SUMMIT, NJ - Like a forgetful clown after the circus has left town, the Summit High School Varsity Football Team's Class of 2019 left behind some pretty big shoes to fill when they departed
Max Jackson, Dom Yorio, Jackson Tyler, Jack Kelly, Hunter Timpson, virtually the entire offensive line, Skyler Schluter and more than a few others -- who collectively helped deliver a(nother) State Championship to the 07901 -- all have moved on to the next chapter of their life's journey.
But, to Head Coach Kevin Kostibos, that is just life in the Hilltop City, prep football style. For Kostibos, his staff and the players, it remains business as usual for a program that has a "next man up" mantra which sees new faces plugged into familiar roles in an effort to continue the winning tradition that they -- and those before them -- have established.
"We tell our kids: 'don't try and be the next Max Jackson or Jack Kelly, just be the best you'," said Kostibos. "It isn't a case of rebuilding or reloading, it really is 'next man up'."
Fortunately for Kostibos and Hilltopper Nation, the players who will be asked to step up, step in and contribute got a birds-eye look last season at how to get the job done. "There is no substitute for experience and these kids got see what it takes to win a championship."
Witnessing the feat was important, but the reality is that a good number of those who will return to don the Maroon and White in 2019 also played important roles in the conquest of 2018. While some Hilltoppers will be seeing their first major dose of live game action, others already were swimming in the deep end of the gridiron pool as juniors and sophomores.
Two of those 'vets', seniors Joe Lusardi and Matty Goldblatt, are likely to keep opponents on their toes -- and Summit faithful on the edge of their seats -- on both sides of the ball this season. While 'Thunder and Lightning' may not be a perfectly tailored moniker to describe the pair, a 'Double Dose of Dynamite' might be, as both players have explosive capabilities that could turn any play into a highlight reel candidate.
"They both have 'pop'," Kostibos says of the duo, who will feature in the backfield on both offense and defense.
Of course, the trenches is where football games are normally won and lost and, in seasons when Summit has had extended success, those campaigns have not-so-coincidentially featured some of the programs best-performing offensive and defensive lines.
"It all starts up front," Kostibos said.
The offensive line will feature just one returning starter -- senior Ronnie Faris at center-- with Faris joined by classmates Justin Luckshire and Harry Grange along with juniors Charlie Wattick and Ryan Tomlin. Given past precedent, the smart money says Kostibos and his staff will coax accelerated amounts of maturity and chemistry out of the unit in an equally accelerated amount of time.
Could success in the Hilltopper offensive backfield be as easy as 1-2-3?
Kostibos will hope so, as Lusardi and Goldblatt will be joined by Sam Roberts at quarterback, the senior signal caller's number two uniform number fitting nicely numerically between Lusardi's number one and Goldblatt's number three. Kostibos lauds Roberts' leadership capability and command of the offense.
Wideouts are juniors Ethan Engman and senior Pat White, he who was last seen on the field of play scoring the goal that everyone but those wearing black and white vertical stripes saw in the Tournament of Champions Lacrosse semifinal.
On defense, senior Ollie Paasonen will feature along with classmates Andre Campbell, Luckshire and junior Justin Jimenez, lining up in front of a talented and experienced linebacking corps consisting of seniors Matt Bronikowski, Evan Deutsch and John Fischetti plus junior Austin Groce. Cornerbacks are Lusardi and senior EJ Sorenson, with Goldblatt at safety.
Junior Brock Froschauer will handle both the punting and placekicking duties.
Team captains are Lusardi, Faris and Olli Paasonen,
While many of the front-line names and faces may have changed, the expectation to add to the Summit Football legacy remains constant, a lofty standard both set and fostered by Kostibos and his staff. The Hilltoppers' ability to continually compete at a high-level is, according to Kostibos, down to "our philosophy, team chemistry and having tough kids in the program."
And, while change is constant, the head coach says that fans shouldn't expect to see much of a change in terms of the way this Summit team will go about its business compared to their predecessors.
"We will continue to play to our strengths, play Hilltopper football on both sides of the ball."
