Camp Report: Freehold

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E-mail: stump@allshoremedia.com

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.

Senior Sterry Codrington has converted from wide receiver to quarterback this year, and the Colonials are also now employing the shotgun in their flexbone offense, which makes Codrington more of a threat and gives him that extra split second to make his reads compared to when he is under center. He had several runs of over 40 yards on the day and looked very elusive. He won the QB job over junior Kevin Phillips, a strong-armed passer who saw significant time as a sophomore and who has since quit the team.

With a backfield of Derrick Bender, who has interest from Stony Brook and Lehigh, along with junior Jazzmar Clax and senior Marvin Morris, the Colonials have a diverse and fast running attack. They also have three Division I-AA caliber linemen who are all about 250 pounds or more in Brandon Weiss, Michael Kasten and Ryan Wytanis, who are all seniors. They are also all excellent students, drawing interest from the likes of Bucknell, Cornell, Columbia, Albany and Maine. Kasten, who looks about 6-5 and 270 (don’t have the official roster yet) in particular has looked great in the preseason, and he did some nice things going head-to-head against Delaware recruit Christian Marchena of Raritan on Monday.

There were five Division I linemen on the field between the three on Freehold, and Marchena and 6-foot-7 Northwestern-bound Shane Mertz for Raritan, so it was a chance to see some of the talented big guys go head to head. Kasten also reportedly manhandled Rutgers recruit Daryl Stephenson, a defensive tackle, in Freehold’s scrimmage against Sayreville last week, so he is one to keep an eye on. The main issue is conditioning, as all three will be playing both ways, and a few breakfasts were left on the field during the post-scrimmage conditioning on Monday. The three admitted that it is a work in progress when it comes to getting in shape to be on the field for a majority of the game.

Still, they will give Freehold some beef up front defensively in front of a good linebacking corps led by Clax. Bender, Codrington and others will be in the secondary as well, so that should be a solid unit.

A main area that could be a concern for the Colonials is depth. If they get a rash of injuries, they could be in trouble, especially with a brutal Class B North schedule that includes Ocean, Red Bank Catholic, Long Branch and Neptune and a nondivisional slate that includes defending Central Jersey Group II champion Matawan in the season opener.

The chemistry issues that plagued them last season when they went 6-4 on the heels of winning their first state title, Central Jersey Group III, in 2008, appear to be gone. The three linemen said they have actively sought advice from the leader of that 2008 team, The College of New Jersey sophomore quarterback Nick Tyson, for how they should lead the team this year and what it takes to build cohesion. This senior class has seen it all, from the highs of winning a state title to the dissension and infighting that led to a 6-4 season with a talented team that had high expectations. Now it’s their turn to re-establish Freehold as an elite team in the Shore, and they have the talent to do it.

As for Raritan, the Rockets have some kinks to work out offensively as they had trouble moving the ball much at all. I don’t think it was their best showing, particularly intensity-wise, but it’s better to have that happen in August than on the second weekend of September. They wanted to see a team with good speed and elusiveness to get ready to play New Brunswick in the season opener, and they certainly got that.

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