Ryan Wydra @schoops1
It’s been eight months since the Middletown South Eagles last played a football game. This can definitely feel like eight months too long! The last time this Middletown South team suited up was in a 21-18 heartbreaking loss in the Central Jersey Group IV Championship Game. The Eagles battled all the way back from a 21-3 deficit, only to fall just short of defeating eventual champion Jackson Memorial. “It was a tough game, and we just can’t wait to get everything started and finish the job” said Middletown South Running Back Cole Rogers. For the Juniors and Seniors, this has been the motivation for the entire offseason. This group of kids have spent countless hours working on their strength and conditioning. They have put in the time to get stronger, faster, and more effective as players. Middletown South is going to play with a chip on its shoulder for the entire season. Head Coach Steve Antonucci will be looking to win the section for the sixth time in his coaching career. He is returning several starters on both sides of the ball. These veterans are willing to do whatever it takes to get that championship. Antonucci has one of the most experienced rosters at the Shore.
MIDDLETOWN SOUTH PREVIEW
Head Coach: Steve Antonucci (18th Season) 158-37
2014 Record: 9-3 Central Jersey Group IV Finalist
Key Returns: Matt Mosquera (SR QB/K) Cole Rogers(SR RB/CB) Dylan Rogers (SR MLB) Spencer Peerless (SR WR/DB) Thomas Coffey (SR WR/DB) Jeff Lewandowski (SR WR) Kyle Cuccia (SR DT) Joe Rutkowski (SR C) James McCarthy (JR RB/LB) Thomas Lopez (SR T) Ethan D’Arcy (SR TE/DE)
Key Losses: Pat Crowe (TE/DL) Sergio Gonzalez (LB) James Wilson (OL) Brian Joyce (OL) Nolan Pereless (DB) Dan Servidio (DL) Kyle Maynes (OL) Mike Splendio (OL) Dominic Tobacco (TE/DL)
Senior Captain Matt Mosquera returns as the teams’ starting quarterback. Mosquera is coming off a very productive season, passing for 1240 yards and five touchdowns. Mosquera has the ability to make big plays with his arm, and scramble when needed. Defenses must be aware of Mosquera’s athletic ability. If the defense gives him a little bit of room, they will pay for it in a big way. Mosquera is also a great leader and knows how to motivate his teammates. He is very positive in the huddle and can set the tone early in the game. The Eagles will lean on Mosquera to make this offense one of the best in the Shore. Sophomore Ben Kinsella, and Junior Brendan Donlon will compete for the No 2 job in training camp. Both players have a great skill set and will provide insurance for this offense. They can step in and lead the offense if needed.
NJSR had a chance to catch up with QB Matt Mosquera
Cole Rogers returns to lead the rushing attack in 2015. Rogers took the Shore by storm with an unbelievable season in 2014. Rogers was as dependable as they come this past season, carrying the load for the Eagles down the stretch. As a Junior, the star running back averaged 7.7 yards per carry and rushed for 1,867 yards. Cole was one of the best scorers in the Shore, finishing with 26 touchdowns. Rogers is an explosive back who can hit the hole like lightning. Before defenders know it, he is simply gone. He can also use his power and agility to get past the front seven of any defense. After that happens, he is still able to force safeties to chase him around. Cole has spent the past year working on his game. He has gotten stronger and faster. It will be difficult for anyone to stop him this year.
Cole Rogers stopped by to share his thoughts on the upcoming season.
Junior James McCarthy returns as the change of pace back for the Eagles. McCarthy rushed for 351 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2014. McCarthy is a big back at 6-1 who will contribute in short yardage situations. He can be a big threat in the red zone. McCarthy is there to take some of the pressure away from Mosquera and Rogers. Steve Antonucci will find plenty of ways to get him on the field.
Senior Eddie Pinto and Junior Joe Pignataro will also be in the mix to compete in camp. Junior Kevin Higgins will occupy the Fullback position. He will pave the way for Rogers and McCarthy as the lead blocker. Higgins can also pick up the tough yards to move the sticks.
The Eagles bring back a well rounded group of wide receivers. Middletown South likes to spread the ball around in their pistol offense. Mosquera will have plenty of options in the passing game. This group is led by three Seniors. Spencer Pereless is a reliable target for the team. Pereless knows how to get down the seam and use his speed to beat defensive backs. Pereless had 18 catches for 185 yards as a Junior. Senior Thomas Coffey will be another target for Mosquera. Thomas is a big target at 6’1″. Coffey will use his strength to make the tough catches over the middle. He is also very good at breaking away from defensive backs and getting that first down. Coffey had 21 catches for 389 yards in 2014. He will look to build on those numbers this season. Tom Marron will also look to be more involved in the passing game. Marron can play any of the receiver positions on the field. He is very effective on the outside, but can also be put on the inside routes. He will be clutch on a lot of big plays.
Jeff Lewandowski, Brian Higgins, and Danny Diodato will also get the opportunity to earn playing time in camp. These three receivers also have a lot of potential and the ability to really help the Eagles this season. This is a position that will serve the team well.
