Archive for August, 2010

Camp Reports: Mater Dei Prep, Jackson Memorial

August 31, 2010

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Stopped by a pair of camps today as the whirlwind continues, going from one of the smallest teams in the Shore, Mater Dei Prep, to Group IV Jackson Memorial.

I’ll start with the Seraphs, who now have the rare principal/head coach combination in Steve Sciarappa. He takes over for Ron Raymond, who was not brought back with his staff when the administration, including Sciarappa, decided to go in another direction. Sciarappa is Mater Dei’s third new head coach in three seasons at a program that ended a 29-game losing streak with a 7-0 win over Newark Academy in its NJSIAA consolation game last year. By the way, it’s “Mater Dei Prep” now officially, as they have changed the curriculum and other aspects to become a college preparatory school. All their gear already has “Mater Dei Prep” on it, so I’ll go with that.

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Camp Report: Freehold

August 30, 2010

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Took a trip up to Raritan today to get a look at visiting Freehold and came away very impressed. Matawan is going to have its hands full in the season opener in a nondivisional game against the Colonials, who have the chance to have a big season.

Mark Ciccotelli’s crew moved the ball at will against the Rockets and looked very fast defensively. Granted, the defenses played by both teams are going to be vanilla in the preseason, but Freehold has great size and skill up front on both sides and some good skill talent in the backfield. Their size up front presents an intriguing match-up with Matawan, which has all-world skill players but an offensive line that is smaller than last year’s and relatively inexperienced.

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Mega-Preseason Camp Report – Matawan, Keyport, TRS and More

August 28, 2010

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I hit a couple scrimmages and camps in the last few days and did some writing on top of it, so I’m pretty much throwing it all in a blender here.

I’ll start with Matawan, which returns all of its top skill players from last year’s NJSIAA Central Jersey Group II champions and has added some more to the arsenal. The Huskies look like the preseason No. 1 team in the Shore Conference, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

I watched the Howell-Matawan scrimmage on Friday morning and here are some notes from that about the Huskies and Rebels.

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Camp Report: Manasquan

August 26, 2010

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I only hit one camp today as I am trying to knock out some more full preview stories for you to read before I hit a bunch more camps in the next two days.

I took a trip to last season’s Central Jersey Group II finalist, Manasquan, which is “a work in progress,” as head coach Pete Cahill put it. The “progress” at Manasquan usually culminates with a game on the first weekend of December, as they have won more state sectional titles (11) than any team in Shore Conference history. They won CJ II in 2008 and fell to Matawan, which is geared up for another run this year, in last season’s final.

Clearly they lost some studs. Linebacker/defensive end Dan Sullivan, and wide receiver/defensive backs Ryland McTighe and Neal Sterling were all first-team All Shore Media selections who have graduated, and they were just the headliners from a strong group of players. They also lost lineman Rob Forst, the younger brother of former Squan star and starting Rutgers offensive lineman Art Forst. The younger Forst also went on to sign with the Scarlet Knights, but he has since quit the team. The good news is that the talent well is far from dry in Warrior-land.

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Camp/Scrimmage Update: TRE, Ocean, Rumson-FH

August 25, 2010

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Stood out in the rainy weather on Tuesday to check out a couple of scrimmages involving some teams I am previewing – Toms River East, Ocean and Rumson-Fair Haven and learned some things about each team. As for the scores of the scrimmages, don’t ask me. I pretty much don’t care. I just look at individuals and how certain units performed (i.e., can this secondary cover a fast group of receivers? Can this O-line match that physical D-line? That sort of stuff).

I’ll start at Dvorak Field down at Toms River East, which scrimmaged Ocean in the morning in an annual scrimmage between two perennial playoff teams. As we all know, the Raiders graduated running back Nico Steriti, the All Shore Media Offensive Player of the Year in 2009, but they return his younger brother, Mario, who has been a starter since his freshman year and is now a junior. It was hard to get a gauge on the Raiders’ offense in the scrimmage because Mario sat out with a blood blister on his heel, but I did come away with a few things.

New quarterback Joe Clarizio, a senior, gives the Raiders more of a running threat at QB than last year’s quarterback, Charlie Diskin, the son of the head coach, who was more of a dropback passer. Clarizio is a running threat when he breaks the pocket and has a solid arm. He hit returning wideout Cory Cardini for a nice gain down the field on a rollout and also showed some elusiveness.

They don’t really have that big, bruising back in the run game, as it’s more of a selection of smaller, scatback types in their multiple wing offense. The offensive line lost some standouts and is all new, but they always seem to be able to find new guys to plug in and succeed in that area.

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Camp Reports: Monmouth Regional, TR North

August 24, 2010

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Dropped in on a  pair of camps on a rainy Monday, hitting Monmouth Regional early and then popping over to Toms River North in the afternoon.

Monmouth once again has a very tough schedule as a member of the newly created Class B North, and its primary strength will be its skill players in the backfield. Running back Davonte Thomas, who transferred to Monmouth from Asbury Park before last season, is back as a senior along with Matt Showanes and Shayne Henderson, the latter of whom missed all of last season with a torn ACL after a promising sophomore campaign. Those are three players who are a threat to run for 100 yards in a game, which is a luxury.

Just think about the running backs in B North for a minute. It’s ridiculous. Long Branch has Miles Shuler (a QB but obviously a dangerous runner), Karon Hair and Dwight Clark, Neptune has Charles Davis, Ikie Calderon, and David Gutzmore, Freehold has Derrick Bender, Willie Thomas and more, Red Bank Catholic has Andrew Casten, Mike Dorsi, Chris Donald and more, Ocean has Kevin Rogers and Greg Moore, and Monmouth has that trio. Only Colts Neck is a little bit of an unknown in that department. But just making All-Division at running back out of that group is going to be quite an accomplishment.

