Reversal of Fortune: 2020 Brick Memorial Football Preview
Brick Memorial had a down year in 2019, finishing 3-6 to suffer consecutive losing seasons for the first time in two decades. The Mustangs have been a very consistent program over the last 20 years and on the few occasions they’ve finished under .500, they’ve come out on the other side as division and state championship contenders. This program doesn’t stay down for long.
The 2020 Mustangs looks to follow the same path and get Brick Memorial back to its usual place as a team ranked in the Shore Conference Top 10.
Although the Mustangs will have a first-year starting quarterback, they do return six starters on the offensive side in their multiple, option-based offense. The quarterback is the focal point when running the triple option and the Mustangs have a pair of seniors battling it out for the starting job in Rahmere Hutchinson and T.J. McArthur. Hutchinson saw a small amount of playing time last year on defense while McArthur is a three-year returning starter at “A” back.
“Rahmere brings a calmness and athleticism and an ability to read defenses,” said Brick Memorial head coach Walt Currie, who in his 14th season is the longest-tenured coach in program history. “With T.J., one of the great things about option football is when you put your best running back at quarterback and he can read it, it makes the offense that much more dangerous. Either way, those two guys will be playing a lot on offense.”
Hutchinson would slide to either slot back or wide receiver if he is not the quarterback while McArthur would move back to his running back spot if Hutchinson emerges as the starting quarterback.
Regardless of who wins the quarterback job, they will add to a stout backfield that is headlined by returning Shore Sports Network second-team All-Shore selection, Akhi Barksdale. The senior was a big-play force last season as a slot back and wide receiver, rushing for 542 yards and eight touchdowns on an eye-popping average of 13.4 yards per carry and also catching 28 passes for 342 yards and one touchdown. Depending on how the quarterback battle shakes out, the prospective three-headed monster of Hutchinson, McArthur and Barksdale has the potential to be great.
The passing game also features seniors Robert Gibbs III and JT Henderson, both of whom are returning starters at wide receiver.
The offensive line has a pair of returning starters, both on the left side, with junior Evan Gillen at left tackle and junior Colin Mullahey at left guard.
When Brick Memorial is competing for championships its offense is always humming and garnering much of the headlines, but at the same time, the Mustangs’ defense is also quietly among the best in the Shore. That has been lacking the last couple of years for a variety of reasons. Last season, Brick Memorial allowed 24.6 points per game to rank 37th in the Shore.
“We have to do a better job at stopping the run and tackling in general,” Currie said. “We really have to do a better job on third down, which was our Achilles Heel last year. We’d have teams in third-and-7, third-and-10 and they would convert on us. That’s been a point of emphasis for us.”
Brick Memorial’s multiple, 3-4 base defense has senior David Szuba as a returning starter at nose tackle, McArthur back as a starting inside linebacker and Barksdale and junior Damien DiLuccio back as starters in the secondary.
On paper, the edict is pretty simple: reignite a punishing ground attack and get back to playing stingy defense. If that happens, Brick Memorial will be back in business as one of the Shore’s best.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Offense: Multiple option
QB: Rahmere Hutchinson, Sr., or TJ McArthur, Sr. (RS at running back)
RB: Ruben Lizardi, Sr. or Mike Angrosina, Jr. or Bruce Morris, Jr.
SB: Akhi Barksdale, Sr., RS; Jake LaRocca, Jr.; Tim Quackenboss, Jr.
WR: Robert Gibbs III, Sr., RS; JT Henderson, Sr., RS; Jason Jankowski, Sr.
LT: Evan Gillen, Jr., RS
LG: Colin Mullahey, Jr., RS
C: David Szuba, Sr.
RG: Brian Halloran, Sr.
RT: Kyle Kohlmann, Sr.
Defense: 3-4 multiple
DE: Evan Gillen, Jr.
NT: David Szuba, Sr., RS
DE: Colin Mullahey, Jr.
OLB: Mike Angrosina, Jr.
