Rejoining the Flock: 2019 Point Beach Football Preview
On paper, the Point Pleasant Beach football team is coming off a winless 2018 season, and with a new head coach is flying under the radar as a team picked to make noise in the Shore Conference this season. That is until you meet first-year head coach Joe Zaccone, who is greeted at his new small-school home by a wave of seniors who weren’t with the football program a year ago.
Not only are the upperclassmen eager to bring a winning culture back to Point Beach, but they’re collectively being put in position to succeed under Zaccone – debuting a spread attack on offense. Senior Jack Akins will get the opportunity to quarterback this new offense for Beach, which features an established offensive line and a multitude of receiving options that rival the flocks of seagulls on the nearby ocean.
Coach Zaccone is particularly excited about the playmaking ability on the outside of Will Baranello, a 6-foot-2 target who is new to the Gulls program.
“We push each other to have fun every day at practice,” said Akins, who understands the importance of leaving a lasting mark on the underclassmen Beach welcomes to a revitalized program. Akins is a mobile passer with precision to all points on the field and is quick to use his legs for positive yards. He’ll be able to lean on returning senior running back Liam Buday (6-0, 215), who can expect to carry a big load for Beach once again.
“The offense is going to run through Liam,” Zaccone said.
With confidence, Zaccone named Buday as one of the emerging leaders of the team, along with seniors Matt Vinsko and Jason Sherlock.
On defense, the Gulls’ bruising style of play has given the offense trouble this summer. With plenty of size in the front seven, an emphasis on the pass rush has Beach looking for eleven helmets to the football on every play. Being shut out in five of their nine losses a year ago, the Beach defense is hoping to show they can make just the slightest support from Akins’ offense stand up in the National Division.
Player to Watch: Liam Buday, Sr., RB/LB,
A reliable running game is so important for any high school football team, especially one expecting to pull off the sweeping personnel, coaching, and philosophy changes that Point Beach is this season. Liam Buday will get the call at running back for the Gulls, a rare returning face to the Beach lineup in both the backfield and linebacking corps. Buday is embracing the versatility of the Beach offense, knowing his power style will be most effective when the Gulls can soften the box with the pass.
A reliable pass catcher himself, Buday understands how to give his new quarterback a quick target out of the backfield and can beat linebackers up the field for explosive plays.
Buday will be joined by Brandon Castronovo in the backfield for Beach this season.
Player Under the Radar: Jack Akins, Sr., QB
Zaccone will turn to senior Jack Akins as his quarterback for the 2019 season, and while he’s hoping to not stay under the radar for long, Akins is an unknown commodity at the position this season. Sure, Akins hasn’t been groomed by upperclassmen and molded into a typical senior quarterback, but he’s the ideal face for a Beach team that hopes to make an entire cast of new faces into household names around Point this season.
An energetic spirit on the practice field, Akins keeps his teammates engaged and calls plays with a seasoned demeanor. Looking to enjoy every second of his last football season at the Shore, Akins will get plenty of opportunities to air the ball out. Consistently giving his receivers a chance with decisiveness through his reads, Akins is among the top reasons why Point Beach can complete a serious turnaround in 2019.
Top Unit: Defensive line
Jeff Bower is at the helm for a Beach defense that wants to take one simple concept from the offense – speed – and apply it across the entire unit. With so much time and effort going into an offensive install this offseason, the Beach defense has been able to sit back, react, and fly to the football as an experienced and talented group.
With a head coach that emphasizes strength and conditioning, the Beach defense should hold up well throughout games whether the offense is firing on all cylinders or sputtering through growing pains.
Matt Vinkso, Jack Shamy, Noah Ramos, Josh Ramos, and Jason Sherlock make up the defensive front for the Gulls. Sherlock and Vinsko coming off the edge give Point Beach a pair of lanky pass rushers that can hunt the quarterback from anywhere in the front seven.
Collectively, this defensive line understands how to get off blocks, working hard on their finishing ability this offseason. Add an enforcer like Liam Buday at linebacker and the Beach defense is formidable in the trenches.
Point Beach will be successful if…
The seniors remain committed to their new coach’s plan of attack. The truth is, Zaccone has a lot of work ahead of him to make Point Beach a competitor. Like any new coach, he’s fully embracing the daily routine of this challenge, but will the Beach upperclassmen remain this enthusiastic throughout the season?
If the offense comes together for the Gulls, there will be no true star of the show each week, relying on an unselfishness that’s hard to find on teams rebounding from a winless season. Building from the ground up, there are worse places for a team to start than the senior pairing of Akins and Buday.
