Frank Papalia enters his fourth season at Holmdel, looking to improve on a 1-9 mark in 2011.
Q: You lost some tough games to some very good teams last season in the second half of games, and it came down to defense. Can you highlight some of the playmakers on defense you’ll be relying on this year?
A: For us it all starts in the middle with Brett Lambert. Brett is a great kid and solid leader who has worked his tail off since joining the program. He’s a three-year starter for us. He understands our defense real well. He likes to be in the film room, he works hard on the practice field. Frankie Condito is our fullback and will also play a huge role for us at linebacker alongside John Tascione and Rob Cantelli is in our defensive backfield. We have some primary pieces playing defense for us and they’re kids who take a lot of pride in it.
Q: You’ve had a while to observe the team now, on the practice field and in scrimmages. Have you come across any pleasant surprises?
A: Yes, we actually have a sophomore named Jeff Harris who turned some heads in our 7-on-7 workouts, but when the pads went on, he kept going and looked real good. Another kid we’re excited about is John Tuscione. He’s a senior and has done everything we’ve asked of him and has been waiting to really grow into his body. We feel like he’s finally done that, he’s finally grown into his body physically, because the mental aspect of the game has always been there, which is why he was voted a captain this year. These are two guys that have stuck out and we’re very proud of how they’ve developed and worked to this point.
Q: You have a lot of returning players from last season, a lot of experience on this roster, and some talent to go with all that. What do you believe this team can achieve?
A: We want to compete as hard as we can every week, and we always do. We show a lot of pride on the field and we’re always prepared. But this season, we’ve been talking about how to get over that hump, how to win games. And our kids are starting to practice at a higher tempo, play with a little more confidence and excitement. And we feel that if we can get over the hump and beat one of these tough teams early on in our schedule, we’ll ride that and win some more games. Our schedule is brutal. We know that coming in. We open up with Barnegat, who is now one of the best coached and well-run programs in the Shore Conference, but it’s the type of game we need to find a way to win. And I think the way we’re practicing, and the way our leadership has developed, we’ll have an opportunity to win those kinds of games. And that’s what we’re looking for.