Warriors face tough slate at start of football season

I t is hard enough when a football team has to fill the void left by a player like Jamel Smith, an all-around standout who excelled on both sides of the ball, returned kickoffs and punted.

Smith, who graduated from New Egypt High School in June, is now playing football at Lafayette College.

But Warriors’ coach Luke Sinkhorn this summer had the unexpected task of grooming a starting quarterback when Mike DeAnni, who led the Warriors to a second straight Central Jersey Group I state playoff berth in 2011, decided to devote his time in the fall to his baseball career.

“He’s concentrating on baseball,” Sinkhorn said of DeAnni. “It’s a big hit for us.”

Shane Gallant, a junior, will be taking snaps when the Warriors open their season on Sept. 7 at home against Florence High School. New Egypt will play in the West Jersey Football League Freedom Division and face the challenge of following up on a 7-3 season.

“The first four games are brutal,” Sinkhorn said.

After opening against Florence, the Warriors will face Allentown, Burlington City and Holy Cross. Allentown beat New Egypt for the first time last season, 31-28.

Division foes Maple Shade, Palmyra and Riverside also are on the schedule.

Sinkhorn says Gallant may develop quickly.

“He’s doing well and even throwing well,” the coach said of his new quarterback.

Seniors D.J. Cristman and Ethan Johnson are leading candidates at wide receiver. Junior Mark Brodzik and sophomores Alex Sempervive and Adam Estey also may play there. Sinkhorn has said in the past that the football program at small schools like New Egypt are typically thin on depth, so he does not have a lot to pull from when it comes to experienced players.

“We have a lot of untested players so our scrimmages have been crucial,” Sinkhorn said in the week prior to the season opener.

There are only two proven linemen back in Jake German, a 5-10, 210-pound junior who has moved from guard to center, and senior guard Owen Roley, a 5-11, 201- pound senior.

Another lineman, Kurt Frimel, moves into the backfield to fullback. Senior Kevin Mason, the fullback last season, moves to halfback.

The Warriors’ defense will need to carry much of the load early in the season and there is some good talent, but the coach still has some spots to fill.

German and Roley line up at the tackles with Cristman rotating in. Sempervive (6-1, 180) and sophomore Trevor Buckelew (5- 11, 175) are the defensive ends.

Frimel and Mason are reliable linebackers and junior Pat Bunce has done well in the preseason as the other linebacker in the 4-3 scheme.

Johnson started last season at cornerback, and sophomore Joah-relle Smith, who is Jamel Smith’s brother, has looked sharp at the other cornerback spot. Sophomore Chris Simms has shaped up well at safety.

Sophomore Nick Pritchard is back at placekicker, where he made 4-8 eight field goal attempts in 2011. Pritchard converted 21 extra point attempts a year ago. In addition to placekicking, Pritchard will take over the punting duties that Jamel Smith handled last season.

— Wayne Witkowski