Stafford Leader

Southern Football Builds on 2016’s Promising Finish

Sep 08, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds Southern Regional senior Joe Miele.

After finishing 5-5 last fall, the Southern Regional football team viewed the season as a success, especially considering it lost its first three games and still managed to end up in the NJSIAA playoffs by winning its next five.

But this fall, head coach Chuck Donohue Sr. and his Rams have higher expectations. Not only are they looking to contend for the Shore Conference Class A South division title, but also to go deeper into the NJSIAA South Jersey Group V playoffs than their first-round exit last November at the hands of Rancocas Valley.

“We have 23 seniors, and we need them to take over this team and lead the way,” Donohue said, following the Rams’ 24-23, overtime loss against Central Regional on Sept. 1. “And it’s going to be up to everybody else to do their part, do it right, and play their best every week. The responsibility is on them to make it happen.”

No doubt, the Rams don’t have any excuses this season. They’re not an entirely young squad of inexperienced varsity players. As the season began last year, the offense was getting acclimated to a new scheme – the Delaware wing-T – and it took the Rams all of September to get moving in the right direction.

This season, Southern has a bunch of seniors leading the offense, starting with running backs Joe Miele, Matt Barnett and John Dolphin, who combined for 1,560 yards, averaged 6.6 yards per carry and scored 17 of the team’s 24 rushing touchdowns a year ago. That trio should receive the bulk of the carries this fall and likely will be the primary short-range pass targets for senior quarterback Sean Distelcamp. Senior Vin Miele, who played a limited role in the backfield in 2016, will see some carries again this season as well.

Meanwhile, Distelcamp is moving into a starting role after playing most of last season as Sam Cammarata’s backup until he got injured during the last regular-season game. Distelcamp finished that contest and was the starter against Rancocas, but didn’t rack up great numbers: he completed three of 12 passes for 48 yards with a pair of touchdowns, and was intercepted twice.

Elsewhere on offense, the Rams are a bit scant, with only junior Zach Hem, who also is the team’s placekicker, returning as a wide receiver and senior Derek Wilson coming back as a tight end. So that means others will have to rise to the forefront if Southern intends to broaden its passing game. Three players who may be among that crowd are junior receiver Schneider Juste, senior tight end Nate Farina and sophomore tight end J.T. Cornelius.

But to move the ball, the offensive line is an important element. Southern graduated several experienced guys in June, leaving seniors Zach Otte and Bill Rolenc to lead the line crew. Joining them in starting roles will be seniors David Lowman, Terrick Grace and Mike Levine.

“Once we get our timing down and start gaining some confidence with our line, we should be able to move the ball pretty well,” Donohue said. “But what we can’t do is wait an entire half before we start playing the way we know how to play the game. It starts from the first snap and goes right to the final whistle.”

On defense, the Miele brothers, along with Wilson and Otte, will be the catalysts from the linebacker positions, while Barnett, Dolphin and Hem will be a big part of the defensive backfield.

“Defensively, we have to be able to contain the outside. And if we do that, we’ll be all right,” Donohue said. “Giving up big plays is not the way to win games.”

After the Rams take on reigning A South champion Toms River North in their home opener on Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., they will be back at home for a Sept. 15 contest against powerful Manalapan, also at 7 p.m., followed by an away clash with Toms River East. Southern’s bye week is Sept. 29-30.

— David Biggy

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