By Tim Morris
Luke Sinkhorn is demonstrating that he is a flexible coach this season.
Howell High School’s head football coach prefers a run-first, hard-nosed, physical brand of football, which he says is in his DNA. But he also knows that a team has to play to its strengths.
“You have to adapt to your personnel,” he said. “You do what you have to do.”
This year, the Rebels have a playmaking quarterback and a deep receiving core that has changed the team’s look.
“This is my third year [at Howell], and this is the most explosive team we’ve had,” Sinkhorn said. “We’ve always had a running back but this year, we have more threats. We can be more prolific.”
It starts at quarterback with junior Eddie Morales, who became a starter midway through last season and had the offense moving.
“We’re excited about what he can do,” Sinkhorn said. “He’s a flashy player. He’s a leader in the one position you need it.”
Morales displayed his potential last year, passing for 557 yards and six touchdowns and picking up another 102 yards rushing.
With the junior in charge for the entire season, the Rebels are confident that they can put more points on the scoreboard and make more big plays.
Howell has more depth than Sinkhorn has previously had at wide receiver, which translate to the passing game being a bigger part of the offense.
Dan Cacciatore, Nasaeem Brantley, Ryan Macik, Ian Craig and Pat Handy will rotate at receiver.
The running game will still be an important cog in the offense, and Mekai Gandy will do most of the work. He was the backup last year, carrying the ball 65 times for 231 yards. Nick Chambers will also figure in the running game.
Sinkhorn will still look to establish the run.
Despite the flash and athleticism of Howell’s offensive talent and its potential to be productive, Sinkhorn noted the offensive and defensive lines are key to getting things rolling.
On the offensive line, Howell has starters Scott Prendergast and Mike Ioannidies back on the right side of the line. Center Mask Welsh and Steve Cannon and Matt Mazaukas, who will start on the left side, are newcomers.
Sinkhorn likes the versatility of the linemen, who can be physical, athletic and quick.
The defensive line has experience.
“We made some strides last year,” Sinkhorn said.
Returning on the line are Ioannidies and Bobby Cavallero on the outside at end and Welsh and Prendergast on the inside as the tackles.
Brandon Baldwin in the middle linebacker in the 4-3-4 defense. He is flanked by Cacciatore and Ryan McGrath.
In the backfield, Joe Pepe and Chambers are the corners, and Macik and Gandy play safety.
Sinkhorn wants his defense to be better on third down this year.
“The key is getting off the field,” he said.
In Handy, Howell has a proven kicker who can be a difference-maker.
“We’re moving in the right direction,” Sinkhorn said after Howell’s final preseason scrimmage. “I’m happy with the progress we’ve made.”
Howell (3-7) just missed the state playoffs last season, falling one game short. The Rebels lost three game late in the fourth quarter, and that was the difference between playing in the state sectional tournament and the consolation game.
“We lost three heartbreakers,” Sinkhorn said. “Our push this year has been to finish games, finish plays and finish tackles.
“We feel positive.”
Howell is in the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group V section.
The Rebels open what they hope can be a postseason year at home against Colts Neck High School Sept. 9 at 6:30 p.m. The game is also the Shore Conference A North Division opener for both.