Their Time is Now: 2021 Manasquan High School Football Preview
Last season, Manasquan’s football team was largely a collection of sophomores and juniors trying to build off a previous season in which they were thrown feet first into the cauldron of Shore Conference football.
The hope when fielding a very young team is that the experience will pay off when the group learns their lessons and becomes a cast of seasoned veterans. A hefty investment was made two years ago, and now it’s time for the Warriors’ seniors to cash out.
A standout senior class leads a Manasquan team that is loaded with returning starters on both sides of the ball as the Warriors set out to bring another championship to the most decorated football program in the Shore.
“Many of our seniors were thrown to the fire as sophomores and they took their lumps,” said Manasquan head coach J. Price. “Last year we saw them mature a bit under some strong senior leadership. This year it’s their turn and they alone will determine how far we go.”
The 2020 season was a strong debut campaign for now-junior quarterback Brett Patten, who is back to pilot Manasquan’s Multiple-I offense that will also have some wrinkles under new offensive coordinator Justin Cella. Patten threw for 904 yards and 12 touchdowns last season and is a very good athlete who can make plays with his legs. Senior Cole Kozlowski is a true Swiss Army Knife type who will line up everywhere and could also see some time at quarterback.
The backfield is strong with senior Patrick Woodford and junior Jhamier Howard, both of whom are returning starters. Howard led Manasquan with six touchdowns last season. Kozlowski and senior Robert Pendergist, who will be a four-year starter this season, lead the group of wide receivers. Kozlowski is the Warriors’ top returning pass-catcher after hauling in 16 receptions for 285 yards and three touchdowns last season. Look for senior Dan Hyland, 6-foot-4 junior Jack Dettlinger, and seniors Mike Presbrey, Mike Antonucci and Shea Keating to also see reps at wide receiver.
The offensive line is a senior-laden squad led by returning starters Bob Marks (center) and JJ Cavanagh (right guard). Joe Franklin will be at left tackle, Ryan Burns will be at left guard and Ed Dingler will be the right tackle. Seniors James O’Brien, Spencer Muly, and Cam Price, junior James Gilmore and sophomore Noah Mammeri will provide depth. The tight ends are juniors Matt O’Donnell and Cael Driscoll.
Manasquan was 15th in the Shore in scoring last season (22.9 points per game) and with the collection of talent the Warriors return they have a chance to be a dynamic, dual-threat offense that will be a load to handle.
The same collection of players back on offense also comprise a defense that finished No. 10 in the Shore last season allowing 15.5 points per game. A strong and experienced defensive line features Cavanagh and Marks as the defensive tackles with Jack Burns and Franklin as the defensive ends. Jack Burns had a team-leading four sacks last season and Franklin had three sacks.
Senior Dylan LeBlanc is coming off a spring season in which he earned first-team All-Shore lacrosse honors as a defenseman and returns as Manasquan’s middle linebacker. Senior Ryan Burns led the Warriors with 53 tackles last season and reprises his role as an outside linebacker. The other outside linebacker position has another lacrosse standout, senior Max Pauwels, competing for the job along with senior Ryan Deegan and sophomore Will Burns.
The defensive backfield looks to be another strong group with experience at every position. Pendergist and Woodford are returning starters at cornerback, Kozlowski is the strong safety and Howard is the free safety. Kozlowski intercepted three passes last season to lead the team.
Manasquan is aligned in the Constitution Division this season with Ocean, Raritan, Red Bank Catholic and Red Bank Regional. The Warriors’ schedule also includes a season-opening game at Middletown South, a nondivisional game with Toms River East and the annual Thanksgiving game against Wall.
All that matters is what happens on the field beginning Sept. 2, but the pieces are in place for Manasquan to add to its considerable championship coffer.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
QB: Brett Patten, Jr., RS; Cole Kozlowski, Sr.
RB: Pat Woodford, Sr., RS; Jhamier Howard, Jr., RS
WR: Robert Pendergist, Sr., 4RS; Cole Kozlowski, Sr., 3RS; Dan Hyland, Sr., Jack Dettlinger, Jr.; Mike Presbrey, Sr.; Mike Antonucci, Sr.; Shea Keating, Sr.
