By Tim Morris
Having established themselves as a playoff team, the Freehold High School football team players would like to do more than just be there.
After back-to-back seasons with records of 7-3 and 6-4 and state playoff appearances that have put the Colonials back on the map, Freehold would like to take the next step this fall and hang around the playoffs for more than one game.
“They’ve had a taste of the playoffs,” head coach Dave Ellis said. “The players want to prove themselves in the playoffs and go further.”
Freehold will count on the recent winning tradition because it is very young and inexperienced. The team is also minus its leader and playmaker, graduated quarterback Jake Curry.
However, the Colonials have talent, led by junior running back Ashante Worthy.
Worthy, who rushed for 1,398 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, is one of the most dynamic backs in the Shore, and all signs point to the Colonials’ playmaker being even better in 2016.
“Ashante has done a great job preparing himself for the season,” Ellis said. “He’s maturing, and he’s become more of a leader.”
Worthy is franchise-type back who can carry a team, but he can’t do it alone.
Receiver Matt Krauss displayed a lot of potential as a freshman, and the Colonials will look for him to give the team a downfield weapon in the passing game to balance the running attack. He averaged more than 20 yards per catch as a freshman and caught two touchdown passes.
Markee Gill is also back as a wideout.
Zach Sparks and Knox Stokes can provide relief for Worthy in the backfield.
The loss of Curry, who was last year’s New Transcript Player of the Year, at quarterback can’t be minimized. He meant so much to the team as a leader and was such a big part of the offense with 1,600 total yards and 19 touchdowns.
In his place, Joe Krause and Matt Dasilva are vying for the starting job. Dasilva is more familiar with the Colonials’ spread offense, while Krause has a strong arm and can throw the deep ball.
Worthy and Krauss are two of the four returning starters from 2015. The others, who are on the offensive line, are Marki Gill and Nik Eccleston.
Completing the linemen are Anthony Arciero, Zac Wiles and Alex Verardi.
“They’re doing a nice job, doing what we ask them to do,” Ellis said.
One way the Colonials can put more points on the scoreboard this year is by finishing drives.
“Yardage-wise, our points don’t match our yards,” Ellis said. “We have to improve in the red zone.”
Converting total yardage into more points could go a long way toward making the offense more productive.
As the nose tackle, Marki Gill is the center of the Colonials’ defensive line.
Linebackers are the playmakers for the defense, and a young defense has some experience in Jared VanDysen, Xavier Madera and Eccleston.
The secondary is led by Worthy and Markee Gill.
The Colonials will again be an aggressive, high-risk defense looking for turnovers and making negative plays.
Freehold opens the season on the road at crosstown rival Freehold Township High School Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in a Shore Conference A North Division contest.
For the first time in the long history of this rivalry, both teams are coming off state playoff seasons.
“Both sides play their hearts out, which is the way it should be,” Ellis said.
The Norman “Duke” Farrell Trophy is the prize for the winner, and it is currently held by Freehold.
The Colonials’ home opener is Sept. 17, when Howell High School makes a call for another Freehold Regional High School District and division matchup. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.