Making its first playoff appearance in five seasons, South River ran an explosive offense last year that averaged 32.3 points per game in its six wins.
With the likes of Wyatt Boyler at quarterback throwing for 1,355 yards and 15 touchdowns, Thomas Pitera hauling in 41 receptions and 665 yards at wide receiver, and Doug Ryan rushing for 1,174 yards and crossing the end zone 12 times, the Rams had the ability to move the ball through the air and on the ground.
But Boyler and Pitera, the two biggest components to the Rams passing game, have since graduated, leaving Ryan as the only holdover of the big three as he enters his junior season.
South River’s 27th-year head coach Rich Marchesi does not see the losses of Boyler and Pitera adversely affecting Ryan and the running game though.
Taking over at quarterback for Boyler will be a combination of two players – junior Nick Lepore and senior Mark Alston, who also doubles as a big-play threat wide receiver when he’s not under center, as the 6-2 Alston was the Rams’ second leading receiver last season behind Pitera with 20 receptions.
Each will see snaps and each brings something different to the table.
“Nick is more grounded and he’s going to be able to handle the offense pretty well and Mark’s a big kid, he can come in and kind of scramble and sling the ball like 60 yards,” Marchesi said. “They both bring different things to the table and are both going to get playing time. And when Mark’s not playing quarterback he’s a very, very dangerous wide out.
If opposing defenses are going to load the box to stop Ryan and the running game, Marchesi isn’t afraid to put the ball in the air with his new quarterbacks.
“They can (load the box), I’ll throw the ball,” Marchesi said. “I have no problem throwing, like I did last year; Wyatt Boyler did an outstanding job. If they put eight or nine in the box you’re going to have to put two guys on Mark and you’re going to have put another guy on (No. 2 receiver) Hunter Wolff, and I can still throw another good one or two receivers in there, so you’re going to have to pick your poison.”
Ryan perhaps will be even a tougher runner to bring down in his junior season, as he started lifting and added about 20 lbs. to his frame to bring him up to around 200 lbs.
“I think the things that are going to stand out are he definitely has gotten bigger and his speed has picked up, he’s got a couple nifty moves,” Marchesi said. “The past couple years he’s been running people over, he can kind of run around them and make a move or two here now or then.”