Freehold Township High School has a solid football program.
The Patriots qualified for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 5 sectional playoffs in 2015, 2016 and 2017, though they lost before the championship game all three times. Then last year, Freehold Township narrowly missed the postseason with a 5-5 record.
But the Patriots are 24-17 over the last four seasons, so they are undeniably a solid program.
This year though, the Patriots want to become great, and they might just be able to pull it off.
Freehold Township has six starters back on offense, including three offensive linemen and the team’s leading rusher from the past two seasons, running back Nic Nasso.
On defense, the Patriots return only three starters, defensive linemen Jarrid Markowitz and Jake Mollica and cornerback Brendan Doel, but they all made “major contributions” in 2018, said Freehold Township coach Cory Davies.
Davies’ team will kick off its season on Sept. 6 at home against Colts Neck High School. The opener will begin at 6:30 p.m.
“Expectations will be high,” Davies said.
They should be. Freehold Township will be a tough offense to stop in 2019.
The offensive linemen and Nasso can pound the rock and control the clock against anybody. But the Patriots’ offense is actually an air raid attack, meaning it uses shotgun snaps, four receivers and just one back. So it will have the aerial element as well.
Davies said as many as eight receivers might see action this fall, from returning starter Jake Cancela to juniors Matt Cardone and Joe Zappulla. They are a group of athletes who will give new starting quarterback Lorenzo Chirichella plenty of options.
Chirichella will be the key to making it all go. The junior may be a new starter, but he played a lot a year ago.
As a sophomore, Chirichella was a threat as both a passer and runner. Davies expects and wants more of the same in 2019.
“He played well a year ago and brings a ton of hope to the Patriots in 2019,” Davies said.
“The offense looks to be more productive and explosive this season,” the coach added.
Davies also prefers an open system on defense. Freehold Township’s base set is a 4-2-5, but the Pats will change on the fly to adapt to all the different offenses they will see in the Shore Conference’s Constitution Division.
Freehold Township should be able to handle the constant fluidity. Most of its defensive starters will be seniors this fall. Not all of them started in the past, but they have been in the program and they understand varsity football.
The senior group includes Zach Rodriguez and Frank Figueroa on the line, Duke Young, Connor Petrula and Matt Rubin at linebacker and Rob Laguerre, Mike Marino, Jayson Nami and Francesco Amato in the secondary.
The 2019 Patriots will be a combination of returning starters and returning seniors. They combine talent with commitment. Those are both encouraging qualities.
On the front page of Freehold Township’s media guide, Davies promotes the program’s proudest fact: It made the Central Jersey, Group 5 playoffs for three straight years from 2015-2017. The team’s goal in 2019 will be to add to that fact, and not just with the same accomplishment.