Pegged as one of the best defensive lineman in the Shore Conference last season, Toms River North senior Da’Shon Copes is looking to cement his legacy this season.
At 6-foot-1 and 285 pounds, Copes has the right combination of speed and power that creates problems for offensive line coaches and offensive coordinators trying to contain him.
“I’m more of a speed rusher,” Copes said. “But I have some power too.”
No one has seen more of Copes’ abilities than Dave Oizerowitz. You could even say that the Toms River North head coach is Copes’ biggest fan.
“He’s a unique football player for us because as a defensive end in a 3-4 defense he can hold the point on a double team and he can actually split double teams which is very, very rare,” Oizerowitz said. “He can split a double team and still make a play. If you run away from him, he is nearly impossible to cut off from the backside and becomes more dangerous. You can’t run at him because he’ll split double teams, you can’t run away from because he’s so fast he can make the play for a loss (of yards).”
No team found that out more than Lenape, last season’s No. 1 seed in the South Jersey Group IV bracket. Toms River North traveled to Lenape as the No. 8 seed and beat the previously unbeaten the Indians, 19-10, as Copes was in on 13 tackles and three sacks in that monumental victory.
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“He’s a dynamic football player. He does things with his hands and feet that we wouldn’t necessarily approve of with anybody else,” Oizerowitz said. “But he’s such a dynamic athlete that we give him a little more freedom to be creative and innovative about the way he approaches our scheme and our system.”
And it has worked for the last three years for the Mariners and don’t expect any changes from the way coach Oizerowitz uses Copes on the defensive line or expect any deviation from the way Copes has played football. Instead, Copes wants to have a better season to increase his college options.
“I haven’t committed to any schools yet,” Copes said. “But I do have offers from West Point and from Liberty University. After football season is over, I hope that I have a lot more offers to college.”
If Copes equals or exceeds last year’s statistics, those offers should come rolling in. In 2014, Copes was selected as an Asbury Park Press First-Team All-Shore defensive lineman after emerging as one of the Shore Conference’s most dominant defensive linemen. He was a part of 91 tackles — 58 of them were solo; 22 for a loss — and recorded 12 sacks.
“He doesn’t move around. He’s a defensive end and we have a very specific role for him. He’s played the same position for three years for us. He’s been a dominant player every year of his high school career,” Oizerowitz said. “We feel very fortunate to have him. He’s a real mountain in the middle of our defense and he’s going to be a tough task and chore for anybody that has to game plan for him.”
And that will go for all of the Class A South opponents in addition to nondivisional opponents Marlboro (Oct. 3) and Neptune (Nov. 6).
The Greatest Players in Toms River North History
Aamir Dew: Standout running back on the 1994 South Group IV championship team.
Zach Kane: Dominant linebacker on the 2007 South Group IV championship team.
Darian Barnes: Running back who was on Tampa Bay’s 2002 Super Bowl winning team.
The Greatest Teams in Toms River North History
2007: Toms River High School North had an undefeated 12-0 season and won South Group IV.
1994: Toms River North went 10-1 and won the NJSIAA South Jersey Group IV championship.
1979: TRN won South Group IV with a dramatic 15-14 win over Brick on a 2-point conversion after a late TD.
The Greatest Players in Toms River South History
Harry Walters: Standout on the 1968 and 1969 teams, who went on to play for Maryland and in the Canadian Football League.
Rip Scherer: Quarterback on the 1968 and 1969 teams, who went on to play collegiately at William & Mary.
Chip LaBarca Jr.: Standout wide receiver who played at Penn State and then was the head coach at Lakewood and Toms River North.
The Greatest Teams in Toms River South History
1978: Toms River South won the South Group IV championship for its first sectional title.
1983: Toms River South won the NJSIAA South Group III championship.
1986: The Indians went 10-1 and was ranked No. 1 in the state for much of the year.
The Greatest Players in Toms River East History
Joe Scott: Quarterback of the 1981 team that went to the South Group IV championship game at Giants Stadium.
Frank Giannetti: Defensive end who played collegiately at Penn State and in the NFL with the Indianapolis Colts.
Colin Gaynor: Quarterback who set Shore Conference passing records before eventually playing baseball at Rutgers.
The Greatest Teams in Toms River East History
1981: One season stands above all others in Toms River High School East lore. The Raiders went 9-2 in 1981 and capped off the stellar season by making it all the way to the NJSIAA South Group IV championship game at Giants Stadium.