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The word "rebuilding" often comes with a negative connotation, an assumption that a team won't be successful due to whatever reasons fall under the "rebuilding" umbrella. The reality of high school football is that every year features some degree of a roster makeover. Players graduate and a new group must step up and fill their shoes.

Some years the task is greater than others. A big senior class often leads to success, but when those players matriculate out of the program there are going to be some question marks the following year. That is the situation Colts Neck is in entering the 2022 season. Gone are stalwarts like four-year starting quarterback Tommy Fallon, linebackers Anthony Bonanno and John Manos, wide receiver/cornerback John Runfolo, and two-way linemen Dan Volpe and Ryan Whelan. Those players were instrumental to the Cougars' success over the past three seasons as they went 21-7 and turned the program back around after a string of five straight losing seasons. Just a handful of starters remain, however, as Colts Neck enters year five under head coach Matt Ahearn.

Colts Neck runs a multiple, pro-style offense and returns a total of five starters. A point of strength is in the backfield where junior running back Chris Scully (5-10, 205) returns after a strong sophomore season that saw him rush for a team-high 805 yards and nine touchdowns. Joining Scully in the running back room are junior John Sherrod and sophomore Jack Lefkowitz. The wide receiver group features two returning starters with 6-foot-3, 210-pound senior Matt Celli and junior Aiden Diaz along with seniors Will Surdez (6-3, 210), Sal Marinello, and Jack Tormey and junior Logan Bresnahan. The tight ends are junior Eric Loureiro (6-2, 230), who is a returning starter, and junior Aidan Manasso.

The offensive line took a big hit with four of five starters graduating. Junior Matt Liggio is the lone holdover and will line up at right guard. Junior Charlie Whalen (6-6, 260) is at left tackle and junior JJ Cifelli is the left guard. The center position has juniors Shea Bresnahan and Dean Collier battling it out while the spot at right tackle is between junior Cooper Pearlman and sophomore Albert Yodakis.

After four years of knowing exactly who was going to be under center, Colts Neck will enter a new era at quarterback following Fallon. Competing for the starting quarterback position are juniors Dom Beninato and Tesio Carabello.

Just two starters return on the defensive side of the ball in Colts Neck's 4-3 base alignment. Surdez leads the way from his spot at middle linebacker after posting 77 tackles as a junior. Along the defensive line, Loureiro is back as a starting defensive end.

The rest of the defensive line has junior Sam Surdez at the other defensive end sport and Collier and junior Anthony Lombardi as the defensive tackles. Flanking Surdez at outside linebacker will be senior Eoin Fitzpatrick and sophomore James Bertan (6-3, 205). Backing up Surdez in the middle is Carabello.

The secondary is all new and is almost entirely comprised of underclassmen. Junior Dave Fichtenbaum will be at one cornerback spot while the other cornerback position is up for grabs with Tormey, Diaz, junior Ahston Ellis, and sophomore Sebastian Failla competing. Junior Devin Donnelly is listed as the strong safety with junior Ethan Sloane at free safety.

An underrated part of Colts Neck's team the last two years was its special teams. Christian Monteforte was one of the Shore's top kickers and Fallon was a reliable punter. Some combination of Manasso, Failla, and sophomore Xander Rosario will handle the kicking and punting duties.

The lack of experience on the roster means there are legitimate question marks surrounding the Cougars, but balancing that out is a schedule that is not as daunting as last season when they competed in the American Division with Rumson-Fair Haven, Wall, Donovan Catholic, and Toms River North. This season, Colts Neck is in the Colonial Division with Freehold Regional High School District rivals Howell, Marlboro, Freehold Boro, and Freehold Township, plus Jackson Memorial.  

Left to right - front: Sal Marinello (42), Matt Celli (8), Jack Tormey (7); Back: Eion Fitzpatrick (9), Will Surdez (32).
Left to right - front: Sal Marinello (42), Matt Celli (8), Jack Tormey (7); Back: Eion Fitzpatrick (9), Will Surdez (32).
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At a Glance

Projected starters (RS=returning starter, 3RS=3rd-year returning starter)

Offense: Multiple

Returning starters: 5

QB: Dom Beninanto, Jr.; Tesio Carabello, Jr.

