After injuries forced Perth Amboy to use four different quarterbacks last season, including Dennis Sutton, the team’s best athlete who played the position out of necessity, the Panthers hope to keep their starting signal caller healthy.
An experienced offensive line, featuring four returning letterwinners, will attempt to protect quarterback Julio Medina, who would have been last year’s starter had he not broken his hand.
After backup Curtis Pendleton injured his ankle, Sutton was called upon to quarterback, before Tristan Rock, who endured a concussion in his lone appearance behind center, replaced him for the season finale.
“Everything that could happen went wrong,” said Perth Amboy coach Mike Giordano, whose Panthers finished 0-10 after posting consecutive six-win seasons for the first time at the high school since the 1970s. “It definitely took a toll. There was enough blame to go around on the staff’s part and the kids’ part.”
Returning Sutton to his natural position as a slot receiver and running back — he can now play in the secondary as well — should aid Perth Amboy.
“I feel like it gives me a better opportunity to help the team,” Suttton said, noting he is always willing to do “whatever is going to help the team.”
The Panthers switch this year from a spread to a read option offense, hoping to take advantage of their depth at running back and Medina’s athletic ability.
“Right now it seems we have quick kids and a lot of running backs,” Giordano said of altering his offensive philosophy. “Plus we have a veteran offensive line. It’s easier to run block, gain some yards on the ground and keep your defense off the field.”
The Panthers, who committed far too many turnovers and left their defense on the field way too long, allowed 26.6 points per game, most of which came down the stretch when injury-riddled Perth Amboy was outscored 138-22 over the final three contests.
Perth Amboy, which used to employ a 3-5 defense, has switched to a 4-3 alignment that will allow Giordano to take advantage of the depth he has at tackle and the depth he has at linebacker, where the latter can be used as defensive ends.
Giordano said the Panthers will blitz less and rely more on their secondary, which features Sutton at corner and Larry Johnson, among the best players in the program, at strong safety.
“Last year we had a revolving door at a lot of different positions,” said Giordano, who is hoping for much more stability, especially at quarterback.
“If our passing game develops, we’ll see what we are going to do.”