2019 Summit High School Varsity Football Team Schedule
1 - Joe Lusardi, senior - RB / DB - (C)
2 - Sam Roberts, senior - QB / DB
3 - Matty Goldblatt, senior - WR / DB
4 - EJ Sorenson, senior - WR / DB
5 - Robbie Holmes, junior - WR / DB
6 - Ethan Engman, junior - WR / DB
7 - Steve Rodriguez, junior - WR / DB
8 - Josh Kettles, junior - TE / DE
9 - Brock Froschauer, junior - P / PK
10 - Jack Gange, senior - WR / DB
11 - Andre Campbell, senior - TE / DE
12 - Austin Groce, junior - RB / LB
13 - Dominic Ramirez, sophomore - WR / DB
14 - Charlie Jones, sophomore - QB / DB
15 - Ollie Paasonen, senior - FB / DE - (C)
16 - Conor St.Amant, sophomore - WR / DB
17 - Charlie Schaeffer, sophomore - QB / DB
18 - Jack Benevento, junior - WR / DB
19 - Jack Sullivan, sophomore - WR / DB
20 - Eli Bergner, junior - RB / DB
23 - Pat White, senior - WR / DB
24 - Jay Paasonen, sophomore - FB / DE
25 - Gavin Odell, sophomore - WR / DB
26 - Mike Sereno, sophomore - RB / OLB
27 - Timmy Sajer, junior - TE / DB
28 - James Wattick, sophomore - WR / OLB
29 - Evan Duetsch, senior - RB / DB
30 - Matthew Loeloff, sophomore - RB / DB
31 - Brennan Collins, junior - RB / OLB
32 - Ellis Sorenson, sophomore - WR / DB
33 - Trey Richardson, junior - WR / LB
34 - Jerson Martinez, junior - RB / DB
36 - Dylan Sebastian, sophomore - WR / DB
41 - Taylor Christ, sophomore - FB / LB
43 - Jonathon Lehrich, sophomore - FB / LB
45 - Colin Beatty, sophomore - RB / LB
50 - Randall Mora, junior - OL / DL
51 - Justin Luckshire, senior - OL / DL
52 - David Fuentes, senior - OL / LB
53 - Donovan Caravaca, sophomore - OL / LB
54 - Michael Sajer, sophomore - OL/LB
55 - Charlie Wattick, junior - OL/DL
56 - Matt Bronikowski, senior - OL / LB
57 - Michael Chasin, sophomore - OL / DL
59 - Christian Alvarez, sophomore - OL / LB
61 - MJ Stewartson, junior - OL / DL
64 - Harry Grange, senior - OL / DL
65 - Dymir Williams, sophomore - OL / DL
70 - Owen Duetsch, sophomore - OL / DL
71 - Dennis Martinez, sophomore - OL / DL
74 - Justin Jimenez, junior - OL / DL
75 - Ronnie Faris, sophomore - OL / DL - (C)
77 - Daniel Mendez, sophomore - OL / DL
78 - Ryan Tomlin, junior - OL / DL
79 - Andrew Sirabian, sophomore - OL / DL
81 - Jaden Hong, sophomore - TE / DE
85 - John Fischetti, senior - TE / LB
88 - Bryce Lubin, sophomore - TE / DL
(C) - denotes team captain
Head Coach - Kevin Kostibos
Assistant Coaches - John Liberato, Rick Carbone, Drew Nichols, Jim Siracusa, Mike Judge, and Justin Rodriguez.
2019 Summit High School Varsity Football Team Schedule
All home games at Tatlock Park
September 14 @ Roselle - 2 p.m.
September 20 @ North Plainfield - 7 p.m.
September 28 v. Rahway - 1 p.m.
October 5 v. Somerville - 2 p.m.
October 12 @ Governor Livingston - 1 p.m.
October 18 @ Warren Hills - 7 p.m.
October 25 v. Voorhees - 7 p.m. / 'Friday Night Lights'
November 2 v. Cranford - 2:30 p.m. / 'Senior Day'