Relentless Pursuit: 2021 Point Pleasant Boro High School Football Preview
Brian Staub is fired up. And so is his team.
Since the 2020 season wrapped up last December, the entirety of Point Boro’s program has moved forward with a collective goal of getting the Panthers back to championship contention. Every weight room session, every hour of film study, every rep of practice has been executed with the singular objective of winning a championship.
With that hyper-focused approach combined with a roster that includes talented veterans and promising newcomers, Point Boro has a great chance to return to glory in 2021.
From 2015-2017, Point Boro went 27-5, won three Class B South division titles and reached the Central Jersey Group 2 title game in 2017. The Panthers believe they are about to embark on a similar run with this being the year they put it all together. It’s hard to argue that sentiment given what the Panthers will be working with on Friday nights.
Five starters return in Point Boro’s Flexbone triple-option offense, but it’s where those players are located that has the Panthers so excited. The top three ball carriers from a year ago are all back with senior quarterback Charlie Vitale, sophomore A-back Jake Croce and junior slotback Connor Cilento. Vitale ran for 386 yards and five touchdowns and threw for 250 yards and a touchdown in five games, Croce ran for 375 yards and a team-high seven touchdowns and Cilento ran for 325 yards and three touchdowns. Add in senior Aidan Kirk, a first-team All-Shore lacrosse player, to the mix as a slotback and the Panthers will have multiple weapons to attack opposing defenses with.
The offensive line has two returning starters with senior Luke Wilson (6-foot-2, 245) at left guard and senior Justin Tuzzolino (5-foot-9, 210) at center. The three newcomers all bring good size, especially on the right side of the line. Highly-touted sophomore Charles Davison (6-foot-2, 270) is the right guard and junior Cole Skinner (6-foot-5, 305) is the right tackle. Rounding out the line is senior Mike Meccia (6-foot, 220) at left tackle with senior Jackson Fattell (6-foot-1, 200) also working in.
The one weak spot on the offensive side is at wide receiver where the Panthers do not have any players with a varsity reception. Seniors Thomas Welch and Dermott McLaughlin and juniors Brian Orio, Brandon Sloan (6-foot-3) and Eric Analonis (6-foot-4) could all see time. Although the Panthers won’t throw much if things are going according to plan, they do need someone to step forward and give the Panthers the option to hit a big play when teams crowd the box more than usual.
Defense is an area the Panthers have to improve on from last year when they allowed 32.5 points per game. Losses to top-ranked Wall, returning sectional champion Ramsey and Manasquan when Point Boro was without Vitale certainly skewed those numbers in the wrong direction and Point Boro played much better in the second half of the year.
The Panthers will again run a 3-3 stack defense that utilizes speed and focuses on creating turnovers. With many of the linemen going both ways, Point Boro will use a rotation up front.
Junior Connor Reynolds returns as a starting defensive end and the Panthers expect big things out of him in the trenches. Wilson, Skinner and junior Michael Smith are the defensive tackles and Fattell and Davison are the defensive ends opposite Reynolds.
Croce returns as a starting outside linebacker, junior JJ Bennet is the middle linebacker and juniors Tyler Gordon and Aidan Ward have been working at the other outside linebacker spot. Working in at strong safety will be Welch, Muraglia, Criscuolo and McLaughlin. Vitale and senior Devin Morris are both returning starters at cornerback while Cilento is the returning starter at free safety where he had two interceptions last season.
Division realignment has Point Boro in the Patriot Division with Asbury Park, Barnegat, Jackson Liberty, Manchester and Shore Regional. Asbury Park has been a championship team recently, as has Shore Regional, while Manchester is coming off one of its best seasons and Barnegat always seems to be in the middle of the action.
Every week could present a challenge, but the Panthers expect to be ready for them. They’ve put in the time and they’re ready to put the gold and black back on the map.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Returning starters: Flexbone
QB: Charlie Vitale, Sr., 3RS; Matt Oliphant, So.
RB: Jake Croce, So., RS; Connor Cilento, Jr., RS; Aidan Kirk. Sr.; Sam Muraglia, Jr.; Tyler Criscuolo, Jr.
WR: Thomas Welch, Sr.; Brian Orio, Jr.; Dermott McLaughlin, Sr.; Brandon Sloan, Jr.; Eric Analonis, Jr.
LT: Mike Meccia, Sr.; Jackson Fattell, Sr.
LG: Luke Wilson, Sr., RS
C: Justin Tuzzolino, Sr., RS
RG: Charles Davison, So.
RT: Cole Skinner, Jr.
Defense: 3-3 stack
Returning starters: 5
DE: Connor Reynolds, Jr., RS
DT: Michael Smith, Jr.
DT: Luke Wilson, Sr.; Cole Skinner, Jr.
DE: Jackson Fattell, Sr.; Charles Davison, so.
OLB: Jake Croce, So., RS
MLB: JJ Bennet, Jr.
OLB: Tyler Gordon, Jr.; Aidan Ward, Jr.
CB: Charlie Vitale, Sr., RS; Aidan Kirk, Sr.
CB: Devin Morris, Sr., RS; Matt Oliphant, So.
SS: Thomas Welch, Sr.; Sam Muraglia, Jr.; Tyler Criscuolo, Jr.; Dermott McLaughlin, Sr.
FS: Connor Cilento, Jr., RS
K: Robert Cooper, Jr.
P: Matt Oliphant, So.; Brian Orio, Jr.
Head coach: Brian Staub, 4th season
Career record: 8-16
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Shane O’Connor (Defensive Coordinator); Dave Johnson (Special Teams Coordinator); John Mattos (Special Teams Coordinator); Ryan Canary (OL); Dan Drzymkowski (DL); Kyle Ryan (OL); Eddie Kendall (DL); Tom Orrok (Slotbacks); John McDonald (FB/LB); John Madden (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Charlie Vitale, Sr., QB/DB
Vitale will be entering his third year as the Panthers starting quarterback. A veteran running the triple option usually has a big year and that is the expectation for Point Boro.
Player Under the Radar: Jake Croce, So., RB/OLB
Croce started both ways last year and had a very good freshman season at both running back and linebacker. He and Vitale should form a potent 1-2 punch.
Impact Newcomer: Charles Davison, So., OL/DL
The Panthers are excited about Davison at the varsity level and the 6-foot-2, 270-pounder will start on the offensive line and rotate in on defense. He could be a dominant player for the Panthers for the next three years.
Top Position Groups: The Offensive Backfield
With Charlie Vitale, Jake Croce and Connor Cilento all returning plus the addition of Aidan Kirk, the Panthers have exactly the personnel they need to have an explosive rushing attack.
Big Shoes to Fill: The Wide Receivers
There isn’t necessarily one player the wide receivers have to replace but given there isn’t a single varsity reception among the group, somebody is going to have to step up and become an option down the field.
X-Factor: Staying Healthy Along the O-Line
Even with all the skill Point Boro has, it will be hard to move the ball without the hogs up front. Many of the linemen are playing both ways so defensive coordinator Shane O’Connor will try to rotate them as much as possible to keep everybody fresh.
Thursday, Sept. 2 – vs. Shore, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Jackson Liberty, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – at Asbury Park, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – vs. Manchester, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – vs. Barnegat, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 16 – at Monmouth, 12 p.m.