Southern Football Squad Looking to Turn Things Up This Fall
In 18 seasons as head coach of the Southern Regional football program, Chuck Donohue’s teams have had three straight seasons during which they were .500 or below, and the first time occurred in his first three seasons, 1998-2000. The second time occurred during the past three seasons.
But with 16 players who started in some way during last year’s 4-6 campaign back on the gridiron, Donohue is hoping his Rams can turn things up a bit this fall.
“Our line has to rise up and our offense has to hold onto the ball and move it consistently for us to be successful this season,” Donohue said following the Rams’ opening contest on Sept. 2 against Central Regional, a 21-14 loss. “I expect this team to play its best football game during the last week of the season and get better every week leading up to it. We can’t stay neutral from one week to the next.”
Unfortunately, the Rams’ schedule for the first few weeks of the season is a bit rough. After Central, Southern’s Week 2 opponent is defending NJSIAA South Jersey Group V champion Toms River North, followed by a Week 3 date with annual Shore Conference powerhouse Manalapan.
“We knew what we’re up against for the first few weeks, and they’re all tough teams,” said Donohue, whose career as a head coach has spanned 42 years. “We’re working through a new offense and we’re still developing some kids into new roles. We believe our running game is going to be good, but our passing game needs to get more cohesive.”
As shown during the opener against the Golden Eagles, the Rams’ running attack is indeed solid. Leading the charge from the backfield is senior Dane Walker and juniors Joe Miele, John Dolphin and Matt Barnett. That crew ran for a combined 154 yards and scored both Southern touchdowns against Central.
But with regard to the passing game, Donohue was adamant about several players raising their game if the Rams want to start winning sooner rather than later. Among them are senior quarterback Sam Cammarata, senior tight end Jesse Amirr, senior wide receiver Chris Citarella and senior tight end Dylan Lane.
“We need Cammarata to be a leader this season,” Donohue said. “Amirr, Citarella, Lane ... We need them to get better every week and help lead this team.”
Defensively, the Rams should be able to keep themselves in most games and give the offense opportunities to operate with decent field position.
With Miele and Walker expected to be catalysts at linebacker, Southern also will rely on returning linemen to clog the running lanes and penetrate the backfield, including juniors Devin VandeVelde and Terrick Grace, and a few defensive backs to keep opposing wide receivers in check, including Barnett, Citarella and seniors Matt Bleichner and Vinnie Miele.
“I believe the strength of our team is still the defense,” Donohue said. “We spend a lot of time working on our defense, and we have a lot of kids who are going to make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Rams will be on the road for their second and third contests before returning home on Sept. 24 for the homecoming game against Tom River East. Southern will visit Jackson Memorial on Oct. 7, then take on Brick in a home game on Oct. 14 and go back on the road to Brick Memorial for an Oct. 21 clash with the Mustangs. The Rams’ last two regular season games are at home against Lacey (Oct. 28) and Toms River South (Nov. 4).
— David Biggy