RANDOLPH, NJ- The 2018 Randolph Rams football team clicked on all cylinders under new head coach Will Nahan, using a big play offense and an aggressive defense to compile a 9-2 record; their best since 2010.
While the excitement over last years’ success remains at a fever pitch, graduation took away many of the cogs in the wheel that drove the Rams to a 27 point per game average and a State Sectional Semifinals appearance. The onus will be squarely on the returning Varsity players along with the many new faces, to produce at a high level if they hope to repeat that success.
“We have a lot of new guys, but our culture is staying the same,” said Captain Justin Townsend. “As a captain this year I’m trying to take what I learned from last years’ leaders and use it with the new team. “We’ve been working hard all year long and I’m excited to see what we can do this year.
On the offense, the Rams lost two huge weapons in dual threat QB Anthony Sofia ( Over 2,500 combined yards, 22 pass TD’s and 8 rushing TD’ ) and WR Ryan McDermott ( 13 TD’s ). Also lost to graduation were two steady workhorses in RB Matt Kuntz and WR Jacob Flowers.
Sofia’s ability to run from the QB spot was a huge X-factor that made the offense hard to defend last season. Senior Matt Kleiven, voted as one of the Rams captains this season, has earned the job of stepping into Sofia’s shoes to run the offense in 2019. Kleiven has displayed a strong arm and a willingness to run so far in pre season scrimmages.
“I feel that Anthony and I are both leaders on the offense and know the playbook inside and out,” said Kleiven. “We are both very hard working players that are very unselfish and only care about the team’s success. However, I feel that I am a little more vocal than Anthony was and play more physical.”
At the skill positions, the Rams return two super talented juniors whose roles will dramatically increase. Justin Townsend, who has a rare combination of size and speed, will step into the RB spot and be the main threat out of the backfield. Jimmy Pepe, an athletic and incredibly versatile player, will line up at WR, Slot, and RB, while also returning punts and kicks.
Joining them will be small but speedy senior Dylan Glincman at WR, and the Rams biggest target in Justin Lawler at TE / WR. Junior Jake Blumenthal, senior Matt Kratchovil, and junior Cory Naclerio will also line up at WR as the Rams will often go four or five wide.
Up front along the line, the Rams will also be sporting many new faces, as four of last years’ season opening starters have graduated. The ability of this unit to perform at the level of last years’ group will be critical to the team success.
“There are some new faces on the offensive line this year, and It's been great to see how they have stepped up to fill in the shoes of our graduated linemen,” said senior captain and Rams Center Alex Perniciaro. “We have a lot of chemistry, and there has also been tons of competition for starting spots. All that competition has driven the line to work even harder.”
The lone returning starter is Pernicaro, who moved from Guard to Center where he will be the anchor of the group. Flanking him at the guard spots are juniors Dan O’Sullivan, and Anthony Raiello, while fellow juniors Dillon Sheehan and Tom O’Sullivan have been rotating in.
The two biggest Rams will line up at the Tackle spots, seniors Zane Aschenbrenner and David Dambrauskas, both of whom got some minutes and some experience last season.
On defense, the new faces are even more extensive, as only two starters return from a unit that allowed only 12.6 points per game. The Line will see a rotation of most of the same names working on the O-line, in addition to Darian Ghahary and Justin Liebhauser working in the mix.
At linebacker, senior captain Kevin Jung will anchor the middle and lead the defense. He will be joined by outside linebackers Justin Townsend and Pat Schimminger. This group also has big shoes to fill - as the backbone of the defense last year were now graduated linebackers Derrick Rooney and Justin Moreno.
“As a whole, our defensive mindset is that we will compete with the idea that no one deserves to be on the same field as us,” said Jung. “There is no other team that works harder than we do in order to ensure our success. We have been preparing all offseason for this and are eager to show that Randolph dominance is here to stay.”
In the defensive backfield Glincman is the veteran, as a returning starter from last season who also saw some spot time as a sophomore. He will start at corner along with Kratchovil, who played his way onto the field in the second half of last year. Naclerio will provide depth at the position. Blumenthal, along with fellow Juniors Aidan Koenigsberg and Pepe will rotate at Safety.
Senior John Rodriguez returns at kicker and junior Justin Lawler will be the punter
When asked to describe his captains, coach Nahan offered the following:
Kevin Jung- Extremely hard worker who does the right thing on and off the field. He is respected by his coaches and teammates for his commitment and work ethic.
Matt Kleiven- Very smart football player who was able to take the offense from the start, Matt is a student of the game as well as a natural team leader.
Alex Perniciaro- Heart and soul of the team, Alex brings the energy and physicality to every single event and makes everyone around him better.
Justin Townsend- Very strong leader who walks the talk. Justin is very talented but also works extremely hard in everything he does.
The Rams open the 2019 season on the road at Livingston, Friday Sept. 6 at 7 pm.