Brick Memorial High School’s football team will commemorate a great 7-5 season that ended in the NJSIAA Group IV championship game during a season-ending surge of five wins in the last six games.
But coach Walt Currie also wants to give a final tribute to the seniors whose leadership helped the team turn around a slow start.
“Their leadership helped us a lot,” Currie said.
His team made it to the state finals for the second straight year. But Brick Memorial relinquished the title in a 9-0 loss to East Brunswick, a team the Mustangs had beaten 37-34 at the start of that season ending surge that also included a 34- 21 Thanksgiving victory over cross-town rival Brick Township High School.
“They helped us in different ways,” Currie said. “They helped the younger guys in practice and they all linked very well together, a real good mix of kids.”
Mike DiGuilmi, a junior quarterback, will be the lone returnee in the backfield as Vin Sabba, Glenn McGinnis, Anthony Altilio and Jared Aksdale graduate. Sabba scored 14 touchdowns and McGinnis had five, including a winning touchdown catch against Howell High School in the state playoffs that avenged a regular season loss. It was one of two state playoff victories coming in the final 20 seconds.
Currie said he is looking to sophomores Vin Diodato and Jarred Eccles, who made their impact on the junior varsity level, to carry that forward to the varsity as candidates for the A back spot in the triple option offense when practices begin next fall. Jihaad Howard, a junior whose athletic abilities were showcased during the indoor and outdoor track and field seasons in the sprint events, will push for playing time at halfback, along with Jordan Loiodice and Shane Panuska, both juniors. Howard and Panuska started in the defensive backfield.
The off-season work began right after the season ended and was suspended over the holidays. It will resume next week.
Loiodice, an outstanding kicker, converted 34 extra-point kicks and also got some action at punter, where Dylan Stalfa started the season. Currie is taking a “wait-and-see” attitude during the off-season to see which player will handle the responsibilities going into next fall.
Three starters on the offensive line — Nick Alvarez, Anthony Spanola and Phil Sigona — will also graduate this June.
Currie said he “will miss those guys big time.”
Two receivers, juniors Mike Acquaviva and tight end Dylan Walsh will be back. Cody Cutter departs and will be remembered for his big touchdown reception in the closing seconds of the state playoff victory at Hunterdon Central.
Currie said the team is “hit hard by graduation of the front seven,” particularly nose tackle Bill Miller who was selected Brick Memorial’s Most Valuable Player of the state championship game. Also departing are linebackers McGinnis, Alvarez, Zack Anderson and Aksdal. Acquaviva is a third returnee in the defensive secondary but Ky’mir Maples graduates. Will Wowkanyn is back on the defensive line, where he showed flashes of outstanding play.
The defensive backfield was under scrutiny during the early-season slump and jelled into a solid unit later. Currie said there are 10 players in the mix for the five spots on the line and linebacker that will be vacated.
Certainly there will be plenty of spots to fill as the preseason work unfolds.