COLTS NECK – Coach Matt Ahearn took the reins of the Colts Neck High School football program prior to the 2018 campaign and has since turned the Cougars into one of the best teams in the Shore Conference.
“The growth of our program has been exciting to see,” Ahearn said. “Our numbers keep getting bigger and bigger each year. The lower levels like freshman and junior varsity are having success. Seeing the program grow and the excitement within the school are the most exciting parts for me.”
Ahearn, who previously served as an assistant coach at Red Bank Catholic High School, has put together an 18-10 record at the helm of the Cougars.
Colts Neck was 7-1 in 2020 and enters the 2021 campaign with the goals of qualifying for the state sectional playoffs for the first time since 2013 and proving itself to be among the top teams in the Shore Conference.
Colts Neck will compete in the Shore Conference American Division against Donovan Catholic, Rumson-Fair Haven, Toms River North and Wall Township.
Ahearn said his players love the fact they are competing in what is considered to be the top division of the Shore Conference this season
“They want to challenge themselves each and every week and that is what is going to happen with our schedule,” he said. “It is an exciting thing and it’s where we want to be.”
An experienced and talented squad starts on offense with senior quarterback Tommy Fallon returning. Fallon is a three-year starter and also saw action as a freshman.
In 2020, Fallon completed 67% of his passes for 720 yards and five touchdowns. He rushed for 475 yards and two touchdowns.
“The experience of being a three-year starter is a game-changer,” Fallon said. “You know the offense that much better and it gives you a lot of confidence on the field.”
Fallon will enjoy the luxury of having three three-year starting offensive lineman protecting him in seniors Dan Volpe, Matt Jannucci and Ryan Whalen.
Senior Jack Machu and sophomore Matt Liggio are expected to fill the final two spots on the offensive line, which Ahearn believes will be the driving force of the offense.
“It starts up front with the linemen we have coming back and the new guys who are up there,” Ahearn said. “They are gelling and it is exciting to watch.”
Ahearn will need to find wide receivers and running backs following the graduation of Matt Scully (28 catches, 317 receiving yards, 2 TD) and Joe Barsky (1,129 rushing yards, 20 TD) in 2020.
Senior John Manos, junior Sal Marinello and sophomore Chris Scully, the younger brother of Matt Scully, will get a look at running back.
In 2020, Manos rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns. He enters his senior season as a three-year starter at outside linebacker.
At wide receiver, senior John Runfolo will step into a bigger role after catching six passes for 83 yards and two touchdowns in 2020.
Senior Cade Chrebet and juniors Will Surdez and Matt Celli will also be targets for Fallon. Senior tight end Colton Bardsley will factor into the run game and the passing game.
On defense, senior Anthony Bonanno returns for his third season as the team’s starting middle linebacker to lead the charge. Bonanno led the Cougars with 84 total tackles in 2020. He will be flanked by Manos and Surdez in the 4-3 defense.
Volpe and Jannucci will anchor the interior of the defensive line, while Runfolo and Chrebet will lead the way in the secondary.
The Cougars will open the season on Sept. 3 against Toms River North in an American Division contest.
“We have to start fast,” Ahearn said. “You can’t be undefeated unless you start 1-0. It’s very important for us to start strong.”