Rich Marchesi is entering his 34th season as South River High School’s football coach, so he has a good feel for when a team is going to be competitive.
After one week of padded practices, Marchesi loves this South River football team.
Despite graduating 16 impact players after last season, and despite a 2019 roster that consists mostly of sophomores and juniors, the Rams are already showing their coach a lot of positive signs. They are hustling all over the field and picking each other up with vocal encouragement.
Even though they are young, these Rams are practicing like a veteran high school team. Now they just have to play like one.
South River’s 2019 regular season will start on Sept. 7 at home versus Abraham Clark High School of Roselle. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
Marchesi is pumped.
“We are young but enthusiastic,” the coach said. “The guys are psyched to be out there practicing and getting better.”
“It’s pretty cool,” he added.
Since South River is a very small school, its football team only has between 30 and 34 players, according to Marchesi. But with so much energy in the program, there is a lot of competition for the various open starting spots on both sides of the ball.
“I’m just going to put the best 11 on the field,” Marchesi said.
At most spots, the veteran coach will have to make tough decisions. But at some, he knows who his starters and likely standouts will be.
Marchesi is especially confident in his lines. Defensive and offensive tackle Steven Rodriguez is a Division 1 prospect as a rising senior. His fellow tackle on both lines, Jaylen Crawford, stands 6-3 and weighs 380 pounds.
Marchesi’s son, Matthew Marchesi, is a strong, 5-11 and 225-pound center. One of the guards next to him, Michael Lane, is experienced. And the two players competing for the other guard spot weigh between 250 and 300 pounds.
South River should be big, strong and experienced on the interior, on both sides. And that’s always important.
“There’s some beef up front,” Marchesi said.
Marchesi also loves his talent at another crucial spot–quarterback.
Rising sophomore Ryan Kurtz is the projected starter, after calling signals for South River’s junior varsity team a year ago.
The dual threat quarterback led the JV Rams to an 8-1 record in 2018. Then he hit the weight room and added varsity muscle in the offseason.
South River has been very multiple on offense the past couple years, playing every formation from a five wide receiver set to a wing-t set, which features multiple running backs. Standout quarterback Michael DeSantis, who graduated in the spring, made the whole thing go.
Marchesi thinks Kurtz can do the same.
“We won’t be afraid to throw with Ryan and run with him, like we did with Michael the past couple years,” Marchesi said.
“Ryan had a great year last year and now he’s bigger, stronger and faster,” the coach added.
The veteran boss is clearly excited, but don’t confuse that for irrationality. He knows the Rams, with their youth, will have to get better as the season goes on.
“With inexperience, I think we’ll win a couple games we shouldn’t win and lose some we shouldn’t,” Marchesi said. “But we’re doing a good job so far.”