Barnegat Leader Fall Sports Previews

Barnegat Football, Cross-Country, Gymnastics Teams Each Have Solid Athletes

By David Biggy | Sep 20, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy PASS, RUN OPTION: Senior quarterback Matt Vernieri and the Barnegat football team rely on underclassmen as they strive for a winning season.

Barnegat — Unlike last season, the Barnegat High School football team this fall has a few hills to climb. A couple of them may be small, but one of the bigger ones is experience.

“We lost 19 seniors – a lot to graduation last year, but (also) six others this year who are not playing for one reason or another,” said head coach Rob Davis after his Bengals edged Lakewood, 8-6, on Sept. 13. “We have some quality seniors, with a bunch of juniors and sophomores. We’re playing 17 underclassmen. So with this team right now, I’ll take wins like this one anytime I can get them.”

Obviously, righting the ship – temporarily, for now – is a good sign. Perhaps the Bengals can start a win streak if they defeat Shore Regional on Sept. 20. The season opened with a 23-13 loss to Point Pleasant Borough, in which Barnegat led by a touchdown but then in the fourth quarter gave up 16 unanswered points.

But now come the trickier parts, namely developing consistent offensive clout in each game, avoiding injuries and increasing the confidence level with each week.

In a contest during which Barnegat’s defense made several big stops against the Piners – one later in the first quarter, when Lakewood had first-and-goal at the Bengals’ 2-yard line, and another later in the first half, when the Piners started at the Barnegat 19 – the confidence level should have started building, at least with the defense.

Fortunately, seniors Mike DiPianta, Dominick Aneses and Matt Vernieri – all with tremendous efforts against Lakewood – are among the core, along with senior lineman Griffin Jackstadt and junior lineman T.J. Stokes, leading the way for the Bengals’ defense.

However, on offense the struggles are going to be there, especially because most of the young men playing are taking on varsity roles for the first time.

“The defense is playing really hard, and our coaches did a great job to have them ready,” Davis said. “On offense, we have one starter back, so that’s tough. But as the weeks go on, our kids will gain more confidence, and they will turn the switch at some point.

“The future is exciting. These kids are very coachable. And they’re getting better.”

Vernieri, who doubles as the team’s quarterback, led the offense against Lakewood. He will need several prime targets, including senior receivers Matt Scott and Logan Malia, to stand out so he can throw them the ball.

As for running the ball, Vernieri led the way with 72 yards against the Piners. But that’s not always going to be the case, especially once junior Nik Dileo returns to the lineup after sitting out 30 days following his transfer from Pinelands Regional.

“I expect some things to change a little bit once he’s in the backfield,” Davis said. “Nik’s a powerful running back, and he’s going to help us a lot on offense. Unfortunately, he had to sit for a month. But once he’s running the ball, our offense instantly will be better because he’s that good.”

Cross-County Squads
On the Rise

“That good” definitely describes at least one runner on the Barnegat girls cross-country team, and the prognosis for many of the Bengals’ runners is quite promising.

But let’s start with the obvious: Lillian Sarno, the sophomore who last year as a freshman not only broke onto the scene in a big way, but also turned a lot of heads and surprised a lot of coaches as well. Sarno last fall finished seventh in Ocean County behind a bunch of extremely talented and experienced runners. She took 29th in the always-loaded Shore Conference Championships, grabbed fourth in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II meet, and a week later finished 31st in Group II.

Without question, Sarno was the premier runner in Southern Ocean County, and should be near the front of the pack again this season. But now the question is whether the rest of the team around her can follow her lead and score bigger points for the Bengals.

To answer that question, coach Bob Klaslo will look to returning junior Jadelyn Rodriguez and returning sophomore Bianca Savoy, both of whom showed a lot of promise last fall. Two newcomers are Kyzmerah Joshua, a junior, and Kaitlyn Zeitler, a freshman.

“The girls are motivated to get into a position to take down some school records as a group,” Klaslo said. “We’re hoping to land more girls in the state group meet this year.

“The girls have been working hard all summer and are excited for a great season.”

Meanwhile, the Barnegat boys should be a solid bunch as well. Leading the way this fall will be seniors Logan Germano, Joshua Hutton and Gino DiGiovanni, as well as junior Peter Dizon and sophomore Paul D’Aloia. Senior Aaron Osborn is a newcomer to the program who coach Keith Stokes hopes will make an impact.

Dizon likely will lead the charge in most meets. He put together a fantastic sophomore season, both on the cross-country course and the track during the winter and spring. Last fall, Dizon finished 25th in the county and 28th in South Jersey Group II.

“We are going to continue to work hard and see how the season plays out,” Stokes said. “We have some depth this season, and the kids are really pushing each other.”

Bengals’ Gymnasts
Hoping to Flourish

Unfortunately, the numbers are so low for the Barnegat gymnastics team that first-year coach Jennifer DeLeeuw doesn’t have a full lineup for regular-season meets.

Fortunately, the two gymnasts she has in the program are experienced athletes and will do well whenever they compete.

Gabrielle DeLillo and Christina Golaszewski, both seniors, will be all-around competitors this season, despite the fact the two Bengals will not be able to compete as a team in any meet this fall.

Nonetheless, DeLeeuw said they should be in the hunt to qualify for the Shore Conference Championships, as well as the NJSIAA South Jersey sectional meet.

“The girls will work hard this season to earn qualifying scores for Shore Conference and states,” DeLeeuw said. “Gabby started off the season placing first in the vault, beam, floor and all-around in our opening meet against Middletown North. And I’m anticipating her to be a strong, all-around athlete, especially as she works some higher-level skills into her routines.

“Christina’s strengths will be the vault, beam and floor, and she’s also working on adding more-difficult skills to increase the value of her routines.”

— David Biggy

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