TE: Matt O’Donnell, Jr.; Cael Driscoll, Jr.
LT: Joe Franklin, Sr.; James O’Brien, Sr.
LG: Ryan Burns, Sr.; Spencer Muly, Sr.
C: Bob Marks, Sr., RS; Noah Mammeri, So.
RG: JJ Cavanagh, Sr., .RS; Cam Price, Sr.
RT: Ed Dingler, Sr.; James Gilmore, Jr.
DE: Jack Burns, Sr., RS; James O’Brien, Sr.
DT: JJ Cavanagh, Sr., 3RS; Ed Dingler, Sr.
DT: Bob Marks, Sr., 3RS; Noah Mammeri, So.
DE: Joe Franklins, Sr., RS; Matt O’Donnell, Jr.
OLB: Ryan Burns, Sr., 3RS; Cael Driscoll, Jr.
MLB: Dylan LeBlanc, Sr., 3RS
OLB: Max Pauwels, Sr.; Ryan Deegan, Sr.; Will Burns, So.
CB: Pat Woodford, Sr., RS; Mike Antonucci Sr.
CB: Robert Pendergist, Sr., 4RS; Luke Damen, Sr.
SS: Cole Kozlowski, Sr., 3RS; Dan Hyland, Sr.
FS: Jhamier Howard, Jr.; Jack Dettlinger, Jr.
K: Jack Dettlinger, Jr., RS
P: Dylan LeBlanc, Sr.
Head coach: J. Price, 11th season
Career record: 61-42
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: Pete Cahill (Defensive Coordinator); Justin Cella (Offensive Coordinator/QB); Jay Price Sr. (DB); Brian Lee (WR); Ed Kapalko (DL); Darrell Falkinburg (RB); Eric Howland (LB); Billy Bertscha (OL); Matt Voskian (DL); Rich Griffith (Freshmen); John Morris (Freshmen); Bruce Bresnahan (Director of Football Operations); Kevin Hyland (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Brett Patten, Jr., QB
Patten had a very good sophomore season with 904 yards passing and 12 touchdowns. He has the capability to develop into one of the Shore’s best quarterbacks, and if that happens Manasquan is going to have a very dangerous offense.
Player Under the Radar: Pat Woodford, Sr., RB/DB
The statistics page doesn’t do justice to Woodford’s value to Manasquan. Watch him live or put on the film, however, and it’s obvious how much he contributes. He can break long runs and also fight for tough yards inside, and on defense he is solid across the board as a cornerback. Woodford is the type of player championship teams need.
Impact Newcomer: Jack Dettlinger, Jr., WR/DB/K
There aren’t many spots not occupied by a returning starter but Dettlinger has a chance to make an impact outside of special teams where he served as Manasquan’s kicker last season. At 6-foot-4 he makes for a nice target in the passing game and a big body in the secondary.
Top Position Group: Skill positions
With Patten, Kozlowski, Woodford, Howard, and Pendergist, the Warriors are pretty stacked at the skill positions. There is great potential for the offense to be balanced in a way that will allow it to attack opposing defenses in a variety of ways.
Band of Brothers
The Burns Family is Manasquan, through and through, and this year’s team will have three Burns brothers stepping foot on Vic Kubu Warrior Field. Senior twins Ryan and Jack Burns are returning starters while sophomore Will Burns is in the mix at outside linebacker and is also a running back.
Cole Kozlowski has a whopping six positions listed next to his name. Six! The senior is an invaluable piece of the puzzle for Manasquan because the coaching staff can basically ask him to do anything and he will do it well. Kozlowski will see snaps at Y, X and Z receiver, fullback, and quarterback on offense (and maybe even tight end) and will return as the starting strong safety on defense.
Friday, Sept. 2 – at Middletown South, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 11 – vs. Red Bank, 1 p.m.
Friday,. Sept. 17 – at Ocean, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 25 – vs. Red Bank Catholic, 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – at Raritan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 – at Toms River Eats, 6 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 26 – vs. Wall, 11 a.m.
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