Cinjun Erskine truly believes this could be the season Barnegat takes things to another level.
“We have to stay disciplined, healthy and humble,” said Erskine, a junior quarterback, who in six games as a starter last year threw for 589 yards and ran for 316. “But I have no doubt that we’re capable of getting to a state final and winning it.”
But being capable and doing so are entirely different things. Erskine is well aware of what needs to change in order for the Bengals to make a run at a possible NJSIAA South Jersey Group III title, especially on offense.
“We have to be consistent for an entire game, every game,” Erskine said. “Last year, there were a lot of examples of us not being consistent. We can’t be flat at any time of any game, and a lot of that has to do with leadership.”
And, at least on offense, that’s where Erskine expects the biggest change, starting with himself.
“I definitely have to be more of a leader this season,” Erskine said. “I’ve been spending a lot of time during the offseason learning more, doing things to get better and becoming more consistent. I believe that will help me lead better by example.”
Head coach Rob Davis also expects Erskine to fully take on the role as the offensive leader, especially now that he’s a staple in the system and not a transfer trying to get acclimated.
“Last year was tough for Cinjun,” Davis said. “He had to sit 30 days and it was tough coming in midseason and trying to take over as the leader on offense. This season, he’s fixed up a lot of things. He’s making better decisions, and he’s a better all-around quarterback.”
However, the Bengals, have plenty of others who are expected to rise up and lead the charge alongside Erskine. Senior running back A.J. Opre, who rushed for 914 yards last year, senior Ryan Ulrich, who doubles as wide receiver and strong safety, senior lineman Zach Andrews, and senior linebackers Greg Moran, who Davis said is “the heart and soul of this team,” and Mark Magoon will be among them.
Juniors Sam Madden, who is being heavily recruited by Division I schools, and Xavier Young also should be among those who take charge on the line. Davis said Madden, who stands 6-7 and weighs about 340, is “the biggest kid I’ve ever coached, but he’s aggressive and can move really well.”
“Our line is very good,” Davis said. “We have a good offense and I’m very confident in our defense. But ball security is going to be most important for us, in addition to staying healthy. If we want to get to a state final, a lot of things have to happen.”
Madden believes the linemen can lead the way to a title.
“It all starts with the line,” Madden said. “I believe we can dominate with our offensive and defensive lines, and I believe we can go 12-0 this year.”