By Tim Morris
Jason Dagato is upbeat about Marlboro High School’s 2016 prospects on the gridiron.
Some may wonder why, considering the team’s 1-9 campaign in 2015. However, Dagato knows his team and has reasons to believe it can change the perception of Marlboro football.
“Our expectations are high,” Dagato said. “We have a lot of kids coming back, and they have clearly put the work in.”
The result is a bigger, more physical Mustangs team.
Along with Marlboro being able to do the pushing this season, it’s the second year it has been in the I-formation of offense.
“The players have grown into the system,” Dagato said. “They understand it.
“We’re looking to run right at you. [Physical play] gives us an identity.”
Another cause for optimism is Marlboro’s three playmakers.
Running back Cameron Caorsi rushed for more than 1,000 yards and eight scores last year, and he is the player who sets the physical tone for the club with his hard running.
“He has speed and power and toughness, and he can make the big play,” Dagato said.
Johnny Helff is a complement to Caorsi in the backfield with a similar, physical style.
In 6-foot-5 wide receiver Justin Marcus, the Mustangs have not only a possession receiver who can move the chains, but also someone who can get downfield and stretch defenses.
Jared Wright returns at quarterback with a year’s experience running the offense.
“He’s taken control of the offense and is making quick decisions,” Dagato said.
Marlboro has an offensive line that ranges in weight in from 215 to 300 pounds. The line can be athletic and physical, and it is experience.
Riley Keating, Kyle Dade, Anthony Damato, Anthony Mitchell and Chris Magenelli are the starters on the line, and fullback Ryan Cassady acts as an additional blocker.
“We want to control the game, run the ball and not make mistakes and negative plays,” Dagato said.
Marlboro’s playmakers don’t stop on offense. In 6-foot-5, 230-pound Nnamdi Unachukwu, Marlboro has a dominant defensive end who is capable of cutting the field in half. He spends most of his time making plays behind the line of scrimmage. Unachukwu is a disruptive force that teams have to game plan for. While they are focusing on him, things open up for Marlboro’s other defenders to make plays.
“We’re expecting a huge season from him,” Dagato said. “He’s big and strong and holds his own against the running game. We’re excited about his play.”
Marlboro has hard-nose linebackers led by Caorsi, along with Helff and Cassady.
In the backfield, Rob Semo and Marcus are the safeties.
Just as the team is looking to run the ball aggressively, the defense wants to stop the run.
“We have to be physical,” Dagato said.
The football season opens with rivalry games, and for Marlboro that means a game against neighboring Manalapan High School. This year, the Braves head to Marlboro for the annual game Sept. 10. Kickoff is at 12 p.m.
The winner of this game gets the Doc Berman Trophy.
Marlboro hits the road the rest of September with games against Pinelands Regional High School (Sept. 16), Freehold Township High School (Sept. 23) and Colts Neck High School (Oct. 1).
The Mustangs’ next home game is Oct. 8, when East Brunswick High School comes to town for a Shore Conference-Greater Middlesex Conference clash.