ILB: TJ McArthur, Sr., RS
ILB: Brian Halloran, Sr.
OLB: JT Henderson, Sr.
CB: Akhi Barksdale, Sr., RS or Tim Quackenboss, Jr.
CB: Jason Jankowski, Sr. or Robert Gibbs III, Sr.
SS: Damien DiLuccio, Jr., RS or Rahmere Hutchinson, Sr.
FS: Jake Gallo, Jr.
K: Mike Occhiogrosso, So.
P: TJ McArthur, Sr.
Head coach: Walt Currie, 14th season
Career record: 75-62
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Rob Brown (Defensive Coordinator/Safeties); James Mahoney (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Mike Cintron (Special Teams Coordinator/slot backs); Bill Brunner (OL); Rob Merola (DL); Keith Farr (WR/CB); Connor Owen (RB); Nick Moschella (ILB); Mike Mahoney (OLB); Brady Watson (DB); Pete Walski (WR); Jimmy Bright (freshmen); Ryan Graham (freshmen); Sue Penrod (athletic trainer).
Player to Watch: Akhi Barksdale, Sr., RB/DB
Barksdale was great as a junior, rushing for 542 yards and eight touchdowns on a crazy average of 13.4 yards per carry and catching 28 passes for 342 yards and one touchdown. He is a threat to score a touchdown every time he touches the ball.
“Akhi is a long strider and a really strong kid,” Currie said. “He is also versatile and it’s rare to find that combo. It’s usually a player can either run the ball well or be a receiver, but he can do both. The biggest challenge for us is to make sure he gets enough touches.”
Player Under the Radar: David Szuba, Sr., C/NT
A standout wrestler who was a state finalist last season, Szuba is a returning starter at nose tackle and is a disruptive player on the interior of the defensive line. He’ll also play along the offensive line at center where his strength and athleticism will be a crucial asset.
“He’s a huge piece of what we’re trying to do this year,” Currie said. “The center is huge in any offense because they’re making every call and are the captain of the offensive line. But in the option it’s especially important because they’re not just identifying the scheme and who we’re blocking, but also who we’re not blocking.”
Impact Newcomer: Rahmere Hutchinson, Sr., QB/SB/WR/DB
Hutchinson played sparingly last season but figures to have a major role at any of few positions on the offensive side. He is competing for the starting quarterback job and could also see time at slot back and wide receiver. He’s also in the mix in the secondary.
Top position group: Backs (QB and “A” back)
Depth is something every team craves and Brick Memorial has it at two of its more important positions: quarterback and “A” back. Senior T.J. McArthur will be at either quarterback or at “A” back where he would be a three-year returning starter. He is competing for the starting quarterback job with senior Rahmere Hutchinson. There’s also senior Ruben Lizardi, junior Mike Angrosina and junior Bruce Morris at “A” back.
“We are, at the very least, two deep in all those spots,” Currie said. “At “A” back we have possibly four who could play at the varsity level and even a freshman who can be pretty good.”
Big Shoes to Fill: Rahmere Hutchinson or T.J. McArthur, QB
Whoever emerges as the starting quarterback will take the place of Anthony Albanese, who last year as a senior threw for 1,210 yard and nine touchdowns, ran for 506 yards and four touchdowns and was a third-team All-Shore selection.
X-Factor: Offensive line
Brick Memorial won’t deploy the biggest offensive line but the triple-option offense doesn’t exclusively require brute strength and hulking linemen. In an offense that uses misdirection and deception, quickness and technique from the guys up front is plenty to get the job done. Juniors Evan Gillen and Colin Mullahey are returning starters at left tackle and left guard, respectively. Senior David Szuba is the center, senior Brian Halloran is the right guard and senior Kyle Kohlmann is the right tackle.
Friday, Oct. 2 – at Donovan Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9 – vs. Southern, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 16 – at Lacey, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 23 – vs. Toms River East, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30 – vs. Toms River South, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 7 – at Brick, 1 p.m.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.