Freehold Township Patriots bidding to return to winning ways on gridiron

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Freehold Township High School wide receiver Anthony Long catches a screen pass for a first down during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. Freehold Township opens up the season against Middletown North on Sept 2. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School running back Nick Whisten runs in for a touchdown during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A host of Freehold Township High School defenders tackle the Pinelands running back during a scrimmage on Aug 26 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School tight end Shawn Corchado makes a catch up the seam for a first down during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School wide receiver Anthony Long catches a screen pass for a first down during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. Freehold Township opens up the season against Middletown North on Sept 2. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School running back Nick Whisten runs in for a touchdown during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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A host of Freehold Township High School defenders tackle the Pinelands running back during a scrimmage on Aug 26 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School tight end Shawn Corchado makes a catch up the seam for a first down during a scrimmage against Pinelands on Aug 26 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

FREEHOLD – Coach Cory Davies and his Freehold Township High School football players have not had the best of luck on the gridiron the past two seasons.

The Patriots had a combined total of four wins in 2019 and 2020, falling short of their success the previous three years when they won five or more games in each year from 2016 to 2018.

Davies believes the Patriots can find more success in the win column in 2021 if they play to the level he believes they are capable of achieving on the gridiron.

“I think we can have a really good season if we do what we are supposed to do and get some breaks our way,” the veteran coach said. “If we play up to our expectations, we will be in every one of our games.”

Freehold Township has a good mix of talent and experience on offense that can propel the Patriots to the top of the Shore Conference Liberty Division, which also includes Marlboro, Neptune, Central Regional and Matawan.

The effort will start up front with four returning starters on the offensive line.

Led by seniors Shawn Mesia and Omar Francis on the right side, the Patriots have senior Hunter Bernstein returning at left guard, and senior Zach Krieg slotting in at center after earning several starting assignments in 2020.

Joe Juarez will start at left tackle, giving Freehold Township an all-senior offensive line.

“We have a lot of great guys back,” Mesia said of the offensive line.

The Patriots will have senior Ryan Jackson at quarterback in 2021. Jackson started one game at quarterback in 2020.

Jackson understands more will be expected of him this season and he is ready to take on the challenge and to help the team make a run at winning the Liberty Division.

Jackson showed his ability during a scrimmage against Pinelands Regional on Aug. 26 as he led the Patriots down the field in a well-executed two-minute drill that produced a touchdown right before halftime.

“It’s been a nice time working with all these guys,” Jackson said. “We have a lot of weapons on this team and we have a lot of potential.”

In the spread offense, Jackson will try to get the ball to senior wideout Giacomo Calamita, who had 12 receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown in four games in 2020.

Senior wide receivers Matt Carney, Aiden Greenberg and Anthony Pontecorvo, and junior tight end Shawn Corchado will boost the passing attack.

Freehold Township got a boost during the off-season as junior Anthony Long transferred from Mater Dei Prep in Middletown. Long is expected to contribute on offense, defense and special teams.

Davies said Long has done a “tremendous job” during training camp at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield. He is expected to play a key role on returns for the special teams units.

Long said the Freehold Township football program has become a “brand new family” for him and said he is looking forward to playing for his hometown team.

“I’m just hoping to help us have a good season and win the division,” he said.

Seniors Devin Olesin, Jaden Morales, Ryder Anagnos and sophomore Nick Whisten are expected to see playing time at running back.

Olesin and Morales also return on defense, with Olesin moving from safety to outside linebacker and Morales returning as an inside linebacker.

Junior Nick Benjamino returns alongside Morales at inside linebacker.

Juarez and Francis will lead the defensive line, while Calamita, Pontecorvo and Long are expected to be in the secondary.

The Patriots will open the 2021 season on Sept. 2 at Middletown North. Davies said the Patriots still have work to do before they take on the Lions.

Following a 2020-21 school year that saw Shore Conference teams in all sports deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Davies said seeing his players on the gridiron has been a welcome sight.

“The fact that they can get out here and play is big for them. They are just happy to be playing football,” he said.