Senior Sense of Urgency
Last season, Point Beach rostered only three seniors, failing to provide a class that saw playoff berths in 2016 and 2017 a final victory. This year, a sense of urgency rings through a 12th-grade class that takes the field with a unique perspective. Led by Akins, who will get his only chance to start at quarterback, this class hasn’t had a poetic four-year journey like some class of 2019 players.
What they do have is an almost youthful excitement to them, paired with the realization they’re leaving their lasting mark on Beach football this Fall. Zaccone is not only leaning on his seniors to build the foundation for his new program, but they’re entrusting him with the optimism their efforts will be enough to fill the stands and create a buzz around Gulls football very soon.
Fly Like A Gull
Point Beach is leaving no doubt in their ambitions to run a spread offense this season, dawning the red and white of Washington State with an attack that Mike Leach would approve of. A staple of any depth chart for an air raid team is the listing of outside receivers and slot receivers separately.
For a program with down numbers a year ago, Beach now features nine players between both receiver positions. Almost certainly, most of these players will be asked to chip in elsewhere, primarily on defense, but it’s as exciting a look the Gulls have had on paper in a long time.
Will Baranello, Harrison Rudd, Matt Van Brunt, Lance White, and Kieran Nagle are all on the Beach roster at wide receiver, joined by Jason Sherlock, Aidan Conway, Mike Grauso, and Aidan Jones in the slot.
Taking it to the Beach
Making football fun again has been a mission for the Beach players and staff, something they’ve achieved with infectious results this summer. Starting their offseason program by working with MMA and kickboxing trainers on the beach in the early morning, plenty of Gulls players have convinced their friends to rejoin the team in time for this season.
Using this unique training as an introduction to where he hopes to bring the conditioning program at Beach, Zaccone said his players now ask him, “we’re going to lift more, right coach?”, as opposed to shrugging off the grittier side of the game that goes a long way in determining wins and losses.
At A Glance
Head coach: Joe Zaccone, 1st season
Career record: 0-0
2018 Record 0-9 (0-6 in National Division)
Assistant coaches: Paul Barna (Off. Coordinator/QB/DB), Jeff Bower (Def. Coordinator/DB/RB), Mike Pellicane (Special teams/WR/LB), Brandon Gross (OL/DL), Jake Van Brunt (RB/LB).
Big Shoes to Fill: Will Baranello, Sr., WR/DB
Yet another one of the newcomers that’s also a senior for Point Beach, the vision for this team’s passing attack under Akins will rely heavily on the 6-foot-2 shoulders of Baranello. A true spread offense isn’t dependent on any one receiver, but at the high school level, it’s imperative to have someone like Baranello to count on.
The Beach staff is putting their trust in Baranello to run crisp routes on the outside and also be able to stretch defenses vertically. He will also be tasked with keeping the Gulls secondary in order at cornerback.
X-Factor: Matt Vinkso, Sr., LT/DE
Regardless of the scheme, there are few ways for a team to end up behind the chains on offense more reliably than poor offensive line play. Point Beach will face some athletic and challenging defenses this season and returning left tackle Matt Vinkso should be up to the challenge.
“Once it comes together it’s a beautiful thing, being out there with your brothers scoring touchdowns is the goal,” Vinsko said.
Vinsko is a technically sound blocker, moving well for his size and keeping rushers at an arm’s length. If he can take yet another stride forward, and the rest of the Beach line follows in his footsteps, they’ll have a basis to sustain drives.
When it comes to ending opponent drives, the Beach defense will also be looking to Vinkso, who is a projected starter at defensive end.
Impact Newcomer: Jack Akins, Sr., QB
Akins is embracing being a newfound leader for Point Beach at quarterback this season. “He’s great at throwing the ball downfield and knows what he’s doing,” Baranello said
Ending their practice with conditioning, Point Beach lets its quarterbacks echo the play calls before the team can sprint to their next spot. A false start from anyone on the line forces the whole team back. Under Akins, the Gulls flew smoothly down the field as one unit, something they can only hope is a sign of things to come for their dual-threat starter in 2019.
Pivotal Game: Oct. 5 at Keyport
Just the second road test through five games for Point Beach, the Gulls will have a basis for how their rebuild is going following the first of two showdowns against Keyport. With this game in reach for the Gulls a year ago, they’ll be as motivated as ever to start a three-game road swing with a victory. If they pull it off, Beach can see a Week 7 rematch with Keyport as another opportunity to earn a win prior to ending the regular season on the road again at non-conference opponent Pennington.