2014 was a building year for the Wall Township Crimson Knights. Head Coach Dan Curcioine took over after being the teams’ defensive coordinator. Curcione was ready to use his strong leadership skills and experience to point this program in the right direction. While the first season had its share of ups and downs, the Knights were always a team that knew how to battle. Wall has a tough schedule in Class B North playing teams like Red Bank Catholic, Neptune, Ocean Twp, and Long Branch. The young Crimson Knights had to play through a lot of growing pains. The team continued to grow and make progress each and every week
There was one story that would be the highlight of the Knights season. On a cold October night in Brick, Wall Township pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Shore Conference history by defeating eventual Class A South Champion Brick 28-27 in overtime. In my 21 years of following Shore Conference sports, this was certainly one of the most unexpected victories I have ever witnessed. Quarterback Matt Cluley had one of his best games of the season, throwing three touchdowns, and running for another one. “This was the game where we began to believe that we could take this program to the next level” said Wall offensive tackle Daryl Valme. Wall also earned a late season victory over Manasquan. The season would end with Wall making a playoff experience. It will be up to the Knights to use this experience in a positive way. Wall will look to take the next step in 2015 by competing in B North. Wall has talent on both sides of the ball and are in a good position to make a run.
WALL TWP SEASON PREVIEW
Head Coach: Dan Curcione ( Second Year) 3-7
2014 Record: 3-7
Key Returns: Matt Cluley (Sr QB/DB) Sean Larkin (Jr RB/DB) Billy Schneider (Jr RB/DB) Bobby Fletcher (Sr WR/DB) RJ Janeczek (Jr WR/DB) Darryl Valme ( Jr OL/DL) Mike Yard (Sr OL/DL) Keegan Nesbitt (Sr OL/DL) Mike Andrejco (Jr OL/DL) Matt McKenzie (Jr LB) Chad McClelland (Jr LB)
Key Losses: Cole Cadigan (TE/LB) Liam Ferguson (TE/LB) Nick Morgillo (RB/CB) Rick Eknoian (LB) Matt Andrejco (TE/LB) Tim McGenva (MLB) Conor Lyden (OT/DE) Jim Onulak (OG/DE)
Matt Cluley returns to lead the offense for the Crimson Knights. Cluley is coming off a great season where he really made a difference. Cluley went over 100 yards passing four times this past season, including a 205 yard performance against Freehold Boro. Matt had his best game of the year against Brick Township. This win snapped Brick’s undefeated streak and No. 2 ranking at the Shore. Cluley passed for 114 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 96 in the victory. Cluley was the leader of this offense and developed more and more chemistry with his receivers throughout the season. He had a young group of targets that are coming back for another opportunity this year. Look for Matt to put up even better numbers this season. He will be a tough quarterback for any defense to stop. Sophomores Eddie Scott and Mike Cassidy will battle for the backup job in camp.
NJSR caught up with Matt Cluley to talk about the upcoming season.
Wall township runs the spread offense and will need a number of running backs to be successful. Sean Larkin will be a big part of the spread this year. Larkin is 6’1″ and 183lbs. Larkin is a strong back that can push forward to get those extra yards. He also has good hands and can be effective as a receiver out of the flat. Larkin got some experience last year, finishing with 126 receiving yards. Billy Schneider is also competing for the starting job. Schneider is another back with size at 6’0″. Schneider can hit the hole fast and get into the defensive backfield. The Knights can use him to run through the tackles and around the side. Larkin and Schenider will both get their opportunities to score a lot of touchdowns this year.
The Wide Receiver position will also be one of strength for the Knights. Wall returns quite a few players who will be consistent targets for Cluley. Junior RJ Janeczek has the ability to make a lot of big plays. Janeczek and Cluely were already working together very well last season. Janeczek had 20 catches for 276 yards and a touchdown in his Sophomore season. This year he is looking to build on those numbers and become a more complete receiver.
Bobby Fletcher is another target who will be essential for this offense to succeed. Fletcher is a big target for the Knights at 6’2″. He can make the big catches over the middle, and break away from defenders down the side. Fletcher had 11 catches for 202 yards and a touchdown in 2014. Both Janeczek and Fletcher will look to make a major impact and become one of the best duos in the league. Juniors Jared Luis and Mike Capra will also look to get on the field. Both these players will provide depth at the position.
