It was a tale of two seasons last year for the Pingry School football team.
The Big Blue started the season 0-4, beginning with a tough overtime loss in Week 1 at home to Roselle Park (21-20). Lopsided defeats to South Hunterdon, Bound Brook and New Providence ensued, as the Big Blue were outscored 117-13 over that three-game stretch.
After the tough start however, Pingry would go on to finish 4-3 in its final seven games, good enough to end the 2012 campaign with a respectable 4-7 record.
The Big Blue were without their best player, Evan Key, who missed the first three games of the year due to injury.
Pingry was a .500 ball club after the tight end/linebacker returned to the field on Sept. 28. Pingry is hoping he can stay healthy for the duration of the 2013 season.
“He’s a pretty special player and he loves the game,” Pingry coach Chris Shilts said about Key. “He knows what it takes to get us over the hump.”
When you look at Key’s stats, the numbers don’t necessarily jump out at you, at least on the offensive side of the ball.
His junior campaign ended with four catches for 40 yards on offense at the tight end position. But, on defense is where Key made his presence felt. He made 47 tackles, good enough for fourth on the team, and led Pingry in tackles-per-game with six, all of which produced despite missing three games.
“We should be pretty strong up front and should be able to stop the run well,” Key said about the defense. “We’re a lot stronger than we have been in the past and we’ve gotten a lot faster in the secondary which should help us cover a lot better.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Big Blue lost two of their top runners, John Dugan (158 carries, 761 yards) and Ryan Toomey (113 carries, 545 yards), a tandem that helped Pingry average 156 yards on the ground a year ago.
The running back system will be by committee this season with Ryan O’Reilly (19 carries, 147 yards), Jordan Hansen, Max Leef, Kyle Walker, Thomas Foreman and Dave Braverman all vying for carries, while Austin Schmidt will man the offense at quarterback.
“We’re not going to have a go-to-guy, although Ryan (O’Reilly) does seem to be the heir apparent,” said Shilts, pertaining to the running back situation. “You’re not going to necessarily see someone get 20 carries a game out of this group. We’re going to go with the hot hand.”
Pingry travels to Roselle Park today to kick off the season.