Out for Vengeance: 2023 Point Boro Football Preview
By many metrics, Point Boro’s 2022 season was a great success. The Panthers completed an undefeated regular season to clinch the Independence Division title, posted the No. 2 scoring offense in the Shore Conference, and fielded the conference’s No. 3 scoring defense. But in the end, disappointment was perhaps their most prevailing emotion.
Point Boro’s sectional title defense came to a screeching halt in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 2 semifinals when Willingboro stunned the top-seeded Panthers, 50-30. It was a tough end to a season in which Point Boro planned on challenging for the overall Group 2 crown. The Panthers' mindset has changed a bit since then, not in their goals, but in their view of the journey. They will gladly trade a few regular-season wins for playoff success, and their schedule this season could allow them to do exactly that.
Point Boro will make the jump from the Independence Division to the Colonial Division to duke it out with Manalapan, Long Branch, Colts Neck, Red Bank Regional, and Raritan. Both Point Boro and Raritan are Group 2 schools, but the rest are Group 4 teams. It will be Point Boro’s most challenging schedule in that regard, not to mention the fact that four of its five division opponents made the playoffs last season and Red Bank won its consolation bracket. Playing those teams, however, can certainly bolster the Panthers’ playoff prospects and have them entering the postseason as a battle-tested unit.
There is work to do in replacing the impact and production of some excellent seniors who graduated in June, but the Panthers’ returning starters are among the Shore’s best at their respective divisions.
Point Boro’s Flexbone triple-option offense was mostly unstoppable in averaging 42.1 points per game, which was second only to the record-setting Toms River North offense. A 19-13 overtime win over St. John Vianney in the regular-season finale was the only time all season the Panthers scored under 20 points. Just four starters return, but who they are and where they play has the Panthers excited about the offense’s potential.
Senior Jake Croce will be entering his fourth year as Point Boro’s starting ‘A’ back and is coming off a season in which he rushed for 1,043 yards and 17 touchdowns on an average of 9.6 yards per carry to earn a First Team All-Shore selection. He was tied for eighth in the Shore in scoring and 11th in rushing yards and is closing in on the program’s career rushing record held by Brian Friedman. He has received interest from Patriot League schools along with Maine, Rhode Island, and Marist.
His backfield mate is senior quarterback Matt Oliphant, who made the move from slot back to quarterback last season and ran for 972 yards and 19 touchdowns on an average of 9.2 yards per carry. He also threw for 300 yards and two touchdowns and was a Second Team All-Shore selection. As a sophomore, he rushed for 477 yards and 11 touchdowns. Together, Oliphant and Croce combined for 2,015 yards rushing and 37 total touchdowns and represent one of the top quarterback-running back duos in the Shore Conference. Point Boro’s option quarterbacks have traditionally made major jumps in their second year as a starter and the expectation is that Oliphant will do the same. As far as his collegiate prospects go, Oliphant has an offer from Navy and interest from Old Dominion, Army, Air Force, Wanger, UConn, and several FCS schools.
Oliphant and Croce can become the first Point Boro teammates in many seasons to each rush for 1,000 yards or more. It’s the first time the Panthers have returned both their starting quarterback and ‘A’ back in the same season since 2017.
Junior Dylan Reitmeyer is also at ‘A’ back and gives Point Boro a powerful fullback-type who can spell Croce and also allow him to move around the formation. The slot backs are junior Colin Obser, senior Brian Simoes, senior Jayson Bennett, and freshman Jake Clayton. The Panthers need one of them to step forward and provide some of the production that left when Connor Cilento graduated in June. Cilento was a big-play machine the last two seasons, especially last year when he scored 11 touchdowns and averaged a ludicrous 15.3 yards per carry.
The wide receivers are seniors Wyatt Dewysockie and Brayden Forfar, junior Jacob Reitmeyer, and sophomore Logan DeAngelis, while the tight ends are junior Nick Albanese and senior Matt Michallis.
The offensive line will have to replace three starters, most notably First Team All-Shore selection and currently University of South Florida freshman Cole Skinner. Leading the way is senior Charles “Boom” Davison (6-1, 270), a Third Team All-Shore selection who will be entering his third year as a starter. He is at right guard with senior Zach Larr (6-2, 220) returning as a starter at left tackle. Junior Paul Hagenmeyer is the left guard, senior Nick Vitale is the center, and junior Tanner Hynes is the right tackle. Michallis (RT/C), senior Connor Brown (RG), senior Peter Evertz (LT), and sophomore George Walsh (LG) are also options in the trenches.
