Stafford Leader Southern Fall Sports Previews

Southern Football, Boys Soccer Teams Starting With Wins

By DAVID BIGGY | Sep 13, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Sophomore running back Jaiden Brown is expected to get the bulk of the carries this season as the Southern football squad seeks to have a winning season.

Stafford Township — The past two seasons have been an uphill battle for the Southern Regional football team, with the Rams finishing 3-7 in 2017 and 4-5 last fall. But things may be turning up for head coach Chuck Donohue’s crew this season.

While the Rams aren’t returning a ton of players from last season, the core of the leadership group has been around for a few seasons and understands the importance of setting an example for the younger players developing within their roles – and Southern has some solid young players who should make a viable impact in the Shore Conference Constitution Division.

“We had a lot of first-timers playing today, a lot of kids playing new positions. I’m glad they have a game under their belt, and it was a win,” said Donohue, whose Rams opened with a 21-0 victory over Nottingham on Sept. 7. “We still have a lot of work to do and improvements to make if we want to keep winning games.”

For starters, winning games likely starts with Southern’s defense, with senior linemen Sebastian Cervetto, Colby Saxton and J.T. Cornelius leading the charge. That trio was stellar in the opener, as the Rams’ defense dominated the Northstars, allowing them just three first downs and 20 yards of total offense, while tallying three quarterback sacks and 10 tackles for losses, in addition to forcing a pair of turnovers.

“We really wanted to get the shutout, because for the past couple of years we haven’t been able to set the intensity level for the season and get it going on the right track,” said Saxton, who started his season with eight tackles, including two for losses, and a sack. “This game gives us a lot of confidence going into our next few games.”

Junior linebackers Steve Langton and Hank Gallacher, along with sophomores Jaiden Brown and Nate Committee, played excellent games against Nottingham. They will be needed to help solidify the defensive unit going forward.

The question mark for the Rams’ defense rests on its secondary, and whether it will be able to weather the storm the next few weeks, particularly against Toms River North, Howell and Brick Memorial. Still, they have some viable guys in the defensive backfield, including senior Cole Robinson, who doubles as the team’s quarterback, and juniors Alex Rainone and Xavier Hendricks.

“Everything starts with our defense, absolutely,” Donohue said. “If you can’t stop teams from scoring, nothing else matters. We’re definitely building upon our defense, and today’s game was a great start in that respect.”

So, what about the offense? Will the Rams be able to score consistently? Will Southern have the offensive clout to stay in games when the defense gives it the opportunity? In the opener, Donohue’s troops didn’t have too much trouble moving the ball. Led by Brown, a 6-foot-1, 215-pounder who has good speed out in the open and can power through the line for short yardage when necessary, and junior J.P. Ricciardi, the Rams’ running game looks to be in good shape. Southern ran for more than 200 yards against Nottingham.

However, the toughest of Southern’s games are still ahead, and that means Robinson will have to lead the offense in scoring points when opposing defense can slow down the run game. He struggled against the Northstars, completing three of 10 passing attempts and tossing a pair of interceptions.

“Cole’s a great athlete, but at times he was trying to do too much and make plays, rather than let the game come to him,” Donohue said. “He wants to do well and wants to be good. And to his credit, he usually tells me his mistakes before I say anything. He just has to not make those mistakes when the clock’s running.”

Robinson found Rainone, who doubles as a receiver, in the end zone for a 16-yard TD in the first quarter of the opener. He has other targets to whom he can throw – specifically senior Will DeVane and Hendricks, as well as Brown out of the backfield. But connecting more consistently will pay dividends.

“We’ve got a group of guys out here who know what they have to do, and we have to do it as a team,” Brown said. “Everybody has a job to do and we have to do it the best we can. Our schedule is tough. But if we don’t make a lot of mistakes, we should be able to win some games.”

Boys Soccer Aims for Big Season

Winning games – actually, winning a lot of games – is something the Southern boys soccer team definitely can do this fall. With an experienced core group returning from last year’s 9-6-2 campaign, the Rams are in good shape, offensively and defensively.

Of course, the question for coach Guy Lockwood’s crew is whether they will play consistent soccer instead of taking the roller coaster ride they did last season – when the Rams won a bunch of games, then lost a few in a row, followed by a handful of wins, before an early loss in the state tournament ended the season.

“Our squad returned eight members from 2018, a majority of them playing in the starting lineup,” Lockwood said. “New additions to the team possess a balance of quality and speed, and we’re hoping it increases our efficiency and speed of play.”

Offensively, Southern will get its opportunities, particularly with senior Aidan McInerney and Kevin Kiernan leading the charge through the midfield. Kiernan last season scored 14 goals to lead the squad. Adding to the solidity at midfield are senior Martin Rojas, with juniors Nick Budd and Nico Leonard. Senior Matthew Zarzecki and sophomore Luke Hart and Mario Addiego bring new support for the front line of the offense, while newcomers in the midfield are senior Jimmy Winn, juniors Jack Pleyn and Ryan Leavitt, and sophomore Kerem Satar.

Defensively, the Rams are solid as well, with senior Ben Hanneman and juniors John Paul Prosperi and Christopher Rizzo as part of the starting crew from last season. Adding to the unit this season will be juniors Brandon Notte and Trey Batson and sophomore Matt Krinic. The goalkeepers on this fall’s roster are senior Christian Cirulli and junior Kayce Bennett.

The Rams started their season on the right path, scoring twice during the second half on Sept. 4 to bounce Manalapan, 2-1. Kiernan scored both goals, with assists from Winn and Satar.

David Biggy

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