Ryan Wydra @schoops1
It was a storybook ending for the Manalapan Braves football team in 2014. The Braves have been one of the hardest working programs over the past decade. After losing two tough games in the Central Jersey Group V Championship, the team was finally able to get over the hump and win a state championship. The Braves finished the season 11-1, defeating a very good South Brunswick team 21-7. For skill position players like quarterback Dan Anarella and running back Imanu Mayfield, it was the perfect way to close out their high school careers. Now Manalapan comes into their 2015 campaign returning the entire offensive line , but with a new group of skill position players. The team will count on the veteran experience of the line to lead as the younger players are gaining experience. The Braves will also have 8 new starters on the defensive side of the ball.
While the team will line up a lot of new starters, this is a program with a tremendous reputation. The Braves have won five consecutive Shore Conference Class A North Division Championships. They have also been to the Central Jersey Sectional Final four out of the last five years. Coach Gurreri does a fantastic job and the kids know exactly what is expected of them. Will the preparation and mindset change after winning a state championship compared to losing in the final, Coach Gurrieri said absolutely not! “I haven’t seen any difference, their attitude has been tremendous. The goal is to win a state championship every year, and we feel like that’s what we’ve built this program to. Nothing has changed, the hard work, the weight lifting, and running will give us a chance to be successful. Nobody thought anything would be given to them because they won a championship last year”. Braves fans should be excited to once again see one of the most dominant offensive and defensive lines at the Shore.
Head Coach: Eddie Gurrieri 9th Season (70-20)
2014 Record: 11-1 Central Jersey Group V Champions
Key Returns: Joe Sellmeyer (Sr OL/DL) Riley Radosevich (Sr OL/DL) Anthony Tardogno (Sr OL/DL) Jake Levine (OL/DL) Mitch Trabb (Sr OL/DL) Lee Maksimik (Sr LB) Anthony Bassani (Sr WR/DB)
Key Losses: Dan Anarella (QB) Imanu Mayfield (RB) Pete Williams (OL) Joe Mendez (LB) Ben Sieczkowski (DL) Dan Debner (RB/LB)
Key Newcomers Anthony Sciarappa (Sr QB) Marcus Salinas (Sr RB/LB) Naim Mayfield (So RB) Symir Blacknall (So WR)
The first step for the Braves offense will be to find their Quarterback for 2015. The team will have to replace graduated quarterback Dan Anarella who was a two year starter. Anarella threw for over 2,000 yards, 32 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions in both his junior and senior seasons. The Braves have four Quarterbacks that are all competing for the position in camp. Senior Anthony Sciarappa looks to be a strong candidate to win the job. Sciarappa saw limited action in relief last year. Sciarappa is 6’1″ and 190lbs. He has good arm strength, and a strong athletic ability. The Senior will have every opportunity to win the position. Junior Cory Wiener and Sophomore Luke Corcione are also in the mix. Both have played very well throughout camp. Coach Gurrieri will have a lot of options to lead his offense.
Manalapan will also look to find some new pieces to lead the rushing attack. The team just graduated one of the best running backs in school history. Imanu Mayfield rushed for 1827 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2014. Imanu was as phenomenal of a running back as you could get. While you cannot replace Imanu Mayfield as a player or a person, Senior Marcus Salinas will look to be a big part of the rotation this season. Salinas contributed to the offense last year, rushing for 206 yards, and averaging 7 yards per carry. Salinas can hit the hole fast, and take off in the open field. He is more than capable of having a huge year. Sophomore Naim Mayfield is also ready to become a big part of this team. Naim is the younger brother of Imanu Mayfield. Naim is a good all around block who can stretch for the tough yards, and break away from defenders down the line. Both these running backs will be tough for anyone to stop in the Class A North division.
The Braves also have a lot of exciting talent coming up at the Wide Receiver position. Anthony Bassani returns and will be a great target for whoever wins the Quarterback battle. Bassani is very athletic and will be tough for defensive backs to keep up with. Symir Blacknall will also be a big part of the passing game. Symir is the younger brother of Penn State Wide Receiver Saeed Blacknall. Saeed was also one of the best players in Manalapan history. Junior L’jeron Holder will look to be a big contributor. Holder is a very big and strong receiver at 6’4″. He can make all the tough catches across the middle, and will be deadly in the red zone. Holder will be a matchup problem for anyone in traffic. Expect Holder to really make an impact. Senior Patrick Swaney will also be in the mix. While the position brings some uncertainty, the athletes are in place. The passing game will improve over the course of the season.