RB: Chris Scully, Jr., RS; John Sherrod, Jr.; Jack Lefkowitz, So.

WR: Matt Celli, Sr., RS; Aiden Diaz, Jr., RS; Will Surdez, Sr.; Sal Marinelli, Sr.; Logan Bresnahan, Jr.; Jack Tormey, Sr.

TE: Eric Loureiro, Jr., RS; Aidan Manasso, Jr.;

LT: Charlie Whelan, Jr.

LG: JJ Cifelli, Jr.

C: Shea Bresnahan, Jr.; Dean Collier, Jr.

RG: Matt Liggio, Jr., RS

RT: Cooper Pearlman, Jr.; Albert Yodakis, So.

Defense: 4-3

Returning starters: 2

DE: Sam Surdez, Jr.

DT: Anthony Lombardi, Jr.

DT: Dean Collier, Jr.

DE: Eric Loureiro, Jr., RS

OLB: James Bertan, So.

MLB: Will Surdez, Sr, RS.; Tesio Carabello, Jr.

OLB: Eoin Fitzpatrick, Sr.

CB: Dave Fichtenbaum, Jr.

CB: Jack Tormey, Sr.; Ashton Ellis, Jr.; Sebastian Failla, So.; Aiden Diaz, Jr.

SS: Devin Donnelly, Jr.

FS: Ethan Sloane, Jr.

Special Teams

K/P: Aidan Manasso, Jr.; Xander Rosario, So.; Sebastian Failla, So.

 

STAFF

Head coach: Matt Ahearn, 5th season

Career record: 24-14

Team record last five years:

2021: 6-4

2020: 7-1

2019: 8-2

2018: 3-7

2017: 2-8

Assistant coaches: Matt Norman (Defensive Coordinator/LB/RB); Dom Polifrone (Special Teams Coordinator/OL/DL); Doug Zockoll (TE/DE); Mike Campbell (QB/DB); Ryan Byrne (QB/LB); Peter Ficorelli (RB/DB); Tim Vangelas (WR/DB); Shawn Scully (WR/DB); Brendan Wei (WR/DB); Jimmy Portela (assistant); Mike Spirito (Freshman Head Coach); Joe Conaghan (Freshmen Defensive Coordinator); Joe Pipoli (Freshmen asst.); Jamie Hand (Athletic Trainer).

 

Player to Watch: Chris Scully, Jr., RB

Scully played his way into the RB1 role last season and had a very good sophomore year with 805 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. He has the potential to be one of the Shore Conference's top running backs over the next two years.

 

Player Under the Radar: Will Surdez, Sr., LB/WR

Surdez posted 77 tackles as a sophomore a season ago. Now, the 6-foot-3 linebacker and wide receiver aims to be the leader of the defense and contribute in the passing game.

 

Big Shoes to Fill: Dom Beninato, Jr., QB and Tesio Carabello, Jr., QB

Whichever player ends up as the starting quarterback will be taking over for Tommy Fallon, who was a four-year starter and an All-Shore player during his career on Five Points Road.

 

Rivalry Game: Oct. 8 vs. Howell

Among the Freehold Regional rivalries, Colts Neck vs. Howell always has a certain degree of intensity and familiarity because of how district lines are drawn. On the field, this is shaping up to be an important late-season game.

 

Season Schedule:

Sept. 3 - vs. St. John Vianney, 12 p.m.

Sept. 10 - @Freehold, 12 p.m.

Sept. 16 - @Jackson Memorial, 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 - vs. Freehold Township, 12 p.m.

Sept. 30 - @Lacey, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 8 - vs. Howell, 12 p.m.

Oct. 14 - @Wall, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 - vs. Marlboro, 12 p.m.

 

 

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