Camp Reports: Keansburg, Raritan

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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.

The race to replace quarterback Frank Soleo is between senior Brandon Manzo and the most aptly named QB in the Shore, junior Greg Passmore, with Passmore having the edge right now. The quarterback is crucial in Keansburg’s shotgun spread, so that is a position to keep an eye on as far as who wins the battle.

Also, in the “only in Group I” department, Connor Curtis is converting from the offensive line to tailback this year, although he only weighs about 160 pounds. An athlete to watch is senior Jamie Coles, who will be at wideout and in the secondary. He may be Keansburg’s big-play threat, which they have lacked for a few seasons since the days of the Lagunas, Scott Pillar, Josh Bakala and Anthony Valle. Brian Woods is also a tall, lanky player from the basketball team who could help out offensively.

A newcomer to keep an eye on is sophomore Bradley Baker, who is 6-1, 220, and will be at offensive and defensive tackle. He already is distinctive, considering he shaved his head and his eyebrows. He looks like Charlie Villanueva’s long-lost cousin. They also have a junior, Matt Smith, who grew up in Keansburg, moved to Florida for high school, and has returned. He should see time at safety.

Overall, they like what they see early on from the skill positions and may have some playmakers, but it’s really an unknown because there is almost an entirely new starting lineup.

Their numbers are also down as there are only 30 players in the program, down from the usual 45-50 range, so depth certainly is a concern. The good news is that they have a schedule that should help them be competitive between the small-school Class B Central and the GMC crossover games.

It was also good to see veteran offensive coordinator Tom O’Keefe back in one piece. About a month ago, he contracted MRSA, a dangerous infection, in his right thigh that put him in the hospital, where he was given strong antibiotics to prevent it from spreading into his blood, which could then have possibly resulted in having to amputate his leg. Unfortunately, it also forced him to call off a family cruise to the Bahamas, so the timing was nearly as bad as the infection.

There’s probably nothing that scares me worse than losing a limb. I absolutely can’t afford to have any amputations or missing limbs and then have to introduce myself to people as Scott Stump with a straight face.

I took the trip from ‘Burg around the corner to Raritan, which has a new head coach in former defensive coordinator Anthony Petruzzi, who also played at Raritan in the late 1990s. He takes over for one of the Shore Conference’s top coaches in Bob Generelli, who recently was approved as a vice principal at Raritan and will no longer be coaching other than being a sounding board and resource for Petruzzi. Generelli was slated to be the offensive coordinator before he was approved in his new position just this Monday night after the first official day of camp.

Petruzzi was originally going to handle the defense along with the head coaching duties, but with the change, he said he will now take over the play-calling duties and is “learning on the fly.” Veteran assistant John Principe will now be the defensive coordinator. It definitely was a strange sight seeing Generelli on Friday in a shirt and tie working his way into his new position instead of mesh shorts, a T-shirt and a pencil behind his ear, but you certainly can’t fault him for taking the position to help better his family. I didn’t get a chance to ask him if being away from football is killing him yet, but I’m sure he will still be a resource for Petruzzi, who played under Generelli.

As for the on the field stuff, it’s the post-Bennett Jackson and Jesse Raymond era, and this offense will not be as star-driven and will be more diverse. It will be tailback by committee, led by senior Max DeNardo, who saw time last year, and fullback Sean Bowe. Perhaps the biggest X-factor is the new starting quarterback, senior Jared Gurczeski, who has a strong arm and may surprise some people, especially because he has a three-year starter at wideout, Tim Pizanie, and another good athlete who starred on defense last year, senior Kevin Furlong, to throw the ball to. Senior Anthony Bayer, who has been banged up in the preseason, also should be a receiving threat at tight end.

Clearly, the strength of the offense is the offensive line, especially the left side. I pity the defensive linemen who have to deal with the tandem of 6-foot-7, 280-pound left tackle Shane Mertz, a Northwestern recruit, and 6-foot-3, 280-pound Delaware recruit Christian Marchena at left guard. Good luck slowing down that wall of humanity.

Defensively, the linebackers should be solid with Bayer and Tyler Murphy returning despite losing leader Marc Cogliano to graduation. Also, in the Raritan tradition, they have a way undersized defensive end who plays bigger than he is in senior Rene Moore, who is one to watch. Furlong is back at safety to anchor the secondary after a strong junior season there that included two interception returns for touchdowns in a state playoff win over Long Branch.

The transition to Petruzzi from Generelli from the players’ angle looks to be fairly seamless. This is kind of a quintessential Raritan team. No major stars outside of the two offensive linemen in the trenches, a scrappy attitude and a team that relishes being the underdog. They know that Matawan is the clear favorite in Class A Central, but they like being able to sneak up on people as opposed to having the huge expectations that come with having players like Raymond and Jackson lighting it up offensively. The main question is the offense. When you lose a 1,500-yard rusher and a game-breaker like Jackson, who is now at Notre Dame, that’s a lot to replace, and now Petruzzi is stepping in late in the game as the offensive coordinator, so we’ll see how that unit progresses.


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One Response to “Camp Reports: Keansburg, Raritan”

  1. Curt Says:

    for the keansburg section of the article the player that is transfering from offensive line to tailback is NOT kevin mount that players nameis connor curtis

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