Tuckerton Leader

Pinelands Football Players Stand Up to Tough Obstacles

Sep 07, 2018

Hail to the players of the Pinelands Regional High School football team, because they have quite the task ahead of them in the 2018 season.

New sod is being laid down on their home field, meaning they will have to play the majority – and perhaps all – of their games on the road, most of them in Monmouth County. Their locker room is also unavailable due to construction taking place at Pinelands High.

So it isn’t surprising that head coach Matt Fuller and his staff had a low turnout this summer – “about 30,” said Fuller. Who wants to take hours-long bus rides, who wants to share crowded junior high school locker rooms, who wants to play an entire season in front of away team fans?

So, once again, for those players who stuck with the team, a great big “good for you!”

The team is going to have a different look from the teams of the past few years that employed a double-wing offense, one designed for a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust running game. This year Fuller and offensive coordinator Anthony Allocca will switch to a pistol formation.

You’ve heard of the shotgun offensive set up, right? Well a pistol formation is sort of a sawed-off shotgun, with the quarterback setting up about four yards behind the center instead of up to seven, and a halfback standing behind him instead of beside him. It keeps the QB close enough to the line to read the defense while allowing him split seconds more to pass before a blitzing player will be in his face. Yet it still allows for the run, with the added advantage of the running back more quickly picking up speed on the handoff – and not allowing the defense to set up on the side of the line opposite the back.

Oh, Pinelands will still be run-heavy, but with three wide receivers, expect senior QB Garrett Brown, who threw for 578 yards and three touchdowns in 2017, to throw far more than he did in his first two years behind center.

Of course the Wildcats will continue to run. Senior Evan Burton is back, a three-year player who accounted for 1,061 yards and 14 TDs last season. He’ll also serve as the team’s kicker and punter, plus play defense as a linebacker. Sophomore Nik DiLeo will spell Burton.

Meanwhile the offensive line also has experience, with three starters returning for their senior year. Bryan Mendez will be the left tackle, Jacob Lucas will be his right side counterpart and Zach Michot will be the center. Junior John Morrin will be at right guard; either senior Brian McNeil or sophomore Andrew Staub will be at left guard.

Brown’s outside receivers will be seniors Tristin Pharo, Bobby LeFevre and Kevin Cameron; junior Andrew Bartlett; and sophomore Jack Lawrie. Pharo, new to the team, is a speed threat who runs track; Fuller calls him one of the fastest guys at the school.

The team’s tight ends are junior Ed Wilkinson and sophomore Andrew Jenkins.

Fuller and defensive coordinator Joe Adelizzi will stick with their 3-3-stack defense. Three linebackers line up directly behind the three lineman in the stack, with the idea being to cause blocking assignment difficulties for offensive linemen who don’t know where the linebackers will be going.

It is expected that some other newcomers will also have an immediate impact on the team. They include linebackers Shayne Michot, Aaron Harris and Connor Harris, and defensive back Dom Darcy.

Pinelands went 2-8 last season. With all the aforementioned distractions, they may be hard-pressed to greatly improve on that in 2018. Fuller’s expectations reflect that reality.

He hopes his team can finish games strong this season after hanging around in many games last year only to fall near the end. He hopes “to execute and compete in every game.” He expects “players like Evan Burton, Garrett Brown, Jacob Lucas, Bryan Mendez and Andrew Bartlett to lead us through the unique situation our school has.”

— Rick Mellerup

rickmellerup@thesandpaper.net

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