Toms River South is one of the shore’s landmark programs so you can be sure nobody associated with the Indians is happy with back-to-back 2-8 seasons. However, a talented sophomore class has eighth-year head coach Ron Signorino Jr. feeling better days are ahead, and if that group bonds with returning upperclassmen there could be some magic this fall at Detweiler Stadium.

As many as 10 sophomores could start or see significant action when South opens their season on September 7 at home against Red Bank, including quarterback Jack Huber, who took over the starting spot as a 13-year old freshman.

Huber is a 6-foot-3, 160-pounder who took his licks last season when he was forced into action early because of injuries, but he improved greatly as the season went on and returns as a much more confident leader. He possesses a strong right arm but also will be a featured runner in the Indians' flexbone attack which, also includes senior A-Back Sam Akinlolu, who rushed for 675 yards and five touchdowns last season. Senior Sam Conover, a one-time quarterback, will now line up as a slot back and will be counted on to do just about everything. South is planning to become more of a two-platoon team with Conover and senior wide receiver Jorien Harris the only players likely to start on both sides of the ball.

Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images)
Photo by Paula Lopez/PAL Images)

As for the other offensive skill players, senior slot back Jalen Hibbert is one to watch if he can stay healthy. He has yet to step onto the field in a varsity game after suffering season-ending injuries during scrimmages as both a sophomore and junior but he has big-play ability. Also expected to get a chance to line up in the slot are junior Vinny Albanese and sophomores Louie Madama and Ryan Tobin. Harris will likely be Huber’s favorite target with the rest of the receiving corps made up of senior Dominic Samones and sophomores Tyler Madeo and A.J. Rutledge.

It’s up front that remains a big question mark as all five starters from last year were lost to graduation. The group expected to compete for starting positions includes senior Shane Coffee, juniors Mark Monochio, Ben Scrudato and Brandon Markle and promising sophomores Shane Watkins and Tyler Papiamitis.

It’s pretty much a rebuild with the defensive line as well with the exception of senior Kenney Johnson, who moves from starting linebacker to defensive end, and senior Keith Calloway, who will start at the other defensive end spot. Joining them up front will be seniors Jordan Jeffers, Anthony Townsend and Justin Bonilla and junior Joey Capriglione. The Indians are hoping that sophomore Chris Tine returns from an ACL injury by mid-September to add some depth to the defensive line.

The linebacking corps features returning senior starter Dominic Spedaliere in the middle while senior Darius Moses, junior Carlos Dominguez and sophomore Gerry Ferrigno battle for the two starting spots on the outside. The defensive backfield should be one of the strengths of the team with Conover (safety), and Harris (cornerback) leading the way. Sophomore Travis Squire is the other starting safety with seniors Damola Fasakin and Nayshawn Small and sophomore Dominic Cats vying for a starting spot opposite Harris at corner. Junior Josh Odebode and sophomore Anthony Jonin are also in the mix for time in the defensive backfield.

Spedaliere with be the punter while the do-it-all Conover will handle the placekicking duties and also serve as the long snapper.

Signorino said this has been one of the best training camps he has had in his tenure at South and loves the attitude and work ethic this team brings each day. He added, “They have been all-in from day one and show up each day trying to get better. It’s a very coachable group and guys are really stepping up to become leaders.”

South opens the season at home on September 7 against new Freedom Division rival Red Bank Regional and in Week 2 visits powerhouse Red Bank Catholic. Gone from the schedule are longtime rivals Brick, Brick Memorial, Jackson Memorial and Southern but they do maintain games with both Toms River North and Toms River East as well as longtime Thanksgiving Day opponent Lakewood.

At a Glance

Head coach: Ron Signorino Jr., eighth season

Career record: 29-42

2017 Record: 2-8

Coaching staff: Matt Martin (def. coord.); Kyle Austin (OL); Joe Kelly (LB); Bill Malast (DL); Jim Drackowitz (DL); RJ D’Anton (DB); Brian Elias (WR); Ron Signorino Sr. (RB); Ricky Maldonado (RB/strength and conditioning); Dennis Tobin (special teams/SB), Tim Jones (LB); Brett Hardie, Dave Fanslau, Trevor Signorino, Joey Meyers, Joe Rozelle (freshmen); Dan Crashewsky (athletic trainer).

Base offense: Flexbone

Base defense: 4-3

Big Shoes to Fill: The offensive line

Center Nick Florio anchored last year's senior-laden group, who have all moved on. How quickly this new group of five comes together might be the key to the season.

X-Factor: Jack Huber, Fr., QB/Sam Akinlolu, Sr., RB

It’s easy to pick the quarterback for this but how Huber goes will pretty much determine the success of an offense that only averaged 11.3 points per game last season. Akinlolu could be a 1,000 yard-rusher and if so will take some of the pressure off Huber.

Impact Newcomer: Jalen Hibbert, Sr., WR

Yes, he’s a senior but injuries have not allowed him to get on the field. If healthy he could provide a boost to the offense.

Pivotal Game: Sept. 21 vs. Toms River East

With all these sophomores, playing the likes of Red Bank, Red Bank Catholic and Long Branch in the first four weeks is a challenge. Week 3 at home against the Raiders is one South needs to get in the victory column.


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