When a football team loses their best player to graduation and that player was also their most inspirational force, there’s a large void for the returning players to fill. In the case of the Metuchen High School football team, Dorian Miller will be missed in more ways than one now that the standout offensive lineman is suiting up for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Not only was Miller the Bulldogs’ most outstanding player in 2012, but he was also the one who spoke up and got his teammates ready to play.
This season, that torch has been passed on from Miller to Ryan Verlaque, who will be the defensive signal caller and emotional leader for a team light on returning stars and even lighter on natural-born leaders.
“He’s a leader in the weight room and a leader on the field for us,” head coach Bob Ulmer said. “He’s one of those kids that you don’t have to worry about and he’s someone you want and need in your program.”
In his junior season, Verlaque led the Bulldogs with 69 total tackles, including five for loss. He also forced two fumbles, recovered three and intercepted a pass for a defensive unit that struggled down the stretch as Metuchen limped home with a four-game losing streak after starting 3-3. But his contributions won’t stop on the defensive side of the ball; Ulmer said he expects to get Verlaque the ball as much as possible on offense. The 6-foot 1-inch, 175-pound senior will also line up at tight end in 2013, where he caught six passes for 95 yards and a pair of touchdowns last season.
“I love defense more than offense, because it’s just a mindset and a home for me,” Verlaque said. “Defense sets the pace for the offense and being put into positions to be a leader and to be responsible for something bigger than yourself is something I’m really looking forward to.”
The Bulldogs don’t return any offensive linemen from last season’s squad and the defense, while not as barren, will need a boost from players like Verlaque to succeed in 2013.
“Ryan is bringing us all together this summer,” Ulmer said. “We’re going to look to him to make sure everyone is in the right place and will be responsible for their assignments. He just rarely makes a mistake.”
With Ulmer back on the sideline after a three-year hiatus to spend more time with his family, Verlaque knows that the winning attitude that his coach brings back to the Metuchen sideline is going to be invaluable.
“Coach Ulmer is the missing piece that we didn’t have these last couple of years,” Verlaque said. “We need to learn how to win and I think he can teach us how to do it. We’re really loving having him back this year.”