When the Bordentown Regional High School football team stepped onto the gridiron last fall, they were coming off a winless season and had mustered only one win in two years.
That surely has changed going into the 2021 campaign after the Scotties took a huge step forward on the field last fall.
Bordentown tallied up its first winning season in six years with a 5-3 record and is now looking to take another step forward this year with a loaded group of starters back in the fold.
“The kids worked really hard last year,” said Bordentown football Coach Skip Edwards. “They handled whatever was thrown at them very well and we were fortunate enough to win five games.”
Edwards called close game victories against Maple Shade and Holy Cross Prep “program builders” for Bordentown, who hopes to add more of those types of wins this season in its effort to make into the NJSIAA South Jersey, Group II Tournament.
Bordentown returns most of its firepower on offense from last season, led by junior runningback Kerry Nicholas who rushed for a team-high 769 yards with seven touchdowns last season.
For the third straight year, the Scotties will lean on quarterback Denny Morolda under center to lead the way.
Morolda, a junior, tossed four touchdown passes last season and believes the offense this season can be better and help the team win more games.
“As a team, we just clicked and everything came together,” Morolda said about last season. “Everyone back on offense is great. The (offensive) line looks good. We just want to keep working hard and get better to help the team win more games this year.”
The junior signal-caller will have his two top receivers back from last season on the outside in seniors Shane Griffin and Ryan Byard. Griffin hauled in three of Morolda’s four touchdown passes in 2020 and had 12 catches overall for 102 yards.
Byard led the team in receptions (14) and receiving yards (188) last fall.
Junior tight end Brendan Swanson is also back in the fold for the Morolda and the Scotties.
What Morolda is most happy about is having four of his five starting offensive linemen back to protect him this season.
Morolda credits the progress of the offensive line to the great success the team had on offense last year, where they scored over 20 points in each of Bordentown’s five victories.
Cameron McDuffie, Brian Cruz, Jason Smith and Kevin Santana all return to the trenches on the Bordentown offensive line. Junior John Manion is expected to slide in at center to fill out the offensive line for the Scotties.
Edwards said the offensive line has been “clicking” well in training camp.
“If we as a line aren’t on target, we don’t have a chance of winning,” McDuffie said. “It feels good to take pride in doing something to help us win.”
Joining Nicholas in the backfield this season will be senior Omari Owes and junior Michael Poinsett.
Owes saw time at tailback last season for the Scotties, rushing for 235 yards on 26 carries and had a rushing touchdown.
Poinsett played predominantly on defense as a sophomore, leading Bordentown in total tackles with 81. He will become a two-way player this season by playing fullback and being the lead blocker for the two-headed monster of Nicholas and Owes.
Both Poinsett and Owes will be starting linebackers on the Bordentown defense. Senior Maurice Ciccia will join the two as a key weapon at outside linebacker and defensive end.
Senior Trotman Kertes leads a strong group in the trenches across the defensive line for the Scotties that will feature Swanson, Cruz and Liyu Chen.
Griffin, Byard and Myles Hansford will anchor the Bordentown defensive backfield.
“I think we have a Top-10 defense,” Poinsett said. “Every game, the defense has a goal to give up zero points and no touchdowns. I think we have the talent to do that.”
On special teams, Bordentown will have a big edge in the kicking game with junior placekicker/punter Eliott Robinson back.
Robinson has not missed an extra point in his high school career and has been “awesome” for the Scotties, said Edwards.
With all the talent that is back for Bordentown and coming off a terrific season, Edwards has made it a point during training to keep his team “focused” on improving each day and not veer away from how they had had a successful season last year.
“We have to keep getting better every day and everyone needs to do their job,” Edwards said. “That will make us successful.”
Edwards has been happy with the growth of the program as he enters his third season at the helm for Bordentown, saying that the players have “bought-in” to the techniques and systems the coaching staff have installed and are doing what is expected of them.
Owes praised Edwards and the coaching staff for the job they’ve done in helping him and his teammates become a solid football team in all phases of the game.
He says the team is “gelling” well together and that will help them take that next step in earning its first state playoff appearance since 2014.
“Football is a team sport, so once everyone gels together, that’s when you win games,” Owes said. “That’s what we’ve been doing. Our goal is to win every game and make it to states.”
Bordentown will host Gloucester Catholic in its season opener on Sept. 2.