob Brown (Defensive Coordinator); James Mahoney (Offensive Coordinator); Bill Brunner (OL); Paul Walski (OL); Keith Farr (WR); Pete Walski (TE); William Brunner Sr. (DT); Nick Moschella (LB); Brady Watson (Safeties); Sean Thornton (DE); Jimmy Bright (Freshmen); Ryan Graham (Freshmen); Sue Penrod (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Connor Dietz, Jr., QB/DB
Dietz exploded into the scene last season with a school single-season record 130 points and was one of two players in the Shore to both rush and pass for over 1,000 yards. He ran for 1,368 yards and 18 touchdowns and threw for 1,010 yards and five touchdowns.
Player Under the Radar: Jeremiah Crispin, Sr., WR/DB
Crispin returns as a two-way starter and is coming off a season in which he intercepted two passes on defense
Impact Newcomers: Kevin Andrews, So., RB and Trey Tallmadge, Fr., TE
Brick Memorial's list of potential starters is all juniors and seniors with the exception of Andrews and Tallmadge, which says a lot about what the coaching staff thinks of their abilities. Andrews has a chance to make an immediate impact at running back while Tallmadge, who played quarterback at the youth level, has the size (6-0, 175) and skill to contribute immediately at a variety of positions.
Rivalry Game: Oct. 22 vs. Brick
This one speaks for itself. For years it was Brick vs. Brick Memorial on Thanksgiving. Then the game changed to the first week of the season. Now, the Mustangs and Dragons will clash on the final week of the regular season in a game that could decide a division title and playoff positioning.
Sept. 1 - @Jackson Memorial, 6 p.m.
Sept. 9 - vs. Red Bank, 6 p.m.
Sept. 16 - @Ocean, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 - vs. Neptune, 6 p.m.
Sept. 30 - vs. Freehold Township, 6 p.m.
Oct. 7 - vs. Toms River South, 6 p.m.
Oct. 14 - @Central, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 - @Brick, 12 p.m.