I was writing a bunch of stuff and working on some previews today, so I didn’t get to any camps, but I still have reports from three other teams, courtesy of All Shore Media’s Bob Badders, plus some more alumni updates.
The enthusiasm was palpable during a spirited Holmdel practice under new head coach Frank Papalia, who was the team’s defensive coordinator before getting the head job following the departure of Andy Carlstrom. The rest of the staff is pretty much intact, which has ensured continuity from last year when a large group of young players were thrown into the fire during a 1-9 season.
The strength looks to be the defense, which returns 10 starters, many of whom are juniors. One to watch is junior defensive end Chris Marciano, who has similar potential to former standout Will McGurk, who was a top player on the Holmdel team that went 10-1 in 2007.
Two other quick notes – a freshman, Patrick McGrory, should see significant time at running back, and the Hornets have an early leader for best nickname in the Shore, senior defensive tackle Joe Disko. His nickname is “Tugboat,” after the former WWE wrestler. I think I was more surprised by the fact that it wasn’t some kind of play on “Disko” as his last name, like “Disko Demolition” or “Disko Stu” for all those “Simpsons” nerds like myself.
Senior Kevin Carter, a good all-around athlete who is also a basketball player, has moved from wideout to quarterback, where he will take over for the highly productive Jon Curtin in the Griffins’ triple option attack. There is definitely a basketball flavor to this team, as another player, senior Ryan Milana is a key returner at wingback and outside linebacker. Two more basketball players, senior Jake Martin and junior Pat Rista, have come out for the team for the first time and will both be at wideout, with Martin also playing defensive end.
They have two starters back on the offensive line, Alex Pangaro and Alex Klimek, from a unit that helped Mon Don finish in the top five in total offense in the Shore last year. Now the focus during camp has been heavily on the defense, which allowed 28.6 points per game last year. The Griffins also only return three starters on defense, but are working on being a more physical unit after losing some shootouts last year.
Also, there is another Duddy on the team, Keenan Duddy, as the endless assembly line of Duddys continues. Head coach Dan Duddy has eight children. His son Mike was a standout on last year’s team as a running back and has graduated.
Much like Holmdel, the Garnet Gulls have a new coach, Steve Sasse, who was a member of the staff before getting the head job and has kept everything fairly intact to ensure some continuity after the departure of former Nick Giglio to Red Bank Regional.
The encouraging news at Da Beach is that the participation numbers are up – the team has 15-20 more players in its program than last year and is up to about 50 players in the entire program at Ocean County’s smallest public school. The Gulls are still running the flexbone offensively and feature a 4-3 defense.
Sophomore Cody Coleman, the younger brother of former Point Boro star Kyle Coleman, is one to watch, as he will be at defensive end and fullback after starting as a freshman. Kyle Barnes takes over for the bruising Jake Vernon at fullback and is more of an elusive runner in space in comparison to the 240-pound Vernon, who mainly just trucked defenders. Eight starters return offensively.
Jack Jackson (great name) is back as another threat in the backfield at wingback and will also start at cornerback. The quarterbacks will most likely once again be a rotation of Rich Herbster and Taylor Fioretti, who rotated last year. Another player to keep an eye on is senior Brian Dominianni at right guard and middle linebacker. They also have a promising player from the baseball team, Mike Palsi, who will be at left tackle and outside linebacker.
Now on to some quick alumni updates:
—Miles Austin (Monmouth University) is under pressure to get it done now as the preseason rolls on for the Dallas Cowboys if he wants to grab the spot vacated by the departure of Terrell Owens because of the emergence of Sam Hurd. The Cowboys will break in their new billion-dollar stadium with a preseason game against the Titans on Friday night.
—Donald Brown (Red Bank Catholic) comes recommended at running back for your fantasy team over incumbent Joseph Addai on the Colts.
–Looks like Brad Newman (Manasquan) made an impression in Boston College’s second scrimmage of camp as he fights for a starting spot on the defensive line.
—Lou Eliades (Ocean Twp.) and the rest of the Penn State offensive line are looking to pull it together for a run at Big Ten title.
–I also talked to Howell coach Cory Davies earlier this summer and he mentioned that former star receiver Chance Carrick is taking classes at Monmouth University and may be moving on to play for Army. Carrick was one of several Shore Conference players who were at Iona, which disbanded its program at the end of last season. I know that quarterback Warren Smith (Lacey), who had a strong season as the starting quarterback as a freshman for the Gaels, made such an impression that he is now at the University of Maine, playing at a much higher level of Division I-AA football.
If anyone knows where the other Shore players on the Iona roster from last year have landed, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or post a comment so we can keep track of them.