Saint Joseph of Metuchen poised for productive season under new head coach


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The Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen football program hopes first-year head coach Rich Hilliard brings the same offensive firepower he did when he was offensive coordinator.

Hilliard was on the sidelines for the Falcons for five years and was the offensive coordinator for the last two years before replacing Casey Ransone as head coach this offseason. The Falcons scored 35 points per game when Hilliard was the offensive coordinator.

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Hilliard doesn’t want to focus on offensive statistics or goals. Instead, he would love to see the team’s chemistry be at an all-time high for the team to be successful.

“I just want the whole team to be a big family,” Hilliard said. “Everything goes a lot smoother if the whole team is in sync and is a family. Coach Ransone had a good thing going here. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel.”

Hilliard is excited to see what the team will do this year, but he knows the journey will not be easy.

“Just going off of our first few practices, I can tell we have a lot of gifted and skilled kids on this team,” Hilliard said. “We have a really good offensive line as well as in the skill positions. We should be really good. However, there’s a lot of good coaches and football teams in our division, so we’re in for a competitive season.”

Quarterback Paul Cocozziello will be the spoon that stirs Hilliard’s offense. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior led the conference in passing two years ago and was on his way to doing it again last season before an injury shortened his junior year, according to Hilliard.

“We’re expecting big things from him,” Hilliard said. “I know he’s motivated to go back out there and prove that he’s still got it.”

Manny Resto will be counted on as the primary rusher for Saint Joseph. The 6-foot, 195-pound senior also plays linebacker for the Falcons, but he will roam around at safety this year. Brian Riley will play both fullback and linebacker for the Falcons and will share the backfield with Resto. The junior is 6 feet tall and weighs 205 pounds.

“Resto is just a stud,” Hilliard said. “He’s going to be big for us this year.”

Cocozziello’s top receiving targets will be junior Jordan Davis and senior AJ Murray. Davis stands at 5 feet 8 inches tall and 170 pounds, while Murray is 5 feet 10 inches tall and 185 pounds. The two also play defensive back on defense.

“Those two guys are definitely weapons for us,” Hilliard said. “Davis is so elusive, and Murray is always there to make a play.”

Jon Sot is another wide receiver Hilliard believes will contribute greatly. Sot is a 5-foot-10, 160-pound senior who is already committed to Harvard University as a kicker next year.

Senior David Barattucci and junior John Olmstead will lead the offensive line. The 6-foot-6, 290-pound Olmstead will be the star at both offensive and defensive tackle. Barattucci, at 6 feet 1 inch tall and 280 pounds, will play as the offensive guard.

“Olmstead is my anchor on both my lines,” Hilliard said. “The guy’s already getting offers from some of the top colleges in the nation. He’s just a beast. Barattucci and Olmstead are the force on our offensive line. They’re the ones that are going to be able to let our offense run smoothly all year.”

The Falcons open their season at Delbarton School in Morristown on Aug. 31 at 5 p.m.

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