The Eagles will also get great results from the tight ends. This is also a position of importance because the team will rely on an extra blocker for their running formations. The Eagles are predominantly a running team. The tight ends will have to provide help when the running plays go to the outside. Senior Ethan D’Arcy can be a huge asset with his 6’4″ frame. D’Arcy is a strong blocker that can make things happen. Stephen Shannon will also get on the field for the Eagles. Shannon is a good all around end who can be used in both the blocking and receiving game. This will give Mosquera another target to work with in the offense. Sophomore Joseph Raim and Junior Bobby Burke will also battle for playing time. This will be another fun battle to watch in camp.
Middletown South returns a lot of veterans on the offensive line. This is another position of strength that will help the team dominate the clock. The power of this line will provide a lot of running room for Cole Rogers. Being able to win the battle at the line of scrimmage will give the Eagles a huge advantage each and every week. Joe Rutkowski will make the calls at the center position. Rutkowski brings a lot of size at 6’3″ and 270lbs, but is also athletic. He is very good at keeping defenders in check. Senior Tackle Thomas Lopez is also back on the line. Thomas is an experienced tackle that knows how to overpower defensive linemen. He can hold defenders down and keep them away from the ball carrier. He is a tough matchup for any defensive end in the league. Drew Chatfield returns at the other tackle position. Chatfield will also help anchor the line. He is another tackle who is athletic and instinctive. He knows how to protect the quarterback and do it well. Michael Wilson, Mike Walsh, and Frankie Settembrino will also compete at the guard position. Adam Markmann and Chuck McGrath will also be in the mix to add depth on the line. Coach Antonucci can go with a lot of different combinations on the line and be successful.
Defensively, Middletown South will look to build on their success from 2014. They are returning quite a few starters from last year. This is a unit that only gave up 8.3 points per game this past season. The Eagles also pitched six shutouts during that time. Leading the way on the defensive side of the ball will be middle linebacker Dylan Rogers. Rogers is a shutdown linebacker who can get to the play in a flash. He knows how to use his size and strength to shed blocks and find the ball carrier. He is also instinctive and can read plays before they are executed. Dylan had his best game of the year on the biggest stage. He had an amazing performance, finishing with 23 tackles in the Central Jersey Group IV Championship Game.
James McCarthy will be a great asset at the outside linebacker position. McCarthy can use his speed to rush the passer. He is also able to stay at home and make a play before it gets tot he outside. Senior Robert Hulse will also get the opportunity to man the other side. Hulse is a good all around linebacker who is strong against the run, but can also use his speed to keep up with tight ends in coverage. The Eagles will need him to step up in big games. Sophomores Jake Bancala and Chad Alezzi will also look to get some minutes by impressing the coaching staff in camp. Both these linebackers will look to get their first shot at the varsity level and may contribute on special teams.
The defensive line will also be a big part of this unit. The Eagles have a lot of versatility on the defensive line. Senior Ethan D’Arcy will provide a lot of speed off the edge. He will create a lot of problems for quarterbacks around the league. He is tough for any offensive lineman to block because of his agility. Sophomore Joseph Raim will also get the opportunity to make an impact. Raim has good size and can use his power to stop a play before it happens. Senior Kyle Cuccia and Junior Will Gulick will look to shut down plays at defensive tackle. Both these players can be a matchup nightmare for anyone. It will be hard for anyone to beat them in a one on one battle. Running Backs will also have a hard time getting through them. Adam Markmann and Chuck McGrath will also get a chance to contribute at the defensive tackle position.
The Eagles secondary is a force for any opposing team to deal with. This group can force a lot of turnovers by using their instincts to play the ball. This is a core that has great vision and awareness on the field. Middletown South has a lot of talent at the corner position. Cole Rogers is just as much of a force on the defensive side of the ball. He is very strong at press coverage and can run with receivers in the open field. Rogers can use his speed and awareness to overwhelm opponents. Juniors Joe Pignataro and Brian Higgins are battling for the other corner spot. They are both very talented and can keep receivers in check. They will be tough for receivers to beat deep. Spencer Pereless returns at the strong safety position. Pereless has great awareness and can read the quarterbacks eyes. Pereless can also provide help in the box to stop the run. Spencer is coming off a fantastic season for the Eagles. Junior Matt Salicco can help in coverage at the free safety position. Salicco will stop a lot of crossing and post routes from going the distance. Seniors Tom Marron and Thomas Coffey will also compete for playing time. Both safeties will take advantage of their opportunity. Middletown South will rely on the athleticism of this secondary to limit the big plays in 2015.
Everything is in place for the Eagles to have a great season. Middletown South has been waiting for camp to begin. The players have been counting down the days until they can get back on the field. Week 1 cannot come any sooner. South Brunswick will definitely have their hands full with a very experienced Eagles team. Seniors Matt Mosquera and Cole Rogers are ready to take their leadership to the next level. This is a very strong senior class that only has a state championship in mind. Middletown South may have the most complete team in the Shore, and they are ready for war in 2015!
We had a chance to talk with longtime Head Coach Steve Antonucci
MIDDLETOWN SOUTH SCHEDULE
9/11 At South Brunswick – 7PM
9/18 Vs Neptune – 7PM
9/25 vs Marlboro – 7PM
10/2 At Freehold Twp. – 630PM
10/9 vs Howell – 7PM
10/16 vs Manalapan – 7PM
10/23 At Brick Memorial – 7PM
11/7 At Freehold Boro. – 2PM
11/13 State Tournament/Consolation – TBD
11/26 vs Middletown North – 1030AM