HILLSBOROUGH: High school football team to lean on experience this season


By Justin Feil, Contributor
The Hillsborough High School football team will have plenty of familiar names on the field when it opens up the season, and that is reason for high optimism among the Raiders.
“We have a lot more experience than we had,” Raiders head coach Kevin Carty Jr. said. “The same guys from last year are older and bigger and more experienced and at the same time they’ve worked very hard in the offseason to take advantage of their experience. They’re all better players than they were a year ago.”
Hillsborough won its final two games last year to finish 4-6 overall, while using plenty of young and first-time varsity players. They want to improve on that record, which included five losses by seven or fewer points.
In order to do just that, Mr. Carty said the team is focusing on some key factors of their game that came back to haunt them last season.
“Things that hurt us specifically last year were we turned the ball over way too much, and we were pretty bad in short-yardage situations, fourth downs and other things that almost are the same as turnovers,” he said. “We gave up too many big plays. Those are the three things that were the difference in us having a losing record and being a pretty good team.”
Moving forward, Mr. Carty said he hopes to have the team “take better care of the ball” by utilizing a now more experienced quarterback with less of an inclination to take bigger risks during games.
“I think we can be a more steady offense and that goes along with making short yardage plays better and being a little stouter on the run,” he said. “As far as giving up big plays, we’ve been working on it and our talent in the secondary is going to help us with that. If we can manage to do those things, that can be the difference in a lot of turning those seven or three-point losses into victories.”
Hillsborough has a chance to avenge one of those narrow losses in the season opener when the Raiders take on Elizabeth on Friday at 7 p.m.
With their eye on starting the season off with a win, Mr. Carty said the team has been studying Elizabeth’s roster and devising a game plan to deal with their strengths.
“They’re physical and have talent,” Mr. Carty said. “They have a lot of guys back on defense and they’re big and athletic and tough. They’re very physical and aggressive on defense. They have a new coach so they’re transitioning from a spread offense to more of a power offense.
“It’s going to be a test of will against them. They’re going to try to go as hard as they can against us with some big, strong guys and we have to see if we can take it.”
Of particular note is Elizabeth player Jahmin Muse, who can fit both a wide-receiver role, as well as a running back.
“(Jahmin) has some Big 10 offers and can make some big plays with the ball,” Mr. Carty said. “He’s probably 6’1” and 200 pounds. He can play wherever. He’s a pretty dynamic player.”
Hillsborough has a lot back on both sides of the ball. On the offense, Hillsborough senior Joe Schultz will start at quarterback for his second year on varsity.
“Joe Schultz, he’s gained a lot of experience from last year and he’s also gotten bigger and stronger,” Mr. Carty said. “He’s going to be ready to be a very good player this year.”
Hillsborough junior Matt Moore was also mentioned as someone who could fill in as a backup quarterback for the Raiders this year, after putting in some noteworthy scrimmage performances.
Jackson Parham, one of the top receivers in the state, leads the skill position players.
Jake Pollak is expected to have a big year and gives Hillsborough a good weapon at tight end, and Jack Edwards is also playing tight end.
Creating opportunities for the skill players is an offensive line that picked up experience last year. Ryan Wheaton is their top lineman overall, and will see action on offense and defense.
“It’s going to be a bunch of guys who have done it before,” Mr. Carty said. “I don’t think any of them are stars necessarily, but they’re all probably 20 pounds heavier than they were last year and tougher and experienced from last year and we’ll have some smart and athletic and tough linemen and I think they’ll get it done for us.”
Steven Rudd was elected as the captain of the linemen. Brandon Nitschke, Collin Purdy, Nick Coira and Jake Lubas are all returning starters.
Mr. Carty is confident that the experience, strength and size gains will pay off in all facets of the offense. He sees a similar make-up on the defense.
“I think the secondary is probably the strength of our team,” Mr. Carty said. “We’ll have as good a secondary as we’ve ever had.”
Mr. Carty said corners Tyler Boatwright and Charles Amankwaa are “both big-time players and will be guys who are real difference makers.”
Matt Hendrix and Luke Jansen will start as the team’s safeties.
“Both guys are veterans who played last year, Luke throughout the year but he had injury issues. Matt got in toward the end of the year and made some big plays,” Mr. Carty said. “We moved guys from the secondary because we were so deep in these areas. David Amankwaa was a good player at safety for us but we moved him down to linebacker. And Kyle Kauffman is another guy who played safety and running back and we moved him to linebacker.”
Greg Alboum will play inside linebacker and safety and Jackson Parham will also play safety.
The defensive line is set up well to do its job. A veteran crew gives a good initial push for the defense.
“Our best players on the line are Ryan Wheaton and Kyle Richardson, and we’ll play a three-man front, so we’ll have a bunch of other guys playing in the other spot,” Mr. Carty explained. “Jacob Lubas is going to start, DeAndre Curtis is another guy who’s going to play some and we’ll have some other guys rolling through.”
Jack Edwards anchors the linebacking corps. Defense will be Edwards’ main focus with the Raiders.
“He’s a junior, but he’s probably the leader of our team,” Mr. Carty said. “He’s a really good outside linebacker and can also play inside linebacker and is going to play some tight end. He’s been a good leader and he’s a tough player. He did some great things outside for us as a sophomore.”
Together, the Raiders are hoping that their defense can get stops and turn the ball back over to their offense.
“Hopefully we can stand up to people in the run game,” Mr. Carty said. “I think in the past we’ve done a pretty good job of stopping the run, but then we’ve given up some big plays. I’m hoping more talent in the back end is going to minimize some of those big plays and also get us more turnovers.”
The Raiders also like the way that their special teams are shaping up. With more players available, they can keep some starters fresh and use others on special teams.
“The volume of guys we have will benefit us on special teams,” Mr. Carty said. “And also our kickers will also be good.”
The coach said JR Metallo will return as the team’s punter, but he will also start as a linebacker, he will placekick and punt. The team also has a new kickoff specialist in Roman Tatevosov.
“He’ll be our deepest kickoff guy that we’ve ever had,” Mr. Carty said. “That’s been a really nice surprise. He came out the first day and he’s been kicking balls almost to the end zone for us. And every day he gets a little better at it. I’m confident as the season goes along we’ll get some touchbacks out of him, which is a huge advantage for us.”
Hillsborough has looked strong through its pre-season scrimmages, and Mr. Carty is excited to see the team in action for its first official game Friday. Elizabeth should present a strong challenge, but the Raiders feel ready thanks to a wealth of experience.
“Last year, going into the first game, it was hard for me to count on what’s going to happen,” Mr. Carty said. “This year, it’s not these guys’ first game. Most of them have done it before. I don’t think the lights will be too big for them. I don’t think you have those worries, so it makes you feel better. I have the uncertainty I do before any first game, but I feel a lot better knowing these guys have done it.”