Knights look to contend again for state, division football titles

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By Warren Rappleyea

Coming off an 8-4 season that included a trip to the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V finals, the Old Bridge High School football team returns many keys players as it looks to again compete for the sectional crown and challenge for the top spot in the competitive Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Red Division.

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After starting out 3-2, the Knights won five of their next six games, including playoff encounters with Edison High School, 38-35, and New Brunswick High School, 26-12, to reach the Central Jersey, Group V championship game. Although South Brunswick High School bested Old Bridge, the experience will be helpful this time around, coach Anthony Lanzafama said.

That may come in handy right away, as Old Bridge will open the campaign at 7 p.m. Sept. 9 in South Brunswick.

Old Bridge participated in four scrimmages, playing Watchung Hills Regional High School, Freehold High School, Memorial High School and Linden High School. Lanzafama said he was generally pleased with what he saw.

“Our goal is to get better every day,” the coach said. “If we do that, we will win games. Also, that means we should be playing our best at the end of the season, and that should put is in a position to do well in the playoffs.”

The Knights return plenty of offensive firepower. As a sophomore, quarterback Artur Sitkowski quickly distinguished himself as a force to be reckoned with, completing 95 of 185 passes for 1,436 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior should be even better this time around.

Two key receivers are also back in the fold. Junior slotback Anthony Imbimbo caught 29 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns a year ago. Wide receiver Jake Kudros pulled in 18 passes for 291 yards and a trio of touchdowns last season. T.J. Angstadt; juniors Liam Knowles, Ryan Rougeau and Manny Wheagar; and sophomore Tyson Townsend round out a deep receiving corps.

Nick Sodano is Old Bridge’s top running back. The senior rushed 176 times, picked up 983 yards and scored 11 touchdowns last fall. Paul Ferrali and juniors Chance Cooper, Eddie Esposito and Julian Rivera are the other runners. Sophomore Jared Meyer will get some time as a slotback.

T.J. Townsend returns to anchor the line at guard, where he is teamed with junior Michael Santiago. Alston Amegbenyo and Lorenzo Jorge are the tackles with Justin Santiago at center. Junior Frank Grant and sophomore Max Bennett will spell the starters.

Townsend (53 tackles), Justin Santiago, Amegbenyo, Jorge, Grant and junior Ramon Paulino will all see duty on the line in Old Bridge’s 3-4 defense. Several players will rotate as linebackers, including junior Tyler Haughney (34 tackles), who saw significant playing time a year ago. Jon Sammarco and Nick DiMeglio, juniors Rich Cardaci and Bryce Madison and sophomore Jesse Reynoso are in the mix along with Knowles and Kudros.

Sodano (46 tackles) will again play a key role in the secondary. He will be joined by Angstadt, Cooper, Esposito, Ferrali, Imbimbo, Meyer, Rivera, Rougeau and junior Zach Thomas.

Sammarco, who connected on three field goals and 23 of 29 PAT attempts, will again handle the place-kicking and kickoffs. Kudros is back as punter after averaging 33 yards per punt in 2015.

“We have some guys who will be going two ways but overall, we have pretty good depth,” Lanzafama said. “Our experienced guys are good in the locker room, and that will really help our young guys. We have a strong junior class, and our experience will help them as they get their feet wet.”

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