Young Guns: 2021 Ocean Township High School Football Preview
Considering the obstacles Ocean had to overcome in 2020, its final record of 3-3 left the Spartans with plenty of optimism heading into this season.
Ocean’s only scrimmage was canceled because of a COVID outbreak among its opponent. Then, its season-opener vs. Matawan was canceled for the same reason. By the time the third week of October rolled around, the Spartans were 0-2 having played two formidable squads that would go on to finish ranked in the final Shore Sports Network Top 10.
With not much going right, head coach Don Klein learned some things about his young players that bodes extremely well for this season. They bounced back strong the following week with a win over Red Bank, then defeated St. John Vianney to even their record. After a loss to a potent Rumson squad, Ocean closed its season with an impressive win over a talented Manchester team.
After the early-season adversity, the Spartans won three of their final four games. With 12 returning starters and some potential stars among them, Ocean is banking on a bounce-back season.
Seven starters return in Ocean’s spread offense that averaged 20 points per game last season. Junior Tyler Douglas will be entering his second year as the starter and his third year as a varsity player after serving as the kicker and punter as a freshman. He threw for 584 yards and five touchdowns last season and at 6-foot-2 and approaching 200 pounds the Spartans have high expectations for him as a dual-threat quarterback.
Senior Christian LaRosa returns as the starting running back while senior Nick Martinez and junior CJ Flannigan are returning starters at wide receiver. Senior Geter Benitez is also in the mix at wide receiver. Like Douglas, junior Shane Garrett has breakout potential. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior is a returning starter at tight end.
The offensive line will be working in three new starters. Senior Nick Atchison (6-foot-1, 210) is a returning starter at left guard and sophomore Nick Caruso (6-foot-2, 265) is back as the center after starting as a freshman. Senior Anthony DiDario (6-foor-1, 210) is the right tackle, junior Edwin Garcia-Tellez (5-foot-10, 200) is the right guard and sophomore Tom Iacouzzi (6-foot-, 210) is the left guard.
The Spartans will run a multiple 40 defense that hopes to improve on the 25.3 points per game it allowed last season. Five total starters return from last season. Junior Ben Trench is a returning starter at defensive end and Garrett is a returning starter at defensive tackle. Junior Jayceon Webster (6-foot-2, 220) is the other defensive tackle and senior Ethan Brandimarte is the other defensive end. Garrett and Trench both recorded three sacks last season.
The three linebackers will all be first-year defensive starters. LaRosa is the elder statesman of the group and will play outside linebacker, while sophomore Ben Girard is the middle linebacker and sophomore Will Canavan is the other outside linebacker.
The secondary is experienced with three of the four players having started last season. Martinez is a returning starter at cornerback and junior Caleb Thompson will line up on the opposite side. Flannigan returns as the starting strong safety and Douglas is the returning starter at free safety. Flannigan (43) and Douglas (40) are the team’s leading returning tacklers and Flannigan also intercepted two passes.
Ocean will call the Constitution Division home this season. While Red Bank Catholic is the elephant in the room, the likes of Raritan, Manasquan and Red Bank Regional should make for competitive matchups every week.
At a Glance
Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)
Returning starters: 7
QB: Tyler Douglas, Jr., RS
RB: Christian LaRosa, Sr., RS
WR: Nick Martinez, Sr., RS; CJ Flannigan, Jr., RS; Geter Benitez, Sr.
TE: Shane Garrett, Jr., RS
LT: Nick Atchison, Sr., RS
LG: Tom Iacouzzi, So.
C: Nick Caruso, So., RS
RG: Edwin Garcia-Tellez, Jr.
RT: Anthony DiDario, Sr.
Defense: Multiple 40
Returning starters: 5
DE: Ben Trench, Jr. RS
DT: Shane Garrett, Jr., RS
DT: Jayceon Webster, Jr.
DE: Ethan Brandimarte, Sr.
OLB: Christian LaRosa, Sr.
MLB: Ben Girard, So.
OLB: Will Canavan, So.
CB: Nick Martinez, Sr., RS
CB: Caleb Thompson, Jr.
SS: CJ Flannigan, Jr., RS
FS: Tyler Douglas, Jr., RS
K: Tyler Douglas, Jr., RS
P: Tyler Douglas, Jr., RS
Head coach: Don Klein, 15th season
Career record: 79-59-1
Team record last five years:
Assistant coaches: RJ Read (Offensive Coordinator): Phil Greene (Defensive Coordinator); Rich Read (OL); Dean Athans (WR/DB); Jason Wombaugh (OL/DL); Sam Kinningham (OL/DL); Jim Simonelli (Special Teams Coordinator/DB); Kaitlin Zimmerman (Athletic Trainer).
Player to Watch: Tyler Douglas, Jr., QB/FS/K/P
Douglas has been a starter since his freshman year when he was Ocean’s kicker and punter. He took over as the starting quarterback last season and made strides toward being the kind of player Ocean envisions. Head coach Don Klein and his staff have high expectations for the talented dual-threat quarterback, who holds a scholarship offer from Monmouth University.
Player Under the Radar: Shane Garrett, Jr., TE/DT
Garrett, who is the son of Kean University head coach Dan Garrett, had a very good sophomore season and is expected to be a key player on both sides of the ball.
Impact Newcomer: Tom Iacouzzi, So., OL/DL
The 6-foot, 200-pound sophomore will play left guard and is one of four sophomores who earned starting jobs for the Spartans.
Top Position Group: Skill Players
With Douglas at quarterback, LaRosa at running back, and Martinez and Flannigan as wide receivers, Ocean has four returning starters to lead its offense.
Big Shoes to Fill: The Wide Receivers
While two of the three wideouts are returning starters, they will be tasked with replacing the production of Chris Carasia, who was a second-team All-Shore selection last season and is a current freshman at Lafayette College.
X-Factor: The Offensive Line
The development of the offensive line, which has two returning starters and three newcomers, will be critical to Ocean’s success.
Friday, Sept. 2 – vs. Matawan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Raritan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – vs. Manasquan, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24 – at Red Bank, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 1 – at Brick, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – vs. Red Bank Catholic, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15 – vs. Long Branch, 7 p.m.