Tuckerton Leader

2017 Pinelands Football Features Huge Line, Fleet Runners

Sep 01, 2017

What are they feeding the kids of Tuckerton borough and Little Egg Harbor, Eagleswood and Bass River townships, the constituent municipalities of the Pinelands Regional High School District? The 2017 Pinelands football team will feature an offensive line that, according to head coach Matt Fuller, averages 300 pounds.

That’s major college-size. That’s NFL-size!

According to Fuller, the line features a 6-foot-7-inch 350-pounder, a 6-3 “300-pound-plus” player, a 6-3 270-pounder and a 6-footer who tips the scales at 280 pounds.

“Our center is the smallest guy, at 240 pounds,” said the first-year head coach.

Wow!

When you toss in a fleet of quick running backs behind that line, such as junior Evan Burton, who averaged 140.4 rushing yards a game with 1,264 yards on 173 carries last year; senior Brennan Richardson, who added 604 yards on 86 carries in 2016 after racking up 912 yards on 137 carries in 2015; and promising freshman Nik DiLeo, and you’ve got a veritable running machine.

That’s why, Fuller said, Pinelands is sticking with the run-dominated double wing offense established by his predecessor, Brian Wilkinson, who was laid off at the end of the 2016-17 school year due to budget concerns after bringing Pinelands football back to respectability. When Wilkinson started in 2013, the team hadn’t won a game in more than two seasons. Slowly but surely it improved under Wilkinson so that in 2016, Pinelands went a deceptive 4-6; deceptive because the Wildcats lost one game in overtime and another by one point when a 42-yard field goal try fell short as time expired.

“Our offense is still based on the double wing, with a little more shotgun passing,” said Fuller.

It isn’t surprising Pinelands would look to air the ball out a little more than it has in the past several years, considering returning starting quarterback is junior Garrett Brown, who completed 19 of 40 passes for 297 yards in 2016.

The Wildcats, said Fuller, will be playing a 4-2-5 defense this season. That makes sense. With the middle clogged up by defensive-line behemoths, an opposing team will almost be forced to play an around-the-ends running game or go to the air. Five defensive backs, therefore, are a must.

There was a concern that the departure of Wilkinson, a popular coach, would result in a lower turnout of players this summer. But Fuller, whom returning players know from his role on Wilkinson’s staff, said that wasn’t the case.

“We have a roster of 34 players this year,” the coach said. True, he added, last year 42 players turned out. “But we lost eight seniors.”

Pinelands will kick off its season on Friday, Sept. 8, when the ’Cats host Point Pleasant Borough in a game scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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