Eagles hoping to soar again as 2022 football season kicks off

Middletown High School South running back Donovan Summey breaks a tackle and picks up a first down during a scrimmage against Piscataway on Aug. 25 in Piscataway. Middletown South opens the 2022 season on Sept. 2 against Long Branch.

MIDDLETOWN – Win, restock, repeat. That has been the recipe of success for the Middletown South High School football team for 24 seasons under the leadership of Coach Steve Antonucci.

During that span, Antonucci’s teams have compiled a 206-61 record and won six state sectional playoff championships.

Antonucci expects that success to continue in his 25th campaign leading the Eagles.

Middletown South will open the 2022 season at Long Branch High School on Sept. 2 and Antonucci believes this team can replicate what the 2021 squad accomplished. Last year’s team went 9-2 and reached the North Jersey Section II, Group IV state sectional playoffs championship game.

“We are going to be right in the mix of things” at the end of the season. “We have some guys who can certainly play. They are super motivated to get us back” to a state championship game, Antonucci said.

As they have in the past, the Eagles will once again rely on their running game to pace the offense.

Leading the way will be junior running back Donovan Summey. In 2021, Summey backed up 1,000-yard rusher Dan Primiano.

A year ago, Summey provided a spark for the Eagles against Sayreville War Memorial High School in a state sectional semifinal game. He scored the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter and Middletown South went on to defeat the Bombers, 17-8.

Summey is excited about being the starter at tailback and having the opportunity to become a 1,000-yard rusher.

“This is a big year for me. I want to show out and break that 1,000-yard rushing mark. We are looking really well offensively,” he said.

Opening the holes for Summey will be seniors Thomas Whyte (guard) and Tyler Addonisio (tackle), with support from sophomore Michael Toth and seniors Aidan Parry and Luigi Massagli on the offensive line.

The Eagles will have a new face at quarterback in junior Jake Czwakiel.

In 2021, Czwakiel was a starter at defensive back, where he recorded 45 tackles and led the team with five interceptions. As the placekicker, he was 25-27 on extra points and he kicked five field goals.

Antonucci calls Czwakiel a “great player” and believes he will succeed at quarterback just as he has excelled on defense and as the Eagles’ placekicker.

Czwakiel will be throwing to a group of receivers led by senior Logan Colleran and junior Owen Richter. Senior Jason Wagner is expected to start at tight end.

Middletown South’s 3-4 defense will be led by its inside linebacker duo of returning starters Colin Gallagher (junior) and Kyle Smith (senior).

In 2021, Gallagher recorded 83 tackles, led the Shore Conference with 12 quarterback sacks, made 19 tackles for a loss and forced three fumbles.

Antonucci expects another great season from Gallagher at inside linebacker and at fullback.

“He has been a great player for us,” the coach said of Gallagher.

Wagner and sophomore Luke Wafle will flank Gallagher and Smith as the outside linebackers.

Addonisio will anchor the defensive line with Parry and senior Will Christopher.

In the secondary, junior Anthony Puccio will join a strong group that includes Czwakiel, Colleran and Richter.

Middletown South will compete in what is expected to be the toughest division in the Shore Conference – the American Division.

In addition to Middletown South, the American Division features Manalapan, Rumson-Fair Haven Regional, Red Bank Catholic, Donovan Catholic and Wall.

Antonucci said his players know the challenges that await them this season and he said they are continuing to work hard to get themselves ready to meet those challenges.

“We are coming to work every day trying to get better. We are up early in the morning grinding and getting ourselves ready for what is ahead,” Antonucci said.