Saint Joseph football team returning plenty of talent

Scott Jacobs
Saint Joseph Regional High School's football team huddles during a practice on Aug 22.

Saint Joseph Regional High School produced a good football season in 2018.

The school from Metuchen finished 7-3, won the Greater Middlesex Conference’s Blue Division and advanced to the NJSIAA Non-Public, Group 4 playoff semifinals, when it fell to Saint Peter’s Preparatory School of Jersey City, 35-14.

Then the Falcons lost 17 seniors, most of them starters, to graduation in the spring of 2019. Going into the new football season, the program has a lot of question marks, especially along the offensive line.

But under third-year coach Rich Hilliard, winning has become the standard for the Falcons. The program is 16-4 over the last two seasons. And despite the graduations, it should be able to keep winning this fall.

Saint Joseph has a lot of standout players back, including two way lineman Tommy Romond, defensive back/wide receiver K’Shawn Schulters and center Zach Suter. The group also includes linebacker Eric Amponsah, linebacker/wide receiver Tyree Ford and safety Gabe Suero Diaz.

It’s a group with enough talent to win games and compete for championships again. The Falcons will open their season on Sept. 7 at home versus Woodbridge High School.

“We have a good amount of skill,” Hilliard said. “A few young linemen but I think they’ll be fine.”

Hilliard’s defense gave up a solid 13.4 points per game in 2018, and it should be strong again this fall. Romond is an absolute beast at defensive end. He led the Falcons with 72 tackles last year, a tremendous number for a defensive end.

“That’s a linebacker number,” Hilliard said.

Beyond Romond, Amponsah is moving into the middle linebacker slot to replace departed starter Brian Reilly. But Amponsah became one of the strongest tacklers on Saint Joseph’s defense in 2018, and he appears ready for a more central role. Next to him are Ford, a two-year starter, and Kyle Wester, who probably would have started for most programs a year ago.

In the defensive backfield, Hilliard has playmakers across the field, from Schulters, a third-year starter, to Suero Diaz, who started all 10 games last fall.

“He’s just a great athlete,” Hilliard said of Schulters.

“He’s such a great athlete,” Hilliard said of Ford.

The coach kept repeating that statement because it applies to every key member of his defense.

It applies to his offense, too. Hilliard said the offense’s strength will be its skill guys.

Schulters and Ford will double as receivers. But Hilliard is especially excited about his new running back, Jordan Kinsler, a transfer from Immaculata High School and a Division 1 recruit as a rising junior. Kinsler has already visited Syracuse University, the University of Cincinnati and the University of Minnesota.

“He’s a very good back,” Hilliard said. “Physical and fast.”

Kinsler should take the pressure off of Saint Joseph’s first year starter at quarterback, whoever that ends up being. Two players are competing for the spot right now, as the Falcons open padded practices this week.

No matter who plays quarterback, Hilliard will put plenty of talent around him. The coach will also have a defense that can keep the Falcons in games.

The Metuchen school is talented yet again. Now it just needs to mold the talent into a team.

“We have our work cut out for us,” Hilliard said. “Now we need to jell like the last group.”