Middletown schools kick off football season this weekend

first_img Former Middletown High School North and Monmouth University star defender Anthony Vazquez (#16) played for the Puerto Rico National Team in their friendly game with World Cup champion Spain. The Middletown native defended some of the best players in the world during the match that went to Spain, 2-1. Vazquez plays professionally with the Puerto Rico Islanders in the North American Soccer League. BILL DENVER EQUI-PHOTO When the NJSIAA added a fifth group classification—Group V— to its football playoff brackets, Middletown High School South coach Steve Antonucci and many others surrounding the program thought that would mean a move up from Group III to Group IV in Central Jersey for his team.“I thought originally we’d be in Group IV,” Antonucci said. “We’re the largest Group III (in Central Jersey). We still have a good amount of teams that have been in Group III, including (defending Central Jersey champion) Neptune and a lot of good Mercer County teams like Nottingham, Hamilton and Ewing.” Middletown South Long Branch High School, Manasquan High School and Holmdel High School have moved into Group III, according to Antonucci, who said that his team comes off a great, dedicated offseason program.“They got right into the weight room where we started seeing signs of improvement,” said Antonucci, whose team wrapped up a 7-3 season in 2011 with an opening-round state playoff loss to Northern Burlington County Regional High School.Crosstown rival Middletown High School North remains in Group IV and it lost prolific running back Joe Racioppi, who is off to a college career at Springfield College, but a solid supporting cast returns off last year’s 4-6 team.Both Middletown North and Middletown South play in the Shore Conference A North division, which added Colts Neck High School this season. Middletown South looks to regain the division title it won two years ago. Middletown North The Eagles and the Lions have a bye week during the opening week off the season and they will start their seasons the following weekend. Middletown North plays host to Brick Memorial High School on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m., while Middletown South travels to Brick Township High School on Sept. 15.Mater Dei High School (Middletown) has a good nucleus under third-year coach Steve Sciarappa after coming off a seasonending 35-29 victory over Keansburg High School on Thanksgiving for the team’s lone triumph in an injury-riddled 2011 season. That game has been moved this season to the Sept. 8 opener at Mater Dei, which plays in the Shore Conference B Central division.A closer look at the teams reveals: MIDDLETOWN SOUTH Mater Dei Junior Kyle Brey takes over at quarterback where his older brother, Howie, played before graduating in the spring and embarking on a baseball career atRutgers University.“[Kyle is] picking up the offense well,” said Antonucci. “He shows arm strength and is not fleet of foot, but he can help our running game.”Antonucci has introduced a “pistol” offense, a sort of spread set that shows one running back, three wide receivers and a tight end.Jake Ripnick, a senior who rushed for just under 1,000 yards last season, returns at running back and is joined by junior Jeremy Concepcion. Senior wide receiver Anthony Citarella looks like a leading target for Brey, as are juniors Andrew Wisialko and senior Eli Smith, who is a transfer from St. John Vianney High School who also can run the ball and start at cornerback. Taylor Hendrickson, a junior tight end, has drawn interest from NCAA Division I-AA teams. He also starts on defense at tackle.Antonucci said a young lineup held the Eagles back last season, but they showed signs of maturing later in the year. Staying healthy, especially on the lines, will be important for the team in 2012.Three starters return on the offensive line. Senior Mike Roibal, who is a 6-foot- 2-inch and 215-pound guard, will be joined by senior tackle Keith Wiley (6-3, 220) and senior center Dylan McCabe (5-10, 240), who is transitioning from the guard position. New starters are junior tackle Jon Low (6-0, 195) and sophomore guard James Wilson (6-4, 230).On defense, 5-foot-10-inch, 215-pound senior Derek Noah is breaking in at the other tackle spot in the 4-4 formation. Seniors Eric Maynes (6-3, 215) and Brandon Joseph (6-0, 200) are new starters at end. Senior Ryan Patterson is a returning starter at inside linebacker, but the other three players— senior Justin Chenoweth on the inside with senior Rob Martini and Concepcion on the outside—are new to the lineup.Citarella is in his third season starting at safety, while junior Drew O’Connell is the other cornerback.Senior Luke Lawson (6-1, 215), who plays on the offensive line, and junior Connor Spreen (6-0, 200), who plays at defensive tackle, are backups who will be ready when needed.Senior Connor Ryan, a senior, was one of the leading kickers in the Shore last season and he will also punt. MIDDLETOWN NORTH Cody Thompson, who started at guard for the school’s high powered basketball team during the 2011-12 season, is starting again at quarterback this year for the football team, where he throws and runs well. Senior JaredMosier is the leading running back, while seniors Rob Spinelli and Nick Welsh are back at wide receiver. Juniors Brandon Piccini and Jake Betkowski are expected to see a lot of action at wideout, as well.“They are picking things up a lot faster and it seems a lot smoother than in the past,” said Lions coach Joe Trezza, whose team started 0-3 in 2011 and then went on to win four straight games before losing at the cutoff to Shore Conference A South champion Southern Regional High School. Ironically, the Lions lost in the state consolation playoffs to A North Division newcomer, Colts Neck.“Offensively, we spread the ball around enough that it will be hard to key on us,” Trezza said. “Our defense looks good, especially up the middle.”Two starters return on the right side of the offensive line—seniors Anthony Migliaccio, a 6-foot-3-inch and 285-pounds guard, and 5-foot-11-inch, 140-pound tackle Tom Klemm. Seniors James Corr (5-7, 240) at guard and Pat Anderson (6-1, 220) at tackle are on the left side of the line, while the center will either be senior Nick Corrado (5-8, 215) or junior John Quinn (5-7, 235).Senior Mike Gallucci (6-0, 245) anchors the defensive line in the 3-4 formation at nose tackle, and senior Kyle Gebhardt (6-0, 235) is back at end. Senior John Bacci (6-1 215) starts at the other end. Returning starters Spinelli and senior Dom Pedone will play at outside linebacker and inside linebacker, respectively. Junior inside linebacker Dan Napolitano, who sat out last season, and either senior Nick Wallace or sophomore Troy Thompson will start at the outside linebacker spot. Piccini and Betkowski are the cornerbacks, while Welsh is starting again at safety alongside junior Ryan McMahonSophomore Nick Banta, who saw a little action kicking in 2011, will see regular duty there and as the punter this season. MATER DEI The graduation of last season’s starting quarterback, Jesse Meyer, opens the position to players looking to run the triple option. The Seraphs’ options are senior Mike Farrell, sophomore Christian Palmer and juniorDerrick Lopez, who is a transfer from Rahway High School who will start at defensive back.Junior Sam Miles is back at fullback, while the halfbacks will include the candidates at quarterback who do not start there and sophomores Vincenzo Mezzacappa and Pat Donohue. Sophomore Jay Mandile is one of the two wide receivers, while the offensive line returns all five starters with senior Shane Sullivan at center, juniors Matt Eckert and Ron Perez at guard, and senior Brendan Donnelly and junior Sean Fraser at tackle.Senior Andrew Alexis, at 5-feet-11- inches tall and 315 pounds, is a big presence at nose guard with Donnelly and Sullivan starting at end. Miles leads the linebackers. Farrell and Donohue are cornerbacks, while Lopez, Palmer and Mezzacappa will rotate as the two safeties. BY WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent last_img

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