The J.F. Kennedy High School football team, which relied heavily upon star running back Anthony Roberts at the start of the season, has become more balanced offensively.
Carteret coach Matt Yascko, whose Ramblers (5-2) host the Mustangs (4-4) in the Home News Tribune’s Game of the Week tonight at Overholt Stadium, knows his defense can’t focus on one aspect of the Mustangs’ attack.
“They’ve done a better job of taking some of the load off Roberts,” said Yascko of the J.F. Kennedy standout, who ranks third in the Greater Middlesex Conference with 173 carries.
“You can see the progress of their team. They’ve made tremendous improvement from last year and I think they are a quality football team. With a running back like (Roberts), it wouldn’t surprise me to see them push somebody to the brink or even steal one in the playoffs.”
J.F. Kennedy, which finished 2-7 a year ago with their only victories over Perth Amboy and New Brunswick, who finished a combined 1-19, has qualified for the North 2 Group IV playoffs.
Carteret, which finished 12-0 for the first time in school history en route to winning a sectional title last season, has qualified in Central Group III. The Ramblers will earn a No. 4 seed and a first-round home playoff game with a win tonight. They will drop to a No. 7 seed with a loss.
The Mustangs had a three-game winning streak snapped last week with a 23-9 loss to South Plainfield, which finished with minus rushing yards.
Linebacker Brandon Wood and safety Terrance Young (five interceptions) anchor a J.F. Kennedy defense whose line play has improved.
The key to the team’s turnaround, however, has been the play of sophomore quarterback Andrew Roberts, Anthony’s younger brother, who ran the option on the freshman level a year ago. His ability to throw has prevented opponents from loading the box with eight defenders.
“He was never really asked to throw the football (last season),” J.F. Kennedy rookie head coach Andrew Maurizio said.
“It wasn’t that he wasn’t physically able to get it done, he just really had to learn the passing concepts and everything. Now teams just can’t say if you stop Anthony Roberts you are definitely going to be able to beat Iselin-Kennedy.”
Roberts, who transferred from St. Anthony in Jersey City, is the Greater Middlesex Conference’s fifth leading rusher with 1,175 yards and 17 touchdowns.
He appears to be largely responsible for J.F. Kennedy’s turnaround, but in reality the Mustangs have put forth a complete team effort.
“Now that we are starting to win football games we are proving that we can definitely compete with everybody,” Maurizio said. “We are definitely a team that (opponents) have to prepare for.”