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Camp Reports: Wall, Manalapan

August 21, 2010

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Took a trip out west to Manalapan today to catch the Braves after their intrasquad game, and this team has the highest preseason expectations of any Braves team since the days of Cory Brooks at the turn of the millennium. Manalapan has never won a state sectional title, with its only appearance in a final coming when it lost to Brick Memorial in the Central Jersey Group IV championship in 2003. This is one of its better chances to change that history in recent memory.

The Braves return 18 starters, including Rutgers-bound senior quarterback Mike Bimonte, 1,000-yard rusher Josh Firkser, and four out of five starters on the offensive line. Senior Reggie Hodge-Grant is also a three-year starter who should be one of Bimonte’s primary targets at wideout. Essentially, this is a senior class that has mostly been on varsity since sophomore year, so this is the season it has been building up to.

As for Bimonte, I will have a separate feature on his rapid and tremendous improvement in such a short time, which resulted in the scholarship to Rutgers that he verbally accepted on July 30, so stay tuned for that in the next day or so.

The main news recently is that now-former head coach Tom Gallahue resigned the position because he was approved by the Board of Education for an assistant principal job at Manalapan in late July and he can’t be an administrator and a paid coach. That means that on Aug. 30, hopefully, either assistant Dom Lepore, the former head coach at Freehold Township, or assistant Eddie Gurrieri, who was the head coach at Manalapan before Gallahue, will most likely be approved as the new head coach. However, if they can’t get it done by Aug. 30, the next meeting isn’t until Sept. 27, so they would technically go the first three games or so without actually having a head coach. Gallahue will still be around the team, as he was on Saturday, so it’s kind of a murky area right now.

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Camp Reports: Keansburg, Raritan

August 20, 2010

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Visited another three camps today and will hit some tomorrow. I will have to get to the Wall camp report either much later tonight or tomorrow so be on the lookout for that. Bob Badders has also been down to Barnegat and will be hitting a bunch next week, so I will have him post his take of some teams on the blog as well. I am hoping to start posting full preview stories on Sunday when I have some time to write and maybe even later tomorrow after I see some teams early in the day.

I also will be doing an Ocean County swing through the Toms Rivers, Manchester and a few other places next week, so I will have the updates from them as well.

Friday was the Bayshore duo of Keansburg and Raritan along with Wall, the last of which is part of the new Class C Central that features Manasquan and Point Boro among others.

I’ll start with Da Burg, which has only one returning starter, two-way lineman Brian Haegele, who jokingly called himself the “Lone Ranger,” back from last year’s 5-5 squad. That’s the way life goes at a Group I school in a town that is one square mile, where depth is always a concern. You build up a big senior class and then you have to groom the younger guys. It goes in cycles. This year, the Titans only have seven seniors, so the bulk of the team will be sophomores and juniors, meaning that while this team certainly wants to win now, it’s really grooming for the next two seasons.

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Camp Reports: RBC, Midd. South, Midd. North/Coaching Change at Manalapan

August 20, 2010

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Before I get to the reports from Thursday, Manalapan is going to have a new head coach, as Tom Gallahue has stepped down after being approved as an assistant principal at Manalapan on July 26, which forced him to resign as coach because he cannot be an administrator and head coach, which was first reported by the Asbury Park Press. That means that an interim coach will be approved on Aug. 30 at the next Freehold Regional Board of Education meeting. The Braves have two former head coaches on their staff in Dom Lepore, who was Freehold Township’s head coach before stepping down after last season, and Eddie Gurrieri, who was Manalapan’s head coach before Gallahue took over in 2007. The position is open to candidates now, but you would think that someone from the current Manalapan staff would be elevated to ensure continuity, although I guess anything is possible.

Manalapan went 14-13 under Gallahue in three seasons and should be a contender for the Class A North crown this season behind Rutgers-bound quarterback Mike Bimonte. I guess we will find out if a change at the top this late in the preseason will have an affect on a talented team that has had several slow starts in the past few seasons.

Now, on to some quick reports from Thursday.

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Camp Reports: Asbury Park, Long Branch

August 19, 2010

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While I will have full previews of these teams up on the site in the coming days, here are some quick tidbits from the camps I visited on Wednesday:

The 2010 preseason camp tour started today with a trip to the three-time defending Central Jersey Group I champions, Asbury Park, which has a new/old coach, Matt Ardizzone, and only two starters returning on offense and defense.

Ardizzone was the offensive coordinator for the last three years under former head coach Don Sofilkanich, who is now at rival Neptune, and was the head coach for one year in 2006 after being approved only two days before the season started following the controversial ouster of former coach Joe Stinson.

He is working with a whole new group for the most part, as stars like George Stephens, Jamar Small and Lamar Davenport have all graduated. This year will be the biggest test to see if Asbury Park has truly built a program that can win year in and year out or if the last two classes were just the best to come along in more than 20 years at Asbury.

The main news is that the team recruited its starting quarterback, senior Jayvon Britt, from the basketball team. Britt played football as a freshman, but this will be his first and only season of varsity football and he has big shoes to fill, as Small was one of the Shore’s top quarterbacks last season. Britt is a point guard on a basketball team that has won consecutive CJ I titles, so he has experienced pressure situations. Ardizzone said that he and the coaches leaned on Britt to play in order to fill the void at quarterback, and Britt will now helm the Delaware Wing-T attack and is trying to pick it up as quickly as possible. Britt is also going to start at cornerback.

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