Under the direction of defensive coordinator Shane O’Connor, Point Boro’s defense allowed just 11.9 points per game with four shutouts to finish third in the Shore. Six starters return with two along the defensive line, two at linebacker, and two in the secondary.
The Panthers have a strong interior of their defensive line with Davison and junior Slade Samaritano back as starters. Samaritano had three sacks last season. Michallis and Walsh are also at defensive tackle. The defensive ends are Hagenmeyer and junior Nick Jankovich with Larr and Hynes options to rotate in.
Graduation hit Point Boro hard in the edge rusher/linebacker department with All-Shore edge Connor Reynolds graduating along with standouts JJ Bennett, Aidan Ward, and Tyler Gordon. Dylan Reitmeyer is a returning starter and will be at inside linebacker while senior Owen Dewysockie is the other inside linebacker with sophomore Brody Dapkins and senior Devon Sachowsky backing them up. The outside linebacker/box safety hybrids are Obser, a returning starter, along with senior Graysen Pagan and sophomore Mikey Ollendorf.
Oliphant is a returning starter at cornerback and Croce will start for the third straight year as the traditional strong safety. Simoes is slated to start at the other cornerback spot with Jacob Reitmeyer, Forfar, and Wyatt Dewysockie also in the mix. The free safety will be either Clayton or Bennet. Sophomore Calvin Videon-Perino is the backup strong safety.
On special teams, Forfar is the kicker for the third straight year and Oliphant returns as the punter.
Last season, Point Boro had multiple opponents that were overmatched and the Panthers took care of business. They weren’t challenged in most of their games, but that will change dramatically this season, not only within the division but also with nondivisional games against Manasquan, Rumson-Fair Haven, and Matawan. They welcome the challenge, however, knowing that it can prepare them for their ultimate goal of winning a state championship.
At a Glance
Head coach: Brian Staub, 6th season
Career record: 27-19
2022 record: 9-1
Coaching staff: Shane O’Connor (Defensive Coordinator); Dave Johnson (Special Teams Coordinator); Ryan Canary (OL); Kyle Ryan (OL); Nick Cipot (DL); Eddie Kendall (DL); John McDonald (LB); Tom Orrok (RB); Dan Drzymkowski (LB); John Madden (Athletic Trainer).
Circle the Date: Week 5 – Friday, Sept. 29 vs. Rumson-Fair Haven
The Panthers welcome last year’s Group 2 runner-up and Shore Conference powerhouse Rumson-Fair Haven to Al Saner Field in Week 5. This is likely to be Point Boro’s most challenging game of the regular season and will give them a good gauge of where they stand in the overall Group 2 hierarchy. A win here would be massive.
Players to Watch: Jake Croce, Sr., RB/SS & Matt Oliphant, Sr., QB/CB
Point Boro’s dynamic backfield duo will lead the way offensively after combining for 2,015 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground last season. It takes an entire team to win championships, but Croce and Oliphant will be counted upon to lead the way.
Impact Newcomer: Jake Clayton, Fr., RB/DB
Clayton, who is also a standout wrestler and baseball player, could be the team’s starting free safety while also getting a chance to make an impact as a slot back.
Breakout Candidate: Slade Samaritano, Jr., DT
Samaritano flashed disruptive traits with three sacks last season. The Panthers lost several edge rushers to graduation so his ability to get to the quarterback from the interior of the defensive line can be a massive asset.
Under the Radar: Charles Davison, Sr., OL/DL
It might seem odd to label a two-way, three-year starter as underrated but linemen don’t garner weekly headlines the same as those scoring touchdowns. He was also overshadowed by FBS recruit Cole Skinner for the last two years. Davison, however, is an indispensable player for the Panthers and the leader of their offensive and defensive lines.
Did you Know?
Point Boro head coach Brian Staub and defensive coordinator Shane O’Connor were both First Team All-Shore selections in their senior year of 2008. Staub quarterbacked Brick Memorial to the Central Jersey Group 4 sectional title and O’Connor, who is Point Boro’s all-time leading passer, led the Panthers to a 9-2 record and the National Division title.