Kessler set to unleash a big game on Keyport

By: Sean Moylan
   On the rare downs he doesn’t play, Chad Kessler paces the sidelines like a panther on the prowl while simultaneously keeping his eyes glued on the action.
   Although he never wants to leave the field, Kessler doesn’t let time go to waste. He makes a quick study of the opposition’s offense (or defense for that matter) until it is time for him to pounce again.
   Before home games, he drenches his head and hair with water from a sprinkler on the sidelines as though he has a need to mentally – and physically – cool down before the first play. Maybe he does. After all, Chad Kessler is a Florence Township Memorial High School defensive lineman, which means, by definition, he’s a warrior.
   "When I’m on the sidelines, I’m thinking of what I want to do," said Kessler, who also doubles as an offensive tackle.
   This Saturday Kessler and his teammates will be playing Keyport for a NJSIAA Group I Central Jersey Championship. Yet unlike in last year’s championship loss against an undefeated Paulsboro club,this year’s contest is expected to be a close game.
   "I think on last year’s team we were known for our all-stars (Jenkins and Maus). This year when you think of Florence you think we’re the 11-0 team."
   This year’s Florence club reminds you of those old championship Green Bay Packer teams. Both teams had great head coaches (Vince Lombardi and Joe Frappolli) and both teams had several all-star players who were picked as all-stars more for what they did to win games than what they did statistically.
   Kessler is a good case in point. Kessler made All-South Jersey Group I the All-Academic, All-County and All-Freedom Division All-Star teams with 65 tackles. Others may have had more tackles, yet the number 65 doesn’t account for the countless times Kessler has directed a ball carrier into the arms of a Ryan Lee, Brett Burg, Pat Montalto, Joe Spahn or Matt Ordog. Nor does it tell the story of how Kesslers’ sack in the Asbury Park contest turned a semi-competitive game into a blowout in an instant. He, like many of the Flashes, makes big plays.
   "There’s so much camaraderie in here," said Kessler who hangs out with nearly every player on the team. "This team is a fun team."
   In fact Kessler’s best friend on the team, Bud Semptimphelter, a senior, doesn’t get a lot of ink. Yet,he’s easily been one of the better offensive linemen in the Freedom for years.
   Both Kessler and Semptimphelter are co-captains.
   "Our defensive practices have been good old-fashioned football," said Kessler who is ready for Saturday’s contest.
   "Nick Lubrano (Florence’s defensive coordinator) has so much energy when he’s coaching."
   Life is good for Kessler going into Saturday’s championship contest. Nevertheless, he has had more than his share of hardships during his football career at Florence.
   A Pop Warner standout, Kessler played in Florence’s last game as a freshman and made a strong impression with a great game at linebacker. Unfortunately, he struggled most of his sophomore season until Coach Lubrano moved him from linebacker to a more natural defensive end position with two games to go. Playing on the defensive line, Kessler’s career took off in his junior year. He was so valuable on defense that the Flashes’ coaches would often rest him on offense. Now an all-star, Kessler was at the top of his game when he went down in the Gloucester City playoff game.
   Kessler and Florence’s starting quarterback Ryan Shafer both sat out last year’s championship game with injuries. Nevertheless, Kessler cheered on the sidelines and never let on to the extent of his injuries.
   "It was kind of depressing (not playing), but you couldn’t let that faze you," noted Kessler, who received surgery for his torn ACL last December 20th.
   The road back from the injury was a bumpy one.
   An all-star javelin thrower, Kessler didn’t do much last track season with his torn ACL.
   "I was worried coming into the (football) season. It was to the point where I couldn’t squat," said Florence’s great pass rusher.
   Happily, Kessler got his confidence back with a great game versus Burlington City early in the season. When his knee acts up, Florence’s diligent coaching staff is quick to give him plays off.
   Once upon a time, Chad’s older brother C.J. led Florence to many a victory as a quarterback and defensive back. Whereas C.J.’s game was speed and intelligence, Chad’s game is raw power and intelligence. In fact, Kessler’s current GPA is a 3.89.
   The Kessler boys are products of great parents—Cholly and Mary Ellen Kessler. Mary Ellen Kessler, who runs Coach Frappolli’s office flawlessly, is an incredibly kind person.
   "I love my mom—she’s my best friend," said Kessler, who has many friends.
   Kessler readily passes the credit for this year’s success to Florence’s fantastic linebacking core of Brett Burg, Joe Spahn and Matt Ordog. Like a true captain, Chad Kessler is always prepared to put team over self.