When it comes to the emotional leadership in every situation, the offense will ride and die with its offensive line in 2015. The team brings back all five starters from the state championship team. All five of these players have outstanding ability and will help motivate the skill position players. These guys know how to win a war in the trenches. They have played in so many big games, and will set the tone from the first game of the season. Hard work, preparation, and dedication is natural to all five of these guys.
Joe Sellmeyer and Reily Radosevich will once again be huge for this team. Sellmeyer is a huge guard at 6’2″ and 275lbs. He is almost immovable on the interior part of the line. There are not very many defenders who will get through him. Radosevich is 6’4″ and 260lbs. Radosevich is not only very strong, but athletic at the same time. He can hold down his side of the line to keep defensive tackles and linebackers form getting through. Anthony Tardogno will make the calls at the Center position. Jake Levine is a big time presence at the tackle position. Levine is 6’4″ and 270lbs. Mitch Trabb is the other starter on the line. This group has played together for a long time and established great chemistry. They will easily blow open holes for the new running backs to run through. Expect the Braves to continue to pile up the yards offensively. This group may be the best offensive line at the Shore.
We had a chance to catch up with Joe Sellmeyer and Reily Radosevich
Manalapan will also have the task of replacing 8 starters on the defensive side of the ball. While that is easier said than done, the team does return Senior Captain Lee Maksimik. Maksimik is coming off an outstanding 2014 season, finishing with 60 tackles. Maksimik made a lot of plays in the Braves’ victory over South Brunswick in the final. Maksimik is an instinctive linebacker who can make plays against the run or pass. The team will really count on his leadership to point this core in the right direction. There are many other spots up for grabs. L’jeron Holder is very athletic and will be a force against opposing ball carriers. He can really bring a lot of intensity to this defense. Senior Matt Strauss and Junior Steven Byrne will look to find their way into the rotation. Juniors Sal Casazza and Antonio Scala, along with Senior Mark FIgueroa are also performing well in camp.
The defensive line will be a disruptive force for the team. Reily Radosevich will look to come off the edge and pressure opposing quarterbacks. Radosevich is just as much of a force on the defensive side of the ball. He will be tough for anyone to block. Jake Levine and Joe Sellmeyer will also be deadly at the defensive tackle positions. Both players can use their technique very well and are hard to stop. It will not be easy for any team to run the ball on either one of these guys. They can also hold their men down to help the linebackers make plays. This unit will rely on the experienced defensive line to make lots of plays down the stretch. This group can become even more deadly in the fourth quarter.
Anthony Bassani returns at the cornerback position after having a fantastic season in 2014. Bassani is very instinctive on the back end. He can provide support against the run, and stop receivers in their tracks. He has good vision and can anticipate where the opposing team will try to make a play. Bassani will be surrounded by a group of up and coming players in the secondary. While a lot of new players will have to step up, the Braves have all the athletes that are needed. There are once again a lot of jobs that are open. Sophomore Symir Blacknall will look to win a job on the outside. Blacknall is very quick and can keep up with lots of receivers around the league. Patrick Swaney, Logan Mazzola, and Michael Taylor will all compete to get on the field. Seniors Marcus Salinas, Chris Carnesi, and Anthony Sciarappa are all fighting for the safety positions. All three of these players can make a huge impact on the field. They are all great tacklers and not afraid to make the big plays. Coach Gurrieri will have plenty of defensive backs to choose from with this group. Braves fans should be very excited about the athleticism.
Cornerback Anthony Bassani stopped by to share his thoughts on the defense.
This is a Manalapan team that is full of potential. Coach Gurrieri has always done a great job after losing players to graduation. This comes from his experience and ability to develop young players. In his nine years with the program, many stars have come through Manalapan High School. The offensive and defensive lines will lead the way. The younger skill position players will get better throughout the season. Expect both Marcus Salinas, and Naim Mayfield to make a huge impact in the running game. Anthony Bassani, L’jeron Holder, and Symir Blacknall will be standout at the receiver positions. Lee Maksimik will set the tone for the defense. This will give Manalapan an excellent chance to repeat as Central Jersey Group V Champions!
We had a chance to talk with Head Coach Eddie Gurrieri about the upcoming season.
9/11 vs Marlboro – 7PM
9/18 vs Freehold Twp. – 7PM
9/25 at Sayreville – 7PM
10/2 at Middletown North – 7PM
10/9 vs Lacey Twp. – 7PM
10/16 at Middletown South – 7PM
10/23 vs Red Bank Catholic – 7PM
10/30 vs Freehold Boro. – 7PM
11/6 at Howell – 630PM
11/13 State Tournament/Consolation – TBD