By Andy Loigu
With starters returning at 15 different positions, Warren Hills is hoping to get its season going in the right direction at 7 p.m. on Friday night at home against Cranford.
You can’t win them all, if you don’t win the first one
Cranford, the defending Mid-State Conference Raritan Division champion, is a tough cookie to open against. They won their division games by an average margin of 30 points as they soared to an 11-1 record last year.
But last Friday’s scrimmage at North Hunterdon showed many positive signs for the Warren Hills Blue Streaks’ eighth-year coach Larry Dubiel. After the visiting Blue Streaks whitewashed the Lions 16-0, he gave a shout-out to the shutout.
“A shutout is always nice,” he said. “I’m happy with the sustained defensive effort. We put in a lot of extra time on defense over the summer, were focused and worked hard, and the guys are swarming to the ball. And, they are having fun doing it.”
The Blue Streaks set the tone for the evening by making a safety on the Lions’ first possession. “The guys want to establish their identity, make things happen,” Dubiel said. “Whatever they tried to do, we had an answer. That comes with good preparation.”
The leaders of the Blue Streaks’ defense are senior linebackers Shane Deemer, and Joe Perna, plus junior Kyle McShea.
Up front, the pass rush comes from seniors Colton Zack, James McMenamin (the team leader with 59 tackles last season), Oscar Vega, Anthony Spiridigliozzi, and Kurt Nemeth.
In the secondary, seniors Austin Hamler, Buster Bamford, Carsen Johnson, and Ray Steinmann protect against the pass and the big play.
They will be tested by Cranford’s returning double-threat quarterback Jack Schetelich, who threw for 18 touchdowns last year and rushed for another six. He passed for 1,548 yards and ran for 1,388.
Also returning for Cranford are two-way lineman Will Fries, a Penn State recruit, and linebacker Niko Cappello.
Warren Hills scored touchdowns on its first two possessions at North Hunterdon, driving 80 yards and 69 yards in impressive fashion. Runs to the left were particularly effective, thanks to blocks from seniors Zach and Austin Viotto, plus juniors McShea, and Mark Formichelli. The play calling featured an even mix of runs and passes. Another drive that started from the Blue Streaks’ own five yard line, moved the chains for four first downs and marched deep into Lions’ territory, but ended with a missed field goal try.
“In the beginning our offense was ahead of their defense, but we did not add on in the second half, and I saw things with the execution we need to tweak,” Dubiel noted.
Behind third-year starting quarterback Evan Murray, the Blue Streaks are prepared to operate from a Multiple-I offense.
NOTEBOOK: In high school football this season, player safety related rule changes include a provision to protect ‘defenseless players.’ That means if the punter has booted the ball and is just standing there, nobody can clobber him, even though he is (in theory) a player who could make a tackle on the return.