After finding itself in a scoreless halftime deadlock with a New Brunswick team that was mired in one of the state’s longest losing streaks, Woodbridge altered its offensive philosophy and found a go-to running back in the process.
The Barrons, operating out of the Power I, rode the sturdy legs of running back Joe Muzzio, who has a penchant for grinding out tough yardage between the tackles, and reeled off 30 unanswered points in a shutout victory over the winless Zebras.
Muzzio’s breakout performance – he rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in his career – set the tone for the remainder of the season as Woodbridge, which graduated more key players than any Greater Middlesex Conference squad, still managed a return trip to the NJSIAA playoffs.
“In that locker room at halftime,” Muzzio explained, “we were going crazy. We couldn’t believe what was going on. We put in the (Power I) package and started gaining yardage left and right. I proved myself a lot to Coach (Bill) Nyers. He just found out that I like to run the ball between the tackles.”
With Muzzio and the more fleet-of-foot Zahneer Shuler both returning, Woodbridge should feature a solid inside-outside running game behind what has to be regarded as one of the White Division’s top offensive lines.
Incumbent starters Cameron Capers, Elon Capers and Manny Santiago form the nucleus of a strong and sizable line. The trio averages 270 pounds. Muzzio credits any success he had last season to his line and blocking backs.
“I’ve known all of them for a very long time,” Muzzio said of his linemen, all of whom he went to middle school with. “I’ve seen them get very big and I got happy as life went on because I knew they were going to be blocking for me.”
Nyers, who previously coached at Woodbridge for an eight-year run that culminated with the school’s last sectional title in 1997, returned days before the start of training camp last year after predecessor Brian Russo was promoted to an administrative post.
The offense, once predicted upon the strong and accurate arm of quarterback Kyle Anderson and Nyers’ son Anthony, the school’s all-time leading receiver, underwent a massive overhaul. Nyers installed a run-oriented multiple wing that benefitted Muzzio.
“Joe is just a tough high school football player,” Nyers said. “He’s a good straight ahead runner. I like his tenacity.”
The Barrons, who have three players competing to replace the graduated James Rueb at quarterback, will rely on their ground attack until the signal callers develop.
Nyers said he will ride the hot hand out of the backfield. For much of last season, that was Muzzio, whose importance escalated as team-leading rusher Daquan Bailey battled injuries throughout the year.
Woodbridge rushed for 1,835 yards and 16 touchdowns, more than doubling the output of its passing game, which generated 649 yards and just three scores.