Marlboro High School has not registered a winning football season for the last decade. But going into 2019, Marlboro coach Jason Dagato thinks these Mustangs can end that drought.
Dagato’s thought process may even prove right because the Mustangs are strong in the most basic area of football – on the offensive and defensive lines. Marlboro has three starting linemen back its offensive line and two out the three defensive line starters will be returning as well.
On offense, the group is anchored by a third year starter at center in Allen Volant. And on defense, the centerpiece is nose tackle Paul Damato, an All-Shore Conference Third Team selection last season.
Led by players like Volant and Damato, Marlboro has been gradually improving in recent years, too. The Mustangs went 0-10 in 2014, Dagato’s second year at the helm, while improving to 3-7 by 2016 and 4-6 last season.
The coach hopes this will be the year when the program finally breaks through and makes the NJSIAA playoffs.
“We want to get in and make some noise,” Dagato said.
It’s not an unreasonable goal for a team that should be strong at the line of scrimmage.
On the offensive line next to Volant, Damato and Dylan Cherichello are back at tackle and guard, respectively. The trio opened holes for a running attack that racked up 1,743 yards and 17 touchdowns last fall, as well as an average of 174.3 yards per game.
Top rusher Dontrell Alston is gone, but his backup, Vincent Spitalieri, had a decent season as well, recording 437 yards, four touchdowns, two 100 plus yard games and an average of 6.8 yards per carry. Now, Spitalieri will play the same old school role that Alston played a year ago – the featured back.
“The run game will be a strength,” Dagato said. “Our tailback can run away from people.”
On the defensive line next to Damato, Dominick Palumbo is a returning starter at end. According to Dagato, Palumbo made a big impact a season ago. Both linemen should open space for an experienced group behind them, too.
Marlboro has five other starters returning on defense, three linebackers and two defensive backs. The linebackers, such as Steven Cassidy and Anthony Carcaldi, have the ability to make plays. The defensive backs, Nick Wright and Spitalieri, combined for five interceptions in 2018.
“We should be able to march out a good defense each week,” Dagato said.
A good defense and running game; Marlboro will play old school football this season. That’s why it’s not essential for the Mustangs to solve their quarterback problem.
Four players are competing to replace graduated starter Alex Schutzer. Dagato said that though, there is no clear winner at this time, he’s looking for a runner. He wants to prevent defenses from keying in on Spitalieri, like they did on graduated running back Alston a year ago.
“We want to add more dimensions this year,” he said.
The Mustangs will open their 2019 regular season on Sept. 7 at Trenton Central High School. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
The Mustangs month of September will continue with games against Colts Neck High School, Middletown High School North and Howell High School over the next three weeks. None of Marlboro’s nine regular season opponents finished above .500 in 2018.