Matawan football team improving under new coach Jay Graber

Scott Jacobs

Back in August before the football season started, Jay Graber wouldn’t mention any names on his Matawan Regional High School football team.

He wanted to keep it about the team for a rebuilding program.

Now in September, a few weeks into the regular season, Graber still won’t mention any names. He still wants to keep it about the team for his rebuilding program.

But there may be some names to mention soon. The Huskies are getting better in the first season of the Graber era.

They lost at home to Colts Neck High School, 33-23, on Sept. 20. But they were in the game through the fourth quarter and had multiple chances to pull away. And that’s a step forward from Matawan’s week-one performance at home on Sept. 6, a 33-7 loss to Raritan High School.

“Things are going great,” reported Graber, who came to Matawan after a highly successful  career at Allentown High School. “The kids have given a strong effort and we’re just continuing to build.”

Colts Neck is a 3-0 team after beating Matawan. The surprising Cougars are at least solid this year. But the Huskies hung with them all night on Sept. 20.

They played the Cougars to a 0-0 tie at the end of the first quarter. Then, after Matawan fell behind 7-0 early in the second quarter, Matawan’s Marvin Lovinsky returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, tying the game.

Late in the first half, the Huskies even took the lead, 15-14, after a safety and a scoop and score defensive touchdown by Brandon McCormick. Late in the fourth quarter, after losing the lead, the Huskies regained the advantage again when quarterback Dennis Buonagura threw a touchdown to receiver Ziare Williams.

Colts Neck scored two late touchdowns to pull away and win the back and forth game, but it was back and forth, and that’s progress for Matawan. The Huskies also showed big play ability on defense and special teams.

Their offense even showed some multidimensional consistency. Buonagura threw for 101 yards and hit six different receivers. Matawan’s top two backs, seniors Marc Gagneron and Mark Kawka, combined for 104 rushing yards.

Matawan had a bye after its week one loss, and Graber thought it helped the Huskies develop at an early inflection point in the season.

“The kids responded,” Graber explained. “They showed up every day and we had two good weeks of practice.”

It showed against Colts Neck, even though the Huskies still lost in the end. Like any young, developing team, they will have to take some lumps like that in close games.

But between the big plays and the multidimensional offense, the Huskies started to resemble Graber’s Allentown teams from 2010-2018, which were near annual playoff teams. These Huskies aren’t there yet, but they are getting there.

“We’re focused on all 11 guys doing jobs the way they are supposed to do,” Graber said. “If we can execute that, the results have a chance to be positive.”

Matawan will try to get its first positive result on Sept. 28 at Lakewood High School. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.

“We have to play very disciplined and do our jobs,” Graber said.