Barnegat Leader sports

Football Bengals Served by Young Contingent on Both Sides of the Ball

Sep 15, 2017

At this time last year, the Barnegat High School varsity football team was looking to make a comeback following a 2-7 campaign. It wound up at 5-5 (4-3 in Shore Conference B-South),  winning its final two games against Pleasantville and Pinelands Regional to get to the break-even point.

That team was laden with underclassmen, and head coach Rob Davis said that will be the case for the current Bengals, who opened the season with a 22-14 home victory against Donovan Catholic.

“Seventeen of my 22 starters are sophomores and juniors,” he said.

Seniors lost from last year include running back Jake Schmitz, quarterbacks/defensive backs Connor Lustenberger and Joe Monaco, center/defensive lineman Kyle Kessinger, offensive/defensive linemen Andrew Meany and Brian Madej, tight end/linebacker Dennis Sullivan, wide receiver/defensive back Hunter Mauro and fullback/linebacker Eric Becker.

Running the offense at quarterback will be junior Brian Finucan, who is looking to frequently hand the ball off to junior Charlie Cotton, the featured running back. Seniors Juan Abraham and Dillon Muratovic (a transfer from Nutley) will also look to get carries. Helping clear the path for the runners will be 228-pound fullback back Brian Ewen, a junior.

“For someone who has never played quarterback before, Brian is looking pretty well,” said Davis. “He was on the team two years ago, but didn’t play football last year. He came out this year.”  

The wide receiver corps took a hit when senior Nico Adorno went down with a pre-season shoulder injury, costing him the season. Adorno also played defensive back and was a return specialist.

“He ran a 4.4 40 (yard dash),” said Davis. “He’s one of the fastest kids I coached.” 

Potential passing game targets for Finucan include seniors Joe Herod, Tom Krey and Elijah Chesney, juniors Sean Madej and Dillon Balas and sophomores Matt Scott and Caleb Schafer.

The tight end position will be manned by 6-foot-4, 225-pound Sean Morris, whom Davis touts as one of the best underclassmen in the conference. Also a stalwart at defensive end, the junior follows a family tradition; older brothers Ryan and Kyle were also Bengal standouts at those positions.

Some newcomers will be adding some heft to the offensive line. These include juniors Tim Lauterbach (6-1, 272), Anthony Grimes 6-1, 272) and Philip Gogarty (6-2, 264). Other linemen include seniors Steve Pitiak, Julian Schoenberger and Brandon Andrews and junior John Pannone. Junior Joseph Lauer and sophomore Griffin Jackstadt are the centers.

On defense, Morris will be joined by senior Levin Musawa at the end position. Last year, Musawa was in on 64 tackles and had 5.5 sacks and 17 quarterback pressures.

Grimes, Schoenberger, Lauer, Pannone and Pitiak will all see action at defensive tackle.

“We’ll use a rotation on the defensive line so that various players will get plenty of action,” he said. “That way, we have fresh legs as we get into the fourth quarter.”

At middle linebacker, Ewen is the top returning tackler, with 98. He also had five quarterback pressures and forced two fumbles. Outside linebacker Abraham was credited with 70 tackles and nine quarterback pressures. Other linebackers include Muratovic, senior Abdulaye Diagne and sophomore Caleb Schaeffer.

Cotton, Chensey, Balas, Herod and senior Seth Geraghty should be seeing the bulk of the action at cornerback. Cotton had 28 tackles last year.

Krey and Madej, along with junior Tristan Porcelli and sophomores Matt Scott and Logan Malia, will be manning the safety positions.

“We’re really going to miss Nico back there,” said Davis. “That kind of speed is hard to make up for.”

Junior Dominick Guiro will handle the place kicking duties, while Majeh and fellow junior Mark Belvett are the punters.

“I hope we can get back into the post-season,” Davis said. “We had a run of five straight years making the playoffs, and in 2013 went to the championship game. Hopefully, our young nucleus will get better as the season moves on and that we stay healthy.”

The Bengals’ next game is Friday, Sept. 15, at home against Shore Regional, which beat the Bengals last year, 41-28. Shore Regional won its opener last Friday against Asbury Park, 12-6, in overtime. 

— Eric Englund

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