Area football team ready to start 2010

first_img High school football season openers are a week away as all three Middletown teams wind down their productive pre-seasons. Middletown High School South running back Scott Meeker finds some daylight during the Eagles’ preseason scrimmage with Sayreville on Aug. 30 in Middletown. The Eagles, 11-1 last year, kick off the 2010 season on Sept. 11 at home against Ocean Township. Start time is 1 p.m. JEFF GRANIT staff Middletown South, which plays host to Ocean on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m., looks to return to the NJSIAA Group III Central championship game for the fifth time in six years, ending an 11-1 season in 2009 in a 30-10 playoff championship game loss to Monroe. Its last state title was in 2006. Middletown North, which opens at North Brunswick on Sept. 11 at 1 p.m., lost a Group IV state playoff opener to Sayreville, 20-0. It lost four games in a 5-5 season to the state playoff semifinalists. Mater Dei, which became a prep school last month, lost only seven players from a 1-9 season as it prepares for a Sept. 10 opener at Middlesex starting at 7 p.m. under new coach and school principal Steve Sciarappa. Middletown High School South’s Tim McArdle makes a finger-tip catch during the Eagles’ home scrimmage on Aug. 30 against Sayreville. The Eagles, 11-1 in 2009, open the season at home on Sept. 11 against Ocean Township. Kickoff is 1 p.m. JEFF GRANIT staff Middletown South There will be five new starters on each side of the ball as coach Steve Antonucci rebuilds the offensive line and replaces leading player Sean Campbell, an inside linebacker who is at Georgetown, and defensive lineman Nick Bricker, who is at the College of New Jersey. The team moves into Shore Conference A South against Howell, Manalapan, Freehold Township and Middletown North after playing in the Federal Division. “Defensively, we’ve played pretty well and tackled well, but offensively, we have new people up front,” said Antonucci. Scott Meeker returns at quarterback and Antonucci said he “has a better grasp of what we’re doing” in the triple-option offense. “He’s athletic and will be a huge part of our offense this year,” said the coach. Meeker is also the punter. Taylor Rogers, a senior wide receiver, caught 10 touchdown passes last year. Kyle Bunge, a senior fullback, scored 16 touchdowns last season, and junior Tim McArdle also will run the ball as well as senior Andrew Suarez, who becomes a two-way player this year. Suarez returns at cornerback for a defensive backfield that is the most experienced area of the team. Seniors Tom Massey and Rick Lovato are the only offensive linemen who started last season. “The key is to stay healthy because we have so many young and new starters, and to get our offensive line up to par,” said Antonucci. Senior David Elkhatib is ready to start his third season at cornerback, and Matt Saulnier is an experienced starter at linebacker. Connor Ryan kicked well for the team last year as a freshman. Middletown North Senior quarterback Frank Derise and senior offensive guards Tyler Svenson and Jake Smith (the biggest starter at 6 feet 1 inch and 250 pounds) lead a young, inexperienced team by replacing six starters on each side of the ball. “The guards are key players we need to be successful,” said coach Joe Trezza, who also looks to senior Rob Mercante’s experience at left tackle. “We need to hold together until the younger guys come along.” Junior Joe Racciopi, a starting cornerback last season, moves over to offense where he will run the ball with sophomore Austin Borrero and fill the void left by graduated 1,000-yard rusher Sean McKee, who is at Kean University. Senior Shilique Calhoun has experience at tight end. Junior Jesse Fredericks, who started at safety, has practiced well at wide receiver along with sophomores Robert Spinelli and Nick Welsh. “Derise has gotten a lot better and is throwing a lot better,” said Trezza. “He has the ability to stretch the field, which will help us out.” As for the defense, Trezza said it “has a long way to go,” where graduated linebacker Ryan Wagner led the team in tackles. Senior T.J. Sherank is at strong-side linebacker, and sophomore Chris Stark will play in the middle, while senior Sean Mac- Donald, sophomore Dominick Pedone and Borrero are vying for the weak-side spot. Smith and Calhoun are back on the defensive line and junior Vin Morris and sophomoresMatt Gollucio and Kyle Gebhardt are competing hard for playing time. Senior Brian Crosby looks sharp at end but the other spot is wide open. While Racciopi starts at one cornerback spot, senior Shawn Fountain and sophomore Cody Thompson are vying for the other spot. Senior Joe Meehan is the other safety with Fredericks. Senior Dave Uster is handling the kicking and punting. Mater Dei Sciarappa, who succeeds Ron Raymond after serving three years as an assistant and coaching previously as an assistant at Central Regional and Monsignor Donovan, reports the largest roster in recent years at 30 strong; a solid turnout for a school with 300 students. There will be sophomore and freshman games as well as junior varsity games scheduled for this season. Players have high-tech tablets for their plays in what Sciarappa calls a “much more collegiate approach.” But whether that helps add to the wins after last year’s team staved a winless campaign with a 7-0 state playoff consolation victory over Newark Academy depends on whether the team masters the option offense. Junior Jesse Meyer may see more action at running back than at quarterback this year where senior Parker Lampa may take over that spot. Senior Mark Sudziarski, the workhorse in carrying the ball last year, is complemented at fullback by seniors Casey Malloy and Mike Eckhart. Elijah Dumont, a 6-foot-4 sophomore “with a lot of potential,” says Sciarappa, looks to replace grad- uated receiver A.J. Knutsten, who had the most catches. A lot depends on how the line develops behind center Kevin Quinn, who will be starting for the fourth year, and Dwight Sheehan, the biggest lineman at 6 feet 2 inches and 220 pounds who shows good footwork. “The No. 1 thing is that we can’t beat ourselves and we have to play smart football,” said Sciarappa. “Our defense is coming along but it’s very conservative.” The defense will be an odd front set but an area of concern since Sheehan and junior Mike Miles at the end spots are the only certainties. Quinn and Molloy are the linebackers. Cornerbacks are Meyer and Sudziarski, who also handles the kicking game. Lampe and Eckert are the safeties. Eckert is also the punter BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent last_img

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