While a quick start gave Matawan high hopes in 2012, a disappointing finish has it eager to hit the restart button.
The Huskies will have to rely upon relatively inexperienced players at the skill positions. But they are confident the protection of their veteran line, the safety blanket provided by their top-notch punter/placekicker and defensive units and an offensive scheme featuring more short passes and screens will enable them to bring the younger players along at a comfortable pace while taking advantage of their speed.
Senior tight end Nick Tomkins, the leading returning receiver, will be a big part of a passing game that has junior Jimmy Pierce taking over as starting quarterback. He’ll have plenty of targets to go to as Matawan looks to spread the ball around. The group includes sophomores Khalil Haskins at slot and DeJohn Rogers — the nephew of Matawan legend Charlie Rogers — at flanker, junior Justin Ferrara at split end and 6-foot-3 senior Pritinder Singh.
Traditionally Matawan, which seemingly grows star tailbacks as bountifully as most New Jerseyans grow tomatoes, comes into a season with another well-known commodity in place. This year, junior Devon Spann emerged as the starting tailback, with Haskins, senior Justin Lester, sophomore Mikaya Caesar and Rogers all figuring to get significant touches.
“It’s not the usual Matawan, that’s for sure,” said senior tackle Doug Weber. “We have young backs but they know the game, so we’ll be OK. Our line is experienced and with them we should be able to gash for 5, 6 yards every time.”
Also back up front for the Huskies are seniors Chris Veary (center) and Brandon Murphy (guard) and junior Jake Weber (tackle).
The defensive line features Doug Weber at tackle and Jake Weber at end. Tomkins, who played linebacker last season, moves to end.
“Our experience on the line should be a major advantage for us,” Tomkins said. “Most of our opponents don’t have a lot of their linemen back, so we feel that gives us an edge.”
Head coach John Kaye, expects big things from sophomore Aliem Shaw at linebacker. And while he is confident in his team’s ability to continue to play the brand of defense that carried it to the Central Jersey Group III playoffs, he said his team’s most-reliable asset is punter/placekicker Mike Creamer, widely regarded as one of New Jersey’s best punters.
“If we can get the ball within the 30, we know we can score,” Kaye said.
Even more important is the field-position advantage Creamer can give the Huskies.
“We know you’re not always going to be able to score, I’ll be trying to give them as good of a spot to start with as possible,” Creamer said. “It’s much better when you force your opponent to move 80 yards instead of 20 yards.”
After winning their first three games last season, the Huskies ran into a wall against Neptune, suffering their first defeat, a 46-10 drubbing. They won their next two games yielding just 14 points in the victories.
Their fortunes took a downward turn starting with a heartbreaking 24-21 loss to Long Branch. Then superstorm Sandy hit. Matawan’s next opponent, New Brunswick, was unable to field a competitive team and declined to play the game, which was ruled a tie. The power points lost forced the Huskies to the road for the first round of the playoffs, where their opponent was Long Branch. The Green Wave knocked the Huskies out, beating them 26-3. A season-ending 19-14 holiday series loss to St. John Vianney followed.
“Going out in the first round after making it to championship games the last couple of years didn’t sit well with us,” Creamer said. “Since then we’ve dedicated ourselves to getting back there.”