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At this point last year, Freehold Township was like every other football team around New Jersey, yearning for normalcy but happy to be playing football in the midst of a pandemic, especially those competing in their senior year. Things started off great for the Patriots with victories in each of their first two games, but then things began to go downhill.

After the 2-0 start, Freehold Township lost its final three games and had three others canceled because of Covid exposure/protocols. And in those final three games the Patriots lost by an average of 36 points, finishing the year in the bottom five of both points scored and points allowed.

After three straight solid seasons that included the program’s first playoff victory, the Patriots have struggled with just four wins over the last two years. But with multiple returning starters on both sides of the ball and some promising underclassmen, Freehold Township is hoping to return to contending for a playoff spot.

Freehold Township’s offense will be a little more Spread and a little less Air Raid this season as head coach Cory Davies looks to implement more of a ground game, but senior quarterback Ryan Jackson will still be slinging it with regularity. Jackson started one game at quarterback last season and takes over as the starter to begin 2021. The 6-foot-2, 215-pounder will have one returning starter to throw to in the form of senior Giacomo Calamita. Seniors Matt Carney, Aiden Greenberg, and Anthony Pontecorvo and juniors Anthony Long and Shawn Corchado round out the group of wide receivers.

Joe Juarez (72), Ryan Jackson (14), Giacomo Calamita (13), Shawn Mesia (55), Jaden Morales (24), Devin Olesin (1).
Photo by Richard O'Donnell.

Seniors Devin Olesin (5-foot-9, 180) and Jaden Morales (6-foot, 220) started on defense last season and will now start as running backs, as well. Call it a slash and bash tandem if you will. Senior Ryder Anagnos is also in the mix at running back.

Junior Nick Benjamino is another player who started on defense last year who will now move into a starting position on the offensive side as a tight end.

The strength of the offense should be an all-senior offensive line that returns four of five starters. Hunter Bernstein (6-foot, 235) is at left guard, Zach Krieg (6-foot, 200) is the center after starting two games last season, Shawn Mesia (5-foot-11, 190) is the right guard and Omar Francis (6-foot-3, 215) is the right tackle. The newcomer is senior Joe Juarez (6-foot-2, 230) at left tackle but he has varsity experience as a starting defensive end last season.

The defense was 42nd out of 43 teams in points allowed per game (33) last season so improving that number will obviously be a major focus.

Some starting spots are still up for grabs but Freehold Township does return six starters in its 4-2-5 alignment. Juarez at defensive end and Francis at defensive tackle anchor the defensive line. The other tackle and end spots have yet to be determined.

Benjamino and Morales are both returning starters at inside linebacker while Olesin slides down to start at one of the outside linebacker spots after starting at safety last season. The other outside linebacker position remains an open competition.

Pontecorvo started two games in the secondary last season and will start at free safety. The corners will be Calamita, Long and junior Filip Dereta.

Freehold Township will play in the Liberty Division this season with Central, Marlboro, Matawan and Neptune as division opponents. There isn’t a clear frontrunner among the group so if Freehold Township can turn around its defensive woes and get back to being a dangerous passing offense, the Patriots have as good a chance as any to be playing meaningful games late in the season.

 

At a Glance

Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)

Offense: Spread

Returning starters: 6

QB: Ryan Jackson, Sr., RS

RB: Devin Olesin, Sr.; Jaden Morales, Sr.; Ryder Anagnos, Sr.

WR: Giacomo Calamita, Sr., RS; Anthony Long, Jr.; Matt Carney, Sr.; Shawn Corchado, Jr.; Aiden Greenberg, Sr.; Anthony Pontecorvo, Sr.

TE: Nick Benjamino, Jr.

LT: Joe Juarez, Sr.

LG: Hunter Bernstein, Sr., RS

C: Zach Krieg, Sr., RS

RG: Shawn Mesia, Sr., RS

RT: Omar Francis, Sr., RS

Defense: 4-2-5

Returning starters: 6

DE: Joe Juarez, Sr., RS

DT: Omar Francis, Sr., RS

DT: Multiple players competing

DE: Multiple players competing

OLB: Devin Olesin, Sr., RS (played safety in 2020)

ILB: Nick Benjamino, Jr., RS

ILB: Jaden Morales, Sr., RS

OLB: Multiple players competing

CB: Giacomo Calamita, Sr.

CB: Anthony Long, Jr.; Filip Dereta, Jr.

FS: Anthony Pontecorvo, Sr., RS

Special Teams

K: Cody Wohlrab, Jr.

P: To be determined

 

STAFF

Head coach: Cory Davies, 7th season (30th overall)

Career record: 28-27 (133-151 overall)

Team record last five years:

2020: 2-3

2019: 2-8

2018: 5-5

2017: 8-3

2016: 7-3

Assistant coaches: Matt Hardison (OL/DB); Todd Bitsko (WR/LB); Todd Smith (WR/DB); Alex Mattina (OL/DL); Shane Laricy (RB/LB); Anthony Lotti (WR/DB); Vince Tesi (TE/DL); Ed Von Nessen (Defensive Assistant); Ryan Davies (Offensive Analyst); Gene Blanco (Freshmen); Jesse Heubel (Freshmen); Mike Verrochi (Special Assistant); Bill Dague (Quality Control); Derek Reichenbecher (Defensive Analyst); Rebekah Bernard (Athletic Trainer).

 

Player to Watch: Ryan Jackson, Sr., QB

The quarterback is the focal point in Cory Davies’ spread offense so if Jackson has a big year the Patriots will be in business.

 

Player Under the Radar: Giacomo Calamita, Sr., WR/DB

Calamita was a second-team All-Division selection last season and looks to be the top target for quarterback Ryan Jackson. He will also move into a starting role on defense at cornerback.

 

Impact Newcomer: Anthony Long, Jr., WR/DB

The junior will be in the wide receiver mix and is also slated to start on defense at cornerback

 

Top Position Group: Offensive Line

The Patriots have a group of experienced seniors in the trenches. A solid offensive line is a great foundation and Freehold Township has that heading into 2021.

 

X-Factor: Defense

Even if the offense makes major improvements it will still be hard to win games if the defense is giving up 30-plus points per game. The Patriots have to find a way to limit big plays and get off the field on third down.

 

Season Schedule

Thursday, Sept. 2 – at Middletown North, 6 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 10 – vs. Freehold, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 17 – vs. Central, 6:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 25 – at Marlboro, 12 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 1 – vs. Matawan, 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 7 – at Neptune, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 15 – at Howell, 6:30 p.m.

 

 

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