Wall brings a lot of talent back on the offensive line. This is huge because the protection will give Matt Cluley a chance to really open up the offense. They will also be able to open big holes for Larkin and Schneider to run through. This is an offensive line with good size, strength, and athletic ability. Senior Keegan Nesbitt will make the calls at the Center position. Keegan is a lighter Center at 6’0″ 210lbs, but he has a lot of talent and the ability to hold down defensive tackles. Mike Yard is the most experienced on the line as a three year starter. Yard knows what it’s like to battle in the trenches, and will be more than ready to go by opening day. The rest of the line will rely on his leadership to stay focused during the games. Mike Andrejco is another tough guy on the line at 6’4″. Andrejco is a very strong pass blocker which will be huge for Cluley to get the time that he needs. Darryl Valme is the biggest guy on the line at 6’2″ 260. It will be Daryl’s job to take on the best defensive end of the opposing team. The Junior Offensive Tackle can use his strength to keep edge rushers from making plays. Darryl was a big contributor last season. He will bring that leadership and experience to anchor this group in 2015. Both Darryin Valme and Colton Murdza will compete for the second tackle position. While this may not be the biggest offensive line in the Shore, this group is very smart and athletic. They know the offense very well and will not make many mistakes. This will be key for the success of the spread offense.
The defense will be a bit more of a challenge this season. The Crimson Knights graduated a lot of starters from last season. This means that a lot of positions will be up for grabs. It will be up to the younger players to show the coaching staff what they can do throughout training camp. Each and every player will get the opportunity to win a job.
Both Matt McKenzie and Chad McClelland will return to lead the Linebacker group in 2015. McKenzie and McClelland were a big part of this group this past season. McKenzie is a smaller, quicker linebacker at 5’8″ and 195lbs. Matt can use his speed to fill the gaps and make plays. Matt is instnctive and has the ability to be around the ball at all times. McClelland is a good all around linebacker. Chad is very good with the fundamentals and knows how to be in the right place at the right time. This will be huge this season as the Crimson Knights will take on teams with a strong running game. Sean Larkin and Billy McKenzie will both look to contribute to this group. Both players have a lot of potential and are looking for an opportunity to make their presence felt on defense.
The defensive line will look to be a disruptive force for the Knights. Wall has a lot of veterans that will contribute on both sides of the ball. Mike Yard, and Darryl Valme will look to stop a lot of plays this season. They can get past opposing offensive linemen and get to the ball carrier. Keegan Nesbitt and Mike Andrejco will also look to get on the field on this side of the ball. This group can use its speed and athletic ability to make things happen. It will be a long day for a lot of opposing quarterbacks throughout the season. Wall is looking to become much better defensively. Increasing the number of sacks and hurries is a great place to start.
There will also be a lot of competition at the defensive back positions. Matt Cluley is the veteran playing the cornerback position. He has the ability to stop some of the best receivers in the league. Cluley will look to rally his teammates to improve their defensive game. Juniors Bobby Fletcher and RJ Janeczek can also make an impact defensively. Both players will need to use their instincts to help limit the big plays down the field. These corners have great size and will be effective in press or man coverage. Jon Steinbach and Mike Capra will also look to be in the mix.
Wall has a lot of depth at the cornerback and safety positions. It will be interesting to watch this competition as camp goes on. Coach Curcione will have some tough decisions to make as we get closer to the regular season. This is critical because Wall really needs to limit the big plays to win consistently.
The outlook for this Wall Crimson Knights team is very positive. Head Coach Dan Curcione has set the tone for this program. The players know what his vision is. They are aware of his expectations as the season is getting closer. Coach Curcione wanted his players to understand that this a 365 day a year program. Players have to be committed to this game year round. Everyone had to put in the adequate amount of time in the weight room and participate in all offseason drills. This football team has been waiting nine months to get back on the field. Now is the time for this group to put everything together and take the next step. After observing camp, you can see how much the team has improved. The offense looks a lot more comfortable. The plays are being executed a lot better. The defense also looks much stronger and faster from a year ago. Look for Wall to show significant improvement. The Crimson Knights will have every opportunity to earn a playoff spot in 2015.
Head Coach Dan Curcione stopped by to talk about his expectations for the season.
WALL TWP SCHEDULE
9/11 vs Red Bank Regional – 7PM
9/18 At Ocean Twp – 7PM
9/25 vs Long Branch – 7PM
10/2 At Red Bank Catholic – 7PM
10/9 vs Brick Twp – 7PM
10/17 At Freehold Boro. – 1PM
10/23 vs Neptune – 7PM
10/31 At Colts Neck – 1PM
11/13 State Tournament/Consolation – TBD
11/26 vs Manasquan – 11AM