Sustaining Success: 2021 Toms River South High School Football Preview
Toms River South was one of the real surprises of the 2020 season and it started in Week 1 when it knocked off rival and No. 2-ranked Toms River North. The Indians would go on to post their first winning season since 2013 by going 6-2 and finishing No. 8 in the final Shore Sports Network/Jeep Store Top 10.
While the success might have been a surprise to those on the outside it was not to head coach Ron Signorino Jr. because of a strong senior class that had been together since they were freshmen. However, that group, which included Jack Huber, Gerry Ferrigno, Shane Watkins, Tyler Madeo and Ryan Tobin, has graduated so the big question is whether the Indians can replace them and post another winning season.
Signorino, who starts his 11th season at South, admits replacing the Class of 2020 will not be easy with only five starters back on offense and four on defense.
“We are inexperienced in most positions and the key for us being successful is getting all 22 players on the same page.” Signorino Jr. said. “We like our athleticism when it comes to the skill positions as well as both our offensive and defensive lines and hopefully that will help us make some plays.”
Senior Wyatt Sternberg was listed as a receiver last season on offense but he moves to quarterback and takes over the Flexbone attack that has been the Indians signature for many years. While inexperienced at the position, Sternberg measures 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds and has the physical tools to take over the offense, although it might take a game or two to get it rolling. In the backfield, look for senior running back Devin Raevis and junior Mikey Erli to get their share of carries along with slot backs Devon Bond (Jr.), Roy Pappalardo (Sr.) and Terrell Kelly (Sr.). When Sternberg or sophomore Jimmy Alexander takes to the air there are a pair of outstanding receivers in seniors Gavin Migliori (22 receptions, 313 yards) and Elijah Matellus.
Seniors Ryan Florio (6-foot-2, 230 pounds) and Justin Kozak (5-foot-10, 210 pounds) and junior Jimmy Brierly (6-foot, 190 pounds) are back to anchor the offensive line along with juniors Jimmy King and center Dave Lazarro. All have good size and the coaching staff has high expectations that this group will be one of the strongest on the team.
After allowing nearly 37 points per game in 2019 the defense cut that number in half last fall, which was a big part of the overall improvement. Only four starters return in Florio (DL), Sternberg (LB) and defensive backs Metellus and Raevis, both of whom are three-year starters. Up front, look for Kozak and King along with senior Manny Torres and junior Nico Crudup to make an impact while the new-look group of linebackers includes Erli and Alexander. The defensive backfield is solid with Kelly, Bond, Pappalardo and Migliori all in the mix along with the two returning starters. Three-year starter Camren Stein returns as both the kicker (19 XP, 1FG) and punter.
In what would have to be considered a move up, the Indians find themselves in the Freedom Division with district rivals Toms River North and Toms River East and a schedule that also includes longtime opponents Brick and Brick Memorial.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 2RS=2nd year returning, 3RS=3rd year returning)
QB: Wyatt Sternberg, Sr.; Jimmy Alexander, So.
RB: Devin Reavis, Sr.; Mikey Erli, Jr.
SB: Devon Bond, Jr., RS; Roy Pappalardo, Sr.; Terrell Kelly, Sr.
WR: Gavin Migliore, Sr., RS; Elijah Metellus, Sr.; Jake Pavero, Sr.; Dylan Lee, Jr.; Jordan Jones, So.
LT: Jimmy Brierly, Jr., RS; Manny Torres, Sr.
LG: Jimmy King, Jr.; Josue Tecelaro, Sr.
C: Dave Lazarro, Jr.; Noah Schmidt, Sr.
RG: Ryan Florio, Sr., RS
RT: Justin Kozak, Sr., 3RS
DL: Ryan Florio, Sr., RS
DL: Justin Kozak, Sr.
DL: Manny Torres, Sr.
DL: Jimmy King, Jr.
DL: Nico Crudup, Jr.
LB: Wyatt Sternberg, Sr., RS; Dave Lazarro, Jr.
LB: Mikey Erli, Jr,
LB: James Alexander, So.
CB: Terrell Kelly, Sr.; Gavin Migliori, Sr.; Dylan Lee, Jr.
CB: Elijah Metellus, Sr., 3RS
S: Devon Bond, Jr.; Jake Pavero, Sr.
S: Devin Raevis, Sr., 3RS
K/P: Camren Stein, Sr., 3RS
Head Coach: Ron Signorino, Jr., 11th year
Career record: 42-58
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Matt Martin (defensive coordinator/DB); Denis Tobin (Special Teams Coordinator/Slotbacks); Kyle Austin (OL); Bill Malast (OL); Ricky Maldonado (RB); Brian Elias (WR); Joe Kelly LB); Jim Dempsey (DL); Jim Drackwicz (DL); Vinny Arminio (DB); Freshmen coaches: Dave Fanslau, Brett Hardie, Joey Meyers; Athletic Trainer: Dan Crashewsky.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Mikey Erli, Jr., RB/LB and Devin Raevis, Sr., RB/S
Most of South’s yardage on the ground will likely come from these two who will share the “A Back” spot in the Flexbone offense. Both 185-pounders are not afraid of contact, which helps on the other side of the ball where they will start as well and be counted on to perform at a high level.
PLAYER UNDER THE RADAR: Wyatt Sternberg, Sr., QB/LB
Jack Huber (when healthy) played a lot of games during his South career and turned in his best performance last fall when he threw for over 1,000 yards and added a few hundred on the ground. Enter Sternberg, who saw some action as a receiver last fall but last played quarterback as part of an 8-1 freshmen team. At 6-foot-4, 215 pounds he can be a punishing runner and the Indians have confidence in his ability to throw it, as well.
IMPACT NEWCOMERS: Seniors
There is a large group of seniors who this fall get their first chance to contribute in a big way as they mostly played behind those who have since graduated. This group includes Noah Schmidt (OL), Roy Pappalardo (RB/DB), Terrell Kelly (RB/DB), Manny Torres (OL/DL), Jake Pavero (WR/DB) and Josh Gyimoti (WR/DB). With depth a question mark it’s vital that this group be ready to play.
X-FACTOR: Winning Tradition
The Indians are among the most storied programs in Shore Conference history but there have not been nearly enough times in recent years where the victory bell was rung. However, like last year these seniors were part of a winning freshmen program and following last season’s success South just may feel like they are a program back on the rise. An opening week matchup with longtime rival Brick will be important for both teams.
Friday, Sept. 3 – vs. Brick, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Toms River East, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – vs. Brick Memorial, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – vs. St. John Vianney, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 2 – at Freehold, 12 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – vs. Long Branch, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 – at Toms River North, 7 p.m.