By Wayne Witkowski
Steve Fence is preparing for the upcoming football season as New Egypt High School’s new football coach aware of some challenges he faces at the outset with an NJSIAA Group I school.
New Egypt struggled at the end of the past two seasons after solid starts both years when fatigue and injuries took their toll.
“Yes, I heard about that,” said Fence, who served as an assistant coach at Manchester Township High School and Barnegat High School since 1999.
“And I know for the seniors, I’m their third head coach in their four years.”
Last season, New Egypt started 4-1 and then lost six straight. In the season finale, Bordentown Regional High School scored seven touchdowns before New Egypt spoiled the shutout with a pair of late scores in Bordentown’s 48-14 win — its third straight in a series New Egypt leads, 9-6.
In 2014, it had a three-game tailspin at the end of a 6-4 season that included a lopsided loss to Middlesex High School in the opening round of the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I playoffs.
Depth was a problem both years, which is typical of most Group I schools, as New Egypt played most of its starters on both offense and defense and even some on special teams, which wore on many players over the long season.
“[Coaching] Group I is different, obviously a change,” Fence said. “You have to change your philosophy a little. I’ve talked to guys with experience in that.”
But Fence feels he can adjust and adapt after serving as an assistant coach at Manchester Township from 1999 to 2013, including as offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2013.
He was an assistant coach at Barnegat, a Group II school, in 2014 and 2015. Barnegat made the state playoffs for only the second time in its history in 2014 and also won Shore Conference B South Division in a 7-3 season that year.
“For the past two years, I reached out for head coaching jobs,” Fence said. “This is a tremendous opportunity, a natural fit. I’ve been an Ocean County guy and familiar with the program for years.
“I’ve seen a lot of positives here, a lot of support from the town, the community and the kids, who seem very coachable.”
Fence has seen New Egypt as a program that can be successful, as its season opens Sept. 9 at Maple Shade High School. Despite his offensive slant as an assistant coach, he will build the Warriors on a defense-first approach.
“I’m an offensive guy but if you have defense that can stop people, you’ll win games,” Fence said, as he has a roster already posted with 53 players. “We’ll use a 4-3 [defensive] scheme, [with] a cover 2 or cover 3. I don’t want to confuse kids, but they’ll have specific responsibilities.
“Offensively, we’ll make people defend the whole field.”
The coach implied that his team will run a spread offense, where rising junior Kyle Frimel brings limited experience as a leading candidate at quarterback, replacing Alex Barnett, who started most of last season. The Warriors have begun summer workouts three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — and are playing 7-on-7s on Tuesdays at Southern Regional High School as well as a 7-on-7 camp June 17 at Monmouth University.
Chris Tereszczyn and Gino Tortoriello also are top players who graduated from last year’s team. Tortoriello led the rushers with 356 yards and four touchdowns.
Frimel’s older brother, Kurt, played in all 10 games as a sophomore on Cornell University’s football team, making 28 tackles (17 solo) and a sack,which knocked Columbia University out of field-goal range in a 3-0 win — Cornell’s lone victory last season. He had a career-high five tackles that day.
Mario Reed returns for his senior season as the kicker, where he made all four field goals and 15 of 16 extra-point kicks. Neal Flogel is expected to increase his role as a wide receiver for his junior season coming off a fine spring for the baseball team that lost to Pitman High School, 5-3, in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group I semifinals in a 14-7 season. Flogel batted .357 with 10 RBIs.
Many other considerations still are up in the air until the players get deeper into summer workouts and begin preseason practices in mid-August that includes scrimmages with Manchester Township, Pinelands Regional High School and Point Pleasant Beach High School.
Fence still is looking to fill the rest of his coaching staff and currently has Larry Pazlach as offensive line coach, Dan O’Reilly as wide receiver coach and Brendan McCarthy as running back coach. McCarthy coached the boys lacrosse team this spring in its 12-4 season. Fence still is building a staff on the defensive side, where volunteers Barry Sullivan coaches linebackers and defensive backs and Tyler Kazio coaches the line. Volunteer Adam Reiniche coaches wide receivers.