By BRIAN CUNNIFF
The Middle Township High School football team features just three seniors. There aren’t many juniors in the program, either.
That often means a rebuilding year is ahead. But the Panther players and coaches sure don’t think so.
Middle’s three seniors — David Giulian (WB/LB), Brett Nabb (QB/DB/P) and Matt Frame (OL/WB/LB) — are among the best in the area at their positions. And there’s some real talent among the sophomore group, with many of those players gaining valuable varsity experience last fall.
“Having only three seniors can sometimes limit your leadership, but some of these sophomores have the maturity of seniors,” said Middle coach Frank Riggitano, who’s embarking on his 20th season total in charge, over two different stints. “They’re all working very hard. I really like our core group. Usually you’d like to have a few more seniors, but the three we have are very, very good football players and almost all of the sophomores we’re counting on played a lot (of varsity) last year. I think we’re going to be able to compete.”
Middle faces an intriguing matchup right away, hosting Bridgeton Thursday at 6 p.m. The game will air live on 98.7 The Coast radio.
It’s a potential revenge game for Middle (4-4 last season), which lost 25-7 to the Bulldogs in Bridgeton after holding a 7-6 lead early in the fourth quarter of last season’s game.
“I wish it wasn’t a Group IV school right out of the gate but those are the cards we were dealt,” Riggitano said. “We played well in spurts against them last year and we had a lead in the fourth quarter. We hope the situation presents itself again and this time we can do the things necessary to somehow come away with a win.”
Middle hopes to be in the mix for a South Jersey Group II playoff berth. The Panthers also believe they can compete for the West Jersey Football League’s United Division title. Their division opponents include Clayton, Cumberland, Lower Cape May, Pennsville and Schalick.
“The turnout for us has been tremendous,” Riggitano said. “We’ve had 45 to 50 players show up at every workout. That’s the most we’ve had in a long time. Everyone here is buying into what we’re trying to do. The kids are excited and they’re looking forward to the opportunities in front of them.”
Giulian is one of the top defensive players in South Jersey. He averaged 11 tackles per game last season and recorded 15 stops for losses. He also contributes heavily on offense. Nabb is a dynamic threat from the quarterback position. He threw for almost 700 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for almost 400 yards and six scores. Frame is a versatile type who can play multiple positions.
Some of the key juniors include OL/DL Kani Perry, RB/LB Adrian LaBoy, TE/LB Aaron Kern and K Jerome Licata.
Licata has a big leg, with range well past 30 yards on field goals. He booted a pair of pressure field goals in a 13-10 overtime win over Gateway last season.
There are some exciting players in the sophomore class, some of whom include WR/QB/DB Michael Zarfati (12 receptions last season), OL/DL Marco Salgado, OL/DL Dan Brown, RB/LB Isiah Carr-Wing, OL/DL Mike Camp, RB/DB Zamar Wakefield, WR/LB Ryan Roscoe, RB/LB Jerry White and WR/DB Mark Oliver.
Remi Rodriguez (RB/DB) and Aydan Howell (WR/RB/DB) could see some varsity action as freshmen.
“We have about 25 solid varsity football players so that gives us a little more depth and a little more competition at practice,” Riggitano said. “We have a lot of players who can play both sides of the ball.”
Riggitano is assisted by Larry Eames, Nick Eidenberg, Ryan “5 and 0” Freyer, Dwayne Hendricks, Fred Nabb and Matt Wolf.
Hendricks is the former head coach at Cumberland. A Millville High School graduate, Hendricks played in one game for the NFL’s New York Giants in 2011 after playing college football at Miami.
After Thursday’s opener, Middle travels to Schalick on Friday, Sept. 10.
2021 MIDDLE TOWNSHIP FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Thu 9/2 BRIDGETON 6 pm
Fri 9/10 at Schalick 7 pm
Fri 9/17 at Glassboro 7 pm
Fri 9/24 CUMBERLAND 6 pm
Fri 10/1 CLAYTON 6 pm
Fri 10/8 at Collingswood 7 pm
Fri 10/22 PENNSVILLE 6 pm
Wed 11/24 at Lower Cape May TBA