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Cougars ready to put tough years behind them

By Tim Morris

There’s a sense of urgency around the Colts Neck High School football team.

“It’s been a tough, tough couple of years,” said Cougars head coach Darian Barnes, who starts his second season at the helm of the program.

Fortunately, Barnes believes the Cougars have the tools to turn things around following a pair of 1-9 seasons. They are loaded with veteran seniors and have talent at the skill positions. Plus, its Barnes’ second year and the players now know what is expected of the them.

The Cougars have productive skill players in quarterback Hayden Volk, running backs Carmen Catena and Liam Abujawdeh and receiver Bryce Campbell. All are seniors.

“Carmen is the heart-and-soul of the offense,” Barnes said. “He’s a phenomenal kid.”

Barnes also pointed out that Volk is “the consummate professional and has a big arm. He’s a great decision-maker.”

John Prus and Steven Barsky will play fullback, and Justin Kauffman is an added threat at wide receiver.

Tom Clark heads up an experienced offensive line that includes Scott Wetzel, Danny O’Connor and Liguori Fankhauser.

Linebackers Vincent Gargiulo (92 total tackles and eight quarterback sacks in 2015) and Barsky set the tone for a physical defensive unit.

Colts Neck has depth on the defensive line with Wetzel, Clark, Justine Fruscione, Fankhauser and Joe Giacalone all in the rotation.

Abujawdeh and Shawn Scully are the cornerbacks, while Campbell and Volk will play safety.

Barnes pointed out that despite its record last fall, the Cougars were not overmatched on the gridiron.

“Last year, we were competitive, but we didn’t finish games. That won’t be the case this year,” he said.

The reasons it won’t is because of the team’s maturity and experience. The players are more prepared to play a full 48 minutes.

“We’re going to play smart, tough football,” Barnes said.

Winning will cure all doubts the Cougars may have after their struggles the last two years. Getting off to a good start is very important.

“We need to get the ball rolling,” Barnes said. “It’s a matter of executing. Everything comes from believing you can do it.”

Winning will make the Cougars a dangerous team to play.

Colts Neck kicks the 2016 season off on the road at rival Howell High School. Game time is 6:30 p.m.

This is a Shore Conference A North Division game. The Cougars moved back to A North this year when the conference realigned. All six Freehold Regional High School District schools are now in the same division.

The Cougars’ home opener is another A North contest with Freehold Township High School Sept. 17 at 12 p.m.

There’s a road game out of conference at Long Branch High School Sept. 23 at 7 p.m., before returning home Oct. 1 to play Marlboro High School at